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Old May 2nd, 2012, 01:00 AM
Brainbin Brainbin is online now
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Into the Final Frontier

Join me, and we’ll discover the answers to all these questions, and many more, as we journey into the final frontier.

James Doohan, in his customary summation of the opening narration to The Final Frontier

James Doohan had come to terms fairly quickly with the reality that his profound typecasting as Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Star Trek had effectively ended his acting career. However, he had become very popular with fans on the convention circuit, and seemed set to make his living off the income generated from his personal appearances. But Doohan had one special advantage relative to his equally typecast co-stars; one that he shared only with his greatest rival, William Shatner. This advantage was his heritage: Doohan was Canadian, and had fought for the British Empire in World War II, serving as an artillery officer and pilot.

In the wake of Moonshot Lunacy, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the nation’s public broadcaster, decided to commission a series that would educate people about aeronautical engineering and the means of space travel. The iconography of the space program – rockets, probes, satellites, shuttles, and space stations – would be the primary focus for this show, which naturally led producers to suggest Doohan – being a Canadian, and someone immediately identified with engineering in the popular imagination, a combination that made him the ideal presenter. Shortly after production had ended on Star Trek in mid-1971, the CBC contacted Doohan to negotiate terms.

Doohan – who, like many of the cast of Star Trek, was a avowed advocate of the space program – had a particular interest in flight engineering, having been a pilot himself. He accepted the offer, even agreeing to work at union scale wages. Given Doohan’s involvement, the series was quickly named The Final Frontier. CBC lawyers were worried that Desilu might object to the name, but the studio accepted that the term was public domain and did not seek financial compensation. At the same time, they requested that Doohan never reference either Star Trek or his character of Scotty on the program, or speak in a Scottish accent; these were terms which both the CBC, and Doohan himself (who often claimed that Scotty was ninety-nine percent James Doohan and one percent accent”), readily accepted. [1]

The Final Frontier
was taped in early 1972 in Montreal, at the CBMT studios: the English-language affiliate of the CBC in that market, channel 6 on the VHF dial. [2] Given that the show was taped in Montreal, the logical source for researchers, fact-checkers and consultants was McGill University, the city’s primary institution of higher learning, and the most prestigious university in Canada. The budget allowed for two consultants, so producers selected Dr. Bob Davidoff, an aerospace engineer who had previously worked for Avro and thus had direct connections within NASA, and Dr. Ian Mitchell, a nuclear physicist who had previously worked for the British Ministry of Defence. The two worked with Doohan, and the show’s producers, to find the perfect balance of factual accuracy and depth of information with comprehensibility and approachability.

The first season consisted of 13 hour-long episodes

1. From the Earth to the Moon

The original pilot, filmed in late 1971, was named after the famous novel by Jules Verne. It functioned as an overview of the entire space race, culminating in the focus on lunar missions. Given the broad scope of the topic at hand, the show had to cover a lot of ground, forcing Doohan to bring a “newsreader” affect to his narration. It didn’t help that his script was cobbled together from material in the CBC News archives. Nobody involved was particularly happy with the resulting product, which was about as exciting, interesting, and informative as an hour-long newscast. One producer wryly remarked that “we might as well have Lloyd Robertson hosting”. (Robertson anchored the network’s flagship newscast, The National.) [3] The pilot was picked up, though network executives had some reservations; resulting changes produced the regular format.

Doohan would open each episode with a brief summary of the topic at hand, often raising various topics of discussion in the form of questions. The topic would then be subdivided into easily-digestible
“chunks”, separated by the advertising breaks; this allowed each “chunk” to conclude with a teaser, leading into commercial, in the standard dramatic format. The episode as a whole would conclude with another summary, in the standard essay format, due to a desire on the part of the producers to keep each episode self-contained. The CBC fully intended to rerun these shows many times in order to recoup as much of their investment as possible; another plan was to air one specific episode as the aspect of space travel that it described was happening in real life (with each new Apollo mission, for example, “The Apollo Program” would be placed on heavy rotation).

Doohan would appear on-screen, though he would very often speak over still images of whatever he may have been discussing at the moment. Photographs were used most often, though sometimes concept drawings or artistic impressions were used instead. Occasionally, to provide a visual aid to a more complicated point being made, especially if that point involved mathematics or “hard science”, Doohan would demonstrate using a chart or diagram, often devised by one (or both) of the show’s consultants. The rule of thumb was that the camera was not to hold on any individual image (other than that of Doohan himself, providing the opening or closing narration) for more than thirty seconds. Everyone involved knew that the primary challenge was keeping the show visually interesting. Audio that supplemented Doohan’s narration was primarily archival feeds from past NASA missions. Many famous exchanges from the Apollo missions, for example, were played heavily. Unable to afford composing an original theme, producers followed the example set by Fantasia and 2001: A Space Odyssey, reusing existing pieces of classical music to set the right tone for each episode. The series thus had no proper theme song. Sometimes snippets would be played during the course of an episode proper, other times not. But without question, the primary asset of the show from an audio-visual perspective was Doohan himself, a gifted storyteller. He worked very closely with the producers and the consultants to tailor each script to his personal style.

The program, which aired nationwide on the CBC through the summer of 1972, could also be received by viewers in the United States, located close to the border, and broadcast transmissions from the various CBC stations. These included such markets as Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, and Seattle, among many others. Trekkies and Moonie Loonies alike made The Final Frontier appointment television, eager to watch Scotty talk about the space program, despite his very low-tech, low-budget vehicle for doing so. These American audiences would allow the series to have a cumulative effect far greater than its humble origins or modest production values would seem to indicate

2. The Apollo Program

Apollo 11
, the first manned lunar mission, was without question a spectacular success, fulfilling the promise made by the late President John F. Kennedy to send a man to the Moon and bring him safely back again before the end of the 1960s. The President by the time of the landing, Hubert H. Humphrey, made great political hay of the achievement, speaking at length about Kennedy’s legacy. These events would mark an auspicious beginning to the pop cultural phenomenon that became known as Moonshot Lunacy.

There were ten manned Apollo landing missions, taking place over the course of five years, from 1969 to 1974. These missions were grouped into three categories: Apollo 11, a “G-class” mission whose sole objective was to follow Kennedy’s directive; the early, “H-class” missions, comprising Apollo 12 through 15; and the later, more ambitious “J-class” missions, comprising Apollo 16 through 20. [4] The latter class of mission entailed a greater duration, more elaborate equipment, and more audacious landing sites, including Tsiolkovskiy Crater on the Far Side of the Moon, and Tycho and Copernicus Craters on the Near Side, not to mention Shackleton Crater (at the South Pole, naturally).

As the cornerstone of the space program, and the locus of Moonshot Lunacy, the Apollo missions were wildly popular in the United States. Relatively obscure astronauts became household names, and some of these would parlay that celebrity into entirely different career endeavours. The first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, found his status as a living legend rather daunting, and did as best as he possibly could to shun the limelight. The second man on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, relished his popularity a great deal more than Armstrong did, and his natural charisma and rapport with the public cemented him as a liaison between NASA and the American people.

The more pressing economic and sociopolitical realities of the mid-1970s began to weigh more heavily on the American psyche by the time of the launch of Apollo 19 in November, 1973; and neither that mission, nor the number of other projects launching or culminating at around the same time, could re-ignite the spark of Moonshot Lunacy. The thrill was gone; the ever-fickle popular imagination had been captured by entirely different diversions. Apollo 20, the following mission, launched in the spring of 1974, would prove the final manned lunar mission for the foreseeable future, even though one of its key mission objectives was to anticipate the possibility of a semi-permanent manned lunar facility. The mission ended the program on a high note, however, when water ice was discovered in the lunar crater where the module had landed – Shackleton Crater had been chosen for that very reason, which would cement its viability as the ideal location for a lunar base, given that water ice was a natural source for rocket fuel. Samples were brought back to Earth, and though no evidence of life was found, it made for excellent collateral on the promise of an eventual return. [5]

“The Apollo Program” focused strongly on the ten manned landing missions, dwelling most heavily on Apollo 11 and Apollo 16, the latter of which had not yet launched when the episode was taped (but had completed its mission by the time it aired). The calculated risk to assume that 16 would be successful, and complete all of its objectives, was one that paid off; Doohan was well-served to discuss the mission as if it had already taken place. As Apollo 16 was the first “J-class” mission, Doohan went into some detail about the more elaborate set of objectives, when contrasted with the earlier, more straightforward missions. He also discussed some of the new equipment that would be used for these missions, with a particular focus on the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), in the first of his many allusions to Star Trek. (A lunar rover had also memorably featured in the popular episode “The Sleepers of Selene”, in one of the most famous examples of Star Trek “inventing the future”).

3. Artificial Satellites

As the Space Age had begun in 1957 with the launch of an artificial satellite (the Soviet Sputnik 1), it seemed fitting to produce an episode discussing them. One of the more theoretical episodes, “Artificial Satellites” spent a great deal of time discussing potential applications for satellites and, in an interesting twist, their potential destinations. After all, satellites did not have to orbit the Earth, and there were already extant examples of those that did not. The five Pioneer weather satellites had all launched in 1969, almost completely overshadowed by Moonshot Lunacy. [6] They orbited the sun, rather than the Earth, but were able to provide reports on phenomena not directly observable from the Terran position. Most satellites remained in a terrestrial orbit, however. Telecommunications was the major industry that would see benefits from satellite networks, which in turn would have dramatic carry-over effects on virtually all other industries.

In presenting this episode, Doohan also contextualized the history and development of artificial satellites, evoking the omnipresent and potent paranoia of the 1950s. More than even the Soviets developing the A-bomb, Sputnik was a palpable reminder of the technology and of the military-industrial complex at the disposal of the Communist bloc, and it spurred the First World to counter with their own drive for education and innovation, which in turn resulted in NASA and the modern-day space program. Many of those involved with The Final Frontier found
Doohan’s speech to perfectly encapsulate the themes of the show, and how it intended to coax viewers – particularly young, impressionable ones – into following their own drive for achievement.

4. Orbital Flight

One of the major projects authorized by the Humphrey-backed NASA budget of 1969 was the concept of a reusable transport vehicle, which had gained great currency in the face of the burgeoning environmental movement. The craft would be called the Space Shuttle, and it would be intended primarily as a passenger and light cargo transport. The design of the shuttle would allow it to rendezvous and dock with orbital space stations, and then leave orbit and return to the surface, only for it to repeat the process all over again – a true, two-way vessel. [7] The budget called for the construction of three shuttles, along with one prototype model. The prototype was originally to be named Endurance, which was also the name of an early twentieth-century vessel of exploration which had taken Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to Antarctica, in search of the South Pole. [8] This name, despite this rich historical connotation, was deemed unsatisfactory by a particular segment of the population…

Perhaps it was partly the fault of Doohan, who in narrating this episode made yet another none-too-subtle allusion to his prior television series. All but winking to the camera, he addressed plans by NASA to name each shuttle – “a pioneering, multi-purpose reusable vessel of science and discovery” – after famous exploring ships of prior eras. “There have been many great explorer ships,” Doohan remarked, “and I’m sure many of you at home can think of some of your favourites.” And many of those at home did. Only one name came readily to mind: Enterprise. The campaign to rename the first space shuttle Enterprise naturally began with the Trekkies, but as a symbol of how mainstream and deeply ingrained Star Trek had become in popular culture, it rapidly spread far beyond crowded convention centres and fanzines into living rooms and break rooms.

NASA was remarkably impassive; they would not change the name of their space shuttle to honour a fictional spacecraft. (It did not help their cause, however, that one of the other shuttles was to be named Discovery – the same name as the ship featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey). As is so often the case, it took friends in high places – or at least, those with connections. Former Star Trek cast member, and delegate to the Democratic National Convention, George Takei, spoke at length with President Hubert H. Humphrey shortly after the convention took place in Miami in July of 1972; though neither man would divulge the precise contents of their conversation, Humphrey would announce shortly thereafter that Enterprise would prevail as the name of the first Space Shuttle. [9] This event may have been one of the high-water marks of the renewed Moonshot Lunacy, and it amply demonstrated the synergy between Trekkies and Moonie Loonies, as if the large overlap between the two groups had not already been made painfully clear.

Takei, who had since been elected to the Los Angeles City Council, and Doohan were both among those members of the cast and crew of Star Trek to attend the rollout and dedication ceremony in early 1974; their invitation was a conciliatory gesture by NASA, whose salad days had now passed, and who knew that pragmatically embracing the Trekkies, who generally remained supporters of the space program, would be highly prudent. Only Nichelle Nichols worked for NASA in any official capacity, but virtually all of the principal cast and crew attended, save for Gene L. Coon (who had unfortunately passed away several months earlier) and, curiously, series star William Shatner.
[10] Assuming that all went well with the Enterprise shakedown tests, the next shuttle, Columbia, was scheduled to be ready for orbital flight as soon as late 1975. Initial plans were also for the Enterprise to be refit for orbital flight capability, as the shuttle had been constructed without engines or a functional heat shield.

5. Space Stations

Both the United States and the Soviet Union had outlined plans for orbital research stations. The American project, Skylab, was intended to launch in 1975, and would be serviced by the space shuttles, with a mutually compatible, or “androgynous”, rendezvous and docking apparatus built-in to the designs of both shuttle and station. Skylab was designed as an orbital research station, which would be self-sustaining, with the help of solar panels to provide energy. Though its operational lifespan was relatively short (it was expected to last for only a couple of years), it would be able to test for a number of key factors, including living and working in space, that would be invaluable for another, later, more permanent space station. Space stations were one of the primary focuses of the Soviet space program, as well. The Salyut program was yet another vestige of the still-ongoing space race, which would reassert itself in other areas of space travel…

The episode devoted to the subject on The Final Frontier devoted more time than usual to the potential future development of space stations. Doohan danced around the possibility of their resembling any seen on Star Trek, instead noting somewhat more plausible methods of simulating Earth gravity and atmospheric conditions, not to mention necessarily shielding from the elements – radiation, solar wind, among the many other variables, most of them very dangerous indeed. Again reflecting the attitudes of the era, this also resulted in a segment devoted to the Earth’s atmosphere: how it naturally protected all life on the planet from the dangers of outer space; how many resources it would take to replicate those protective effects using modern technology; how inconvenient this technology made performing even the simplest tasks; and how much it cost to add these capabilities to spacecraft, in order to protect astronauts from coming to harm.

6. Interplanetary Probes

There was perhaps something fundamental about the desire to explore strange new worlds. For the most popular components of the space program were the moon landings, followed closely by space probes. It was not terribly surprising, therefore, that two episodes of the initial season of The Final Frontier were devoted to space probes. Probes were handled by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The Mariner 6 and 7 probes were launched in 1969, in advance of the Apollo 11 mission, and were sent to flyby Mars in order to photograph them. These marked the culmination of a series of attempts, by both the Americans and the Soviets throughout the 1960s, to more closely investigate the Red Planet. They would be followed by later Mariner missions (8 and 9) that would actually orbit the planet. Among the discoveries by Mariner 7 in August of 1969 (in the afterglow of Apollo 11) were a volcanic, mountainous region, later dubbed Tharsis; and a massive rift located along the planet’s equator. The rift would eventually take the name of Mariner 7 and become known as the Vallis Marineris. [11]

Mariner 10
, on the other hand, was bound inward, toward Venus, one of several launches that took place in late 1973, and to surprisingly little fanfare among the populace. Another key project taking place during this timeframe was the arrival of the later Pioneer probes, 11 and 12, which had been bound for Jupiter, the first man-made objects to travel into the outer solar system. It was also in late 1973 that Pioneer 11 reached Jupiter, after having traveled through the asteroid belt, and it became the first craft to take close-up pictures of the largest planet in the solar system. Once it had finished its mission, it continued onward, traveling at an escape velocity, allowing it to eventually leave the solar system entirely. Pioneer 12 was planned for approximately the same trajectory. Though the estimated lifespan of both craft was low enough that they would likely see no practical use once they were out of sight from Jupiter, NASA-JPL scientists remained in constant contact with Pioneer 11, just in case.

7. Probe Landings & Remote Recon

Plans for the later Mariner missions to orbit Mars happened to coincide with Soviet plans to do much the same thing; even though the Russians had ceded the Moon to those capitalist pigs”, they were not about to slack off in other areas of their space program. And with their Martian probes, unimaginatively named, simply, the Mars series, they were able to score a rare vindication. For the year was 1971, and in May, two probes bound for Mars were launched by each side. The Soviets were first out of the gate, on the ninth of the month, with Mars 2. The American Mariner 8 followed ten days later. The second American probe, Mariner 9, was launched on May 28, but it was destroyed in a tragic accident when its engines failed. It would be the first of several setbacks for NASA with regards to their Martian program, with this crucial phase (the Mariner Mars ’71 Project) being only a partial success. The final probe, the Soviet Mars 3, launched on May 30. Both Soviet Mars probes were equipped with landers and remote sensory equipment, which would set an important record that could not be challenged by the Americans, assuming that either probe could successfully execute its mission.

The “Race to Mars” became one of the biggest stories of the summer of 1971, as the probes headed off toward the Red Planet. Obviously, trajectories and attainable velocities could be determined well ahead of time, which made the “race” a foregone conclusion well before either party reached the finish line; nonetheless, the end result – Mars 2 arrived less than a week ahead of Mariner 8, and became the first man-made probe to orbit another planet that October – still captured the attention of the masses. Not to mention, it warmed the hearts of the faithful Soviet workers. Even the failure of the second phase of the Mars 2 mission (a rougher-than-expected landing had damaged the land equipment beyond practical use) could not dampen their spirits, as the Mars 3 mission (bearing the lessons of Mars 2 in mind) was a complete success. [12] It served as the first of a number of key public relations coups, in a variety of different disciplines, for the Soviet Union in the early 1970s.

“Probe Landings and Remote Reconnaissance” was one the few episodes to cover material that had taken place almost entirely in advance of production. The “Race to Mars” was the primary focus of the episode; however, it also detailed future plans by NASA-JPL to explore the Martian surface through their Viking program, one of the more elaborate probe programs that were planned for the later 1970s, and discussed the instrumentation that would need to be implemented in order to do so.

8. Astronauts

Doohan, who had become acquainted with several bona fide astronauts, along with test pilots and aviators, through his personal appearances during the run of Star Trek, had suggested an episode about the men who had actually ventured out into the final frontier. One of these men, after all, had recently become the Junior Senator from Ohio; and others, no doubt, would find themselves seeking their destiny in politics, as well as many other fields far beyond the military or aviation. What did it take to become an astronaut? What made these people different from the common man? Obviously, these philosophical questions could not be answered directly, so the focus of the episode was on the selection process, and the exhaustive training regimen. It emphasized the need for an astronaut to be fully prepared for his mission. The physical pressures imposed by flight in extreme conditions, or weightlessness, coupled with the profound stress of constantly having to make life-or-death decisions – not only as an individual but often on behalf of a crew of astronauts – was described frankly by Doohan, though not without great esteem. He summarized the role as greatly challenging, but equally rewarding.

NASA recruited eight additional astronauts in 1973 – their first batch since 1969. [13] Due to their abundance of pilots, it was decided that they only needed two more, compared to six mission specialists (all advanced doctoral-level scientists). The 1973 cohort – properly known as Astronaut Group 8 – included the first African-American astronaut (Ben Madison), the first Asian-American astronaut (Ken Kobayashi), and, most importantly, the first female astronaut (Patty Jackson). Nichelle Nichols had been peripherally involved with the candidate selection process for this cohort; she would become more intimately involved in the selection of the 1975 cohort, Astronaut Group 9.

9. Rocketry

The Saturn V rocket was the most powerful of the several models used by NASA to propel their payload into space, though only the Saturn could provide the thrust necessary to deliver a craft to the Moon. An order for a second batch of Saturn Vs was cancelled in 1968, given the exorbitant costs of the ongoing overseas quagmire – which had been escalated that year – but the purchase was reinstated by President Hubert Humphrey in the NASA budget of 1969. [14] It marked the single largest expenditure in that budget – and the only immediate one, as most of the other funds were allocated to research and development. Rockets beyond the Saturns were used to launch most other spacecraft, however; indeed, Saturn V rockets and Apollo missions were inextricably linked in the public imagination. The Saturns were the “big guns”; those less powerful rocket models were typically used for launching craft that were able to thrust and maneuver on their own power. The primary research objective for the future, within the field of rocketry, was to develop a potential replacement for the venerable Saturn V – more fuel-efficient, more cost-effective, and, if at all possible, less expensive.

10. Propulsion in Space/Interstellar Travel

Given the popularity of Star Trek, and the ubiquity of the subject in science-fiction, an episode on interstellar travel was considered largely inevitable. Obviously, the technology for faster-than-light propulsion was barely even theoretical in the early 1970s, with even the likeliest proposal being so far beyond modern science that even speculation on its viability would be a total shot in the dark. Nevertheless, Dr. Mitchell, one of the program’s consultants, championed the production of this episode; he himself was very interested in potential long-range space exploration. NASA-JPL, for their part, did feel obliged to research potential deep space propulsion methods. The well-known “Project Orion”, which would involve a series of nuclear explosions, had been mooted for obvious reasons some time before; but more conventional nuclear-powered craft, more in the vein of carriers or submarines, remained an attractive proposition. Although casual travel to and from another star system remained out of the question, journeying beyond the outer reaches of the solar system, and back again, within a human lifetime certainly seemed feasible.

Without question, this aspect of the space program had the lowest investment-to-public-interest ratio. However much man may have wanted to reach for the stars, NASA-JPL had far more immediate concerns on their plate. Fortunately, these immediate goals were also far more likely to provide concrete, attainable results. The “Interstellar Travel” episode of The Final Frontier, therefore, was tinged with the bittersweet, without question the most wistful of the early batch of episodes. Doohan did his best to put on a brave face as he explained that faster-than-light drive systems were, for all intents and purposes, impossible (though he cushioned this cold, hard fact as indulgently as he possibly could). However, he famously claimed that “It is entirely possible that, within our lifetime, a new method of propulsion could be developed that could bring man to a nearby star system within his own lifetime.” Doohan would celebrate his fifty-second birthday while taping the first season of The Final Frontier, and the subtext in his declaration – that he wished to see such a craft launched before the end of his life – was obvious.

11. Mission Control

The only “earthbound” episode of The Final Frontier would explore the day-to-day routine of the men and women who co-ordinated all of the many missions flown by NASA and JPL. They were known by many names, and could be found in several locations, but were described within the episode as “mission control”. The mission control episode emphasized the need for everyone – on the ground and in space – to be prepared for every possible eventuality. It also discussed the extensive pre-mission planning that the ground crew would have to undertake; it made an excellent complement to the “Astronauts” episode, which discussed the rigorous physical training regimen. Mission control, of course, had plenty of training and rehearsal involved in their planning activities as well. Doohan’s narration depicted mission control as the “nerve centre”, a bustling nexus of activity and kinetic energy, where the stakes were critical and every decision had profound consequences; he compared it to the floor of a stock exchange, or the emergency room of a hospital. Given the collaborative nature of the position, as well as the eliminated risk of personal imperilment, he was willing and able to speak about it in far more glowing terms, relative to his more guarded assessment of working as an astronaut. This show, sometimes facetiously described as “the recruitment episode”, paid dividends on that front – it made mission control look like the place to be. It was truly Doohan’s finest performance as narrator throughout the first season.

12. Alternative Energy

Given the burgeoning environmental movement, producers decided to devote an episode to space-based sources of energy, as potential alternatives to the heavily polluting fossil fuels. Space-based solar power was suggested by Dr. Davidoff, the other consultant for the program, as an intriguing and remarkably feasible technology; and the resulting episode effectively functioned as a propaganda piece for what would become known as “microwave” power, so named due to potential solar energy being converted into microwave radiation, which would then be received by mobile collector dishes on Earth. If it could be said that the “Alternative Energy” episode of The Final Frontier, the penultimate episode of the first season of shows to be taped and aired, had planted the proverbial seed for the alternative energy movement, the germination would definitely be a major global event that shook the socioeconomic balance of the world in late 1973.

Once again, the Arab-Israeli conflict had re-ignited, when the Arab League invaded Israel on Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, hoping to take the Israelis by surprise. This was ultimately unsuccessful, though it would not result in the total victory for the Jewish state that the Six-Day War in 1967 had been. The United States were obliged to support their ally, which resulted in the defeated Arab states imposing a retaliatory embargo. Thus began the Oil Crisis. Crude futures went up – and up and up. The stock markets, tenuous at the best of times, went down – and down and down. The good times were definitely over; by the close of 1973, it had become very clear that there were going to be major changes. These impacted the space program just as powerfully as they did everything else.

Research and development for what immediately became known in the popular consciousness as “microwave” power – insistently, though futilely, described by enthusiasts as “SPS” – was entirely within the purview of NASA, and indeed, in the midst of several crucial cuts to the space program in the 1974 budget, new funds were earmarked for the creation of a prototype space-based solar power collector and microwave converter. However much impact this episode of The Final Frontier had on this decision is difficult to gauge with any accuracy, given the estimated cumulative effect; without doubt, it certainly helped to get the ball rolling, at least.

13. The Future of the Space Program

An entire episode was devoted to future plans by NASA and JPL for the space program, once existing projects were completed. Other topics briefly touched on in earlier shows were covered in more depth, helping the episode to serve as a “summary” for the season. Skylab, the Viking program, and the Space Shuttles were all revisited. Plans for a new series of moon landings after the completion of the Apollo program, culminating in a semi-permanent lunar presence, were glowingly discussed; probes that would explore all of the outer planets of the solar system, to be launched in the late 1970s, were also mentioned. NASA-JPL had abandoned the Mariner program, dovetailing 11 and 12 into the first two probes of the Voyager program. Initial plans were for six probes in total. [15] Even ideas that were little more than theoretical notions – a post-Skylab space station, “interstellar” (actually extra-solar) probes – were mentioned. The obvious intention, which was entirely successful, was to generate further excitement about the space program. Even Doohan could barely contain his enthusiasm. 1972 was a very heady year for the final frontier, literally and figuratively.

Thus ended the final episode of the
show’s initial season, which completed its original run in August of 1972.

The Future of The Final Frontier

The CBC was rather ambivalent about picking the show up for a second season. However much Doohan and the producers had been able to wring out of the extremely limited format, they would need more to work with if they wanted to delve into greater, more technical detail. And the network did not have the money to increase the show’s budget – they barely had enough to continue working at their existing cost levels. It was the success of the show in the United States that confirmed the future of The Final Frontier. PBS, which had already acquired a reputation for importing quality shows from the United Kingdom, was very much interested in an educational series about the space program, and they approached the CBC about co-funding the program. The CBC leapt at the opportunity, and it resulted in The Final Frontier being renewed for another season, with an increased budget, to air in 1973. It would mark the beginning of a very successful collaboration between the two networks


[1] Doohans “accent” quote is per OTL. One interesting side-effect of his role in The Final Frontier ITTL is that his lack of an accent (which, yes, sounds ridiculously phony to any native-born Scot; not that they dont love him anyway, of course) will become widely known very early on, relative to OTL.

[2] The CBC, naturally, owns and operates a French-language broadcasting service (la société de Radio-Canada
, or simply Radio-Canada for short), and Montreal (a thoroughly bilingual city ever since the late 18th century) is served by the CBC in both languages. Their French-language affiliate, CBFT (channel 2 on the VHF dial) is the oldest permanent television station in Canada, established in 1952. It was a bilingual station until 1954, when the encroaching broadcast signals from American stations (in Plattsburgh, New York and Burlington, Vermont) necessitated the creation of the English-language CBMT.

[3] Lloyd Robertson, the legendary Canadian news anchor who is the country’s primary answer to Walter Cronkite, served at The National from 1970-75 IOTL. He then “jumped ship” to CTV, the largest private network in Canada, with the promise of greater editorial control. He anchored the newscast there for thirty-five years before retiring in 2011.

[4] IOTL, the “H-class” missions were Apollo 12, 13 (aborted), and 14. The “J-class” missions were Apollo 15, 16, and 17. As there were only 17 missions compared to the 20 of TTL, they also came to an end earlier, in late 1972. Notoriously, mankind has never since returned to the Moon IOTL.

[5] Recent science has indicated the strong likelihood of water ice deposits on the Moon; this evidence was not known in the 1970s, however the possibility of water ice in that location was known, and discovery and extraction would have been a key mission objective. However, and for the official record, I am technically taking a leap of faith in presupposing that water ice would be found on the Moon, though it is fairly likely (and may be proven conclusively in the not-too-distant future).

[6] Only four of the five Pioneer probes/weather satellites successfully launched IOTL; the fifth (Pioneer E) was lost in a launch accident. ITTL, it survives, becoming known as Pioneer 10. Therefore, the probes known IOTL as Pioneer 10 and 11 become 11 and 12.

[7] The Space Shuttle will take a very different form ITTL, because NASA won
t need to seek outside funding (from the Department of Defense, IOTL) or build to any specifications but their own. Therefore, the resulting craft will meet their own needs far more effectively. Given the order for additional Saturns, reusable launchers are far less important than reusable spacecraft. The shuttle can be expected to approximate these external and internal measurements, though I must stress that they are being provided as a visual aid, and will not match the TTL Shuttle precisely.

[8] The working name for the first Shuttle of OTL, Constitution, was chosen because it was planned to roll out on Constitution Day – it also shared a name with one of the six original U.S. Navy frigates. As the shuttles will be ready on a completely different timeframe, Endurance is chosen instead, and is deemed equally lacking.

[9] IOTL, the name Constitution was “officially” changed to Enterprise was because President Gerald Ford, who had served in the Navy in WWII, worked aboard a ship that had serviced the legendary USS Enterprise (CV-6), and was partial to the name for that reason. Another, lesser, factor ITTL is Nichelle Nichols, who also encouraged changing the name to Enterprise from within the NASA hierarchy. That, plus the letters, may well have been enough even without Takei, though he certainly helped.

[10] Those attending the dedication ceremony ITTL were: Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, John Winston, Gene Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana, Robert H. Justman, Herbert F. Solow, John Meredyth Lucas, and David Gerrold.

[11] Vallis Marineris is instead named for Mariner 9, which discovered it IOTL – the probe never successfully leaves the Terran atmosphere ITTL.

[12] Mariner 9 reached Martian orbit about a month ahead of Mars 2 IOTL. Because NASA has received much greater funding ITTL, so too has the Soviet space program – which, having given up the ghost on their moonshot, is thus budgeting additional resources (relatively speaking) to other projects. This results in a rare latter-day victory for the Soviets in the Space Race, which can be added to other victories that I've mentioned in prior updates.

[13] IOTL, NASA would not recruit Astronaut Group 8 until 1978
– resulting in a much larger cohort of thirty-five (which allowed them to justify the common military nickname, TFNG – facetiously said to stand for “Thirty-Five New Guys”). It, too, included the first female, African-American, and Asian-American astronauts.

[14] The move by Humphrey to restore funding to the Saturns is considered a key symbolic gesture of his administration’s objectives: to reduce spending on death and destruction, and instead focus on progress and new discoveries, in reverence to the can-do American spirit.

[15] And four IOTL. Even after budget cuts, there’s still more money to go around in NASA-JPL ITTL, relative to their financial position IOTL. Hence, the plans for six Voyagers (though that number is far from final). We can only hope that the last of these doesn’t get too far off-course…


Thus concludes our exploration of the salad days of the space program! Thank you all for reading my longest update, by a considerable margin, and for your patience and understanding in awaiting its completion. This won
t be the last we hear of either NASA or The Final Frontier, though, I can promise you that much.

I would like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance from e of pi and truth is life, who served as my consultants in devising and writing this update. Special thanks must also go out to e of pi for directly assisting in the editing of this post. If this subject matter appeals to you, I must recommend in the strongest possible terms that you visit their timeline, Eyes Turned Skywards, which has the space program as its primary focus. The timeline was nominated for Best New Cold War Timeline at the 2011 Turtledoves, which was in the same category as That Wacky Redhead, and I
m honoured to have been considered within that calibre. Though theyre on hiatus right now, they will be back at work within the next few months, so theres plenty of time to catch up. Further information, and a directory of updates, can be found on their wiki page. None of this update would have been possible without the very fruitful collaboration that has emerged between us. I was able to take two fun little ideas (Scotty hosting an educational space show, NASA receiving additional funding due to resources being freed up elsewhere) and try to weave a cohesive and intriguing story out of them, with their help.

In any event, this marks the end of the 1972-73 cycle!
The Turtledove Award-Winning That Wacky Redhead: Big Dreams Have Big Consequences!

Find out more on the Alternate History Wiki or TV Tropes

Last edited by Brainbin; May 2nd, 2012 at 01:30 PM..
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