2001: A Space Time Odyssey (Version 2)


After many months of research, reworking, writting, editing and polishing, the revised, more realistic and plausible version of 2001: A Space Time Odyssey is finally here. I never could have done it without Michel Van as co-writter and the advice of many other veteran alternatehistory and space writters including E of Pi. This entire process has given me much more experience with Alternatehistory and Space writting despite my lack of experience. I'm fairly new and many of my earlier attempts at TLs including the first version of 2001: A Space Time Odyssey were wanting in plausibility. Hopefully this second version will amend the mistakes of the previous version, expect many differences. Most of the posts are already written and will be released at regular intervals. Unlike previously, the entire timeline has been planned out in detail from the begining to end rather than being written on a "plan as you go" basis.


Once upon a time, there was a young engineer in Soviet Union who had just finished his studies at the Ukrainian Academy of Science in 1958. He sent his application to several OKBs (Russian abbreviation for Experimental Design Bureau). Some looked at his resume and qualifications and threw away his request, other put it in deposit in case they could not find a more experienced engineer but then, finally, one OKB realized who this young man really was and hire him on spot! The name of this young Soviet engineer was Sergei Khrushchev, son of Nikita Khrushchev, the Premier of Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party. With Sergei's new job is at OKB-1, his boss Sergei Korolyov now had an excellent connection to the very top of the Soviet political hirearchy.​
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Sergei Khrushchev working in OKB-1 under Sergei Korolyov?

That's going to have some serious implications, both good and bad.
R-9 vs R-16

October 24th 1960:

Mitrofan Nedelin inadvertently played a key role in ushering in the space age by concluding that rockets were the ideal means to deliver a nuclear warhead to USA instead of bombers and ordered Sergei Korolev to develop the massive R-7 ICBM to carry a large warhead to the USA. This rocket and its derivatives, while never an effective ICBM, was powerful enough to launch Sputnik and Vostok manned space vehicles into orbit enabling the USSR to beat the US to space. For Military purposes however, a new launch vehicle was neccesary. One that could be launched quickly after the go ahead, one that would be useful in retaliation against an American first strike. So the Soviet Strategic Rocket Force wanted a better, usable ICBM launcher they could use from protective Silos. That came as the R-16. Over 30 m long, 3.0 m in diameter and with a launch weight of 141 tons it was not by any means a small vehicle.

With the success of first tactical missile using storable fuels, it became obvious the new generation ICBM would use them
So Milhail Yangel OKB-589 ordered the development of the R-16 using Toxic nitric acid and UDMH fuel.
Something Korolev abhorred, claiming that using those fuels would be "playing with devil" and prefer cleaner Liquid oxygen and Kerosine.
He got permission to build a backup system in case the R-16 project failed: The R-9.
Actually Gluchko's OKB-456 was to build rocket engines for R-16 and R-9, But Korolev hated him* and refused his offer, using his growing influence to instead have OKB-1 team up with Kuznetsov OKB-276 for engines.

Despite pressure to perform all safety tests before October 7th (the day of the Bolshevik revolution) the vehicle thuroughly tested even after the date, the last thing Nedeplin needed was a failed launch on the missiles premier launch.[1]

While the R-16 R&D went well, the R-9 experienced problems with it’s NK-9 engines.
OKB-276 just start to build rocket engine and had not experience like it rival OKB-456, what let to violent explosion on test stand.
On April 9, 1961, the first R-9 made test launch. 54 second into flight a fire broke out in engine Nr. 4 leading to the destruction of the ICBM.
The second R-9 test launch in May ended in a disaster as engine Nr. 6 exploded 20 second after launch.
OKB-1 started to check the delivery NK-9 engines and found faulty welds, metal shavings in turbo pump, fuel lines and Injector-plates.
Kuznetsov made his best to increase the production standards and to push for better quality control on rocket engines.
And with success, on October 25, 1961. The third R-9 launch went good following which the R-9 started a series of launches for it qualification.

Luckily all went well as the rocket soared into the sky. While the launch was not without it's faults (comming somewhat short of the intended range) the success was more than any of the hundreds of engineers had hoped for. By August 1961 R-16s were being deployed as operational ICBMs all along the Soviet Union while Gherman Titov flew a record breaking day long orbital spaceflight. The R-16 would be used in mass for several years untill it's eventual retirement.[2]

By this time it was too late for the R-9 project, In same time the R-16 start make impressive results, in August 1961 it was declared Operational.
The R-9 stay as reserve force in case, all R-16 had to be fired in case of War, were they came too close in October 1961
Final end of R-9 came on October 24 1963, with LC-70 silo disaster. A oxygen tank leak in the Silo fueling system, let to a blaze killing seven men of the launch crew. The R-9 was pullt out of Service, Sergei Korolev accepted the failure of R-9, he was busy for moment with a important projects for soviet Union.

The real winner of the entire R-9 ordeal was Kuznetsov's OKB-276, which with each error learned more and more how to build rockets engines and that would be quit handy for a future Korolev/Soviet Space project.[3]

[1] The Nedelin Tragedy is famous in rocket history for being one of the worst launch failures ever. 120 people died, the program was delayed by a year, and was covered up untill 1989. ITTL the launch is successful because more safety testing was done before launch.
[2] Without the Nedelin Tragedy, the R-16 becomes a commonly deployed ICBM. With the Soviet Union more reliant on ICBMs they never need to deploy IRBMs in Cuba and the Cuban Missile crisis never happens. The results of this will become clearer later in the TL.
[3] In OTL Korolev was forced to work with Glushko who built the rocket engines for the R-9 rather than Kuznetsov, which lead to problems when the Kuznetsov completely inexperienced with rocket engines, was tasked with designing, building, testing and launching the NK-9 engines years later for the N-1 project. ITTL with greater influence in the Soviet leadership, Korolev is able to get his way and isn't forced to cooperate with Glushko, whom Korolev hated.
One of the images is missing, but otherwise no serious faults that I can see.

Looks to me at this point that Kuznetsov's earlier involvement with Rocket Engine design and build creates a pool of experience for OKB-276 that was lacking IOTL by the time of the N-1 Authorisation.

And I'll make a small prediction here, the Khrushchev Thaw is somewhat warmer than IOTL.
note on why Korolev hated Glushko so much.

In order to save his life under Stalin purge, Valentin Gluchko wrongly accused Sergei Korolev , sending him to Siberia Gulag in 1938.
Korolev survived barley the years there and during the WW2, he was moved to Aircraft factory as a slave worker
His boss there was Valentin Gluchko !
After WW2 Gluchko and Korolev start to analyze German V2 hardware in order to copy it.
Gluchko became chief designer of his new bureau the OKB-456 for rocket engine
while Korolev became head of OKB-1 building the first Launcher of soviet union.
For the rest of his life Korolev hated Gluchko, but had to work with him for engine for his rockets
Until Kuznetsov OKB-276 started to build rocket engines.
1961: The Year the World almost faced Nuclear War twice !

1961: The Year the World almost faced Nuclear War twice !

February 9, 1961 An IL-18 plane carrying Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, Leonid Brezhnev.
At the time he was acting as the nominal head of state of the Soviet Union, returning from the Guinea Republic from a state visit, he was attacked by three French Vautour fighter jets over Algeria.
One of the Vautours fired tracer bullets at the plane intended as warning shots, which unfortunately hit the plane killing all onboard in a fatal crash.
The French Foreign Ministry deeply apologized, but said that Brezhnev's plane strayed into French Algerian airspace. Major political tensions occurred. The Soviet Union was calling this an act of war. Socialists and Communists within and outside the French Government cried murder, regarding it as a political assassination. Amid the controversy Prime Minister Michel Debré and French Minister of Defense Pierre Guillaumat resigned from office in Disgrace.
Tensions between the Soviet Union and France where higher than they had ever been since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, although that was quickly to change.
The Soviet Union put a Ultimatum to France!
Extradite those Responsible of this political assassination to Soviet or else they threatened the possibility of a third world (nuclear) war breaking out.
While De Gaulle refused in passionate speech to Nation, it was hopeless, France had Nuclear bomb prototypes, but no delivery system for them.
Kennedy declared DEFCON 2 and mobilized the NATO forces in case the Soviets really was preparing to attack, while the U.N try to defuse the situation.
But before the situation escalated to a full war, Michel Debrè sacrificed him self, by going to Soviet embassy in Paris and giving himself up,
he was transported in Diplomatic Box to Moscow and trail in 1962 and sentenced to life in Prison.
France ended up after this crisis deeper in NATO as De Gaulle wanted while the British made demands: join the European Economic Community in exchange for full support for France in NATO.

Even as civilization faced war and destruction, Humanity was finally reaching out in Space with the Soviet Vostok-1 mission becoming the first manned earth orbital mission and first manned space mission on April 12 1961, piloted by Yuri Gagarin, the first man in orbit and space.

The Next crisis came just days later on 17 April. The Bay of Pigs invasion happened in Cuba, the moment Fidel Castro announce that the invasion had failed, Nikita Khrushchev declared that Cuba is now under the nuclear protection of USSR, threatening the use of ICBMs to defend the country.
On May 4th, 1961 Alan Shepard became the first American in space on his suborbital Mercury-Redstone 3 mission. On May 25th, Kennedy gave his "we choose go to the moon" speech to congress. Which led Khrushchev to take on the moon Race

Then the East Germans started the construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13. The third major crisis of that year.
It's zenith came on October 27, when US and Soviet tanks and infantry held a standoff at Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin.
During the tensest hours, the World watched as they stood on the edge of Nuclear War again, which, luckily, did not happen.
Thankfully nothing even approaching the crisis period of this year would happen in the rest of the Cold War.

But it was a wakeup call in Washington D.C. and Moscow, when allot of politician were asking „Do we need to play the Nuclear Card in this Game ?“
the next 3 years the Kennedy Administration and Politburo started negotiation for treaties resulting in:

-Installation of “Red Phone“ line between Washington D.C. and Moscow (Telephone, Telex, later Videophone and computer links)
-Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (only underground testing. No testing on surface, in air, ocean or space or other planets )
-Voluntary Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (V-SALT) limiting the total number of ICBM Bombers SLBM on maximum of 1024 units.

V-SALT brought allot financial savings: the USA retired the Atlas and Titan ICBM earlier in favor of Minutemen, while the USSR focused on the R-16 and UR-200 ICBM
Michel Debrè got The Peace Prize in 1962 for his sacrifice, in France he became a National Hero like Jean of Arc.
In 1982 to everyone surprise, he was pardoned and send back to France, after socialist François Mitterrand became French President.
Origins of the Soviet Space Agency

The May 1961 address by John F. Kennedy to Congress commiting the United States to "before this decade is out to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth" caused ripples through the Soviet space program. Sergei Khrushchev, influenced by Korolev convinced his father that a response was neccessary, but now different design teams were fighting and clawing for their particular mission plan to reach the Moon conflict was arising with the Armed forces over the priority of propaganda stunts in relation to "practical" military expenditures. The spaceflight programme was continously wedged inbetween the Artillery and Strategic Armed forces on the one side and the Air Force on the other, with different elements scattered through various other ministries. Even though the Air Force supported human spaceflight, the Strategic Missile Forces that allocated its funding, and they wanted ICBM’s. This caused incidents where the Air Force would use its power to get decree’s in favor of manned or unmanned spaceflight passed in the Central Committee, but very little money would actually be alloted to fund any of the programmes. These organizational issues were blamed for the failures of the recent Mars and Venus probes that had failured during launch or on route in 1960 and 1961. Now it appeared likely that the United States would perform the first planetary flybys of Mars and Venus with it's Mariner spacecrafts.

All this was finally settled in the ultimate culmination when the June 23, 1960 Soviet decree (715-296) 'On the Production of Various Launch Vehicles, Satellites, Spacecraft for the Military Space Forces in 1960-1967' was eliminated in addition to a number of different decree’s outlining space and rocketry plans. Some programmes were cancelled others were consolidated, responsibilities would rearrange and different goals were created. A new Space Agency for the Soviet Union would be created at the Council of Ministers level, designated the officially called "Ministry of General Machine-Building Industry of USSR Министерство общего машиностроения СССР (MoM for short) for reasons of Secrecy and to foul the CIA and American Intelligence/Espionage.

The final arrangement was a compromise between demands by advocates for civilian and military spaceflight. Operation and deployment of ICBM forces was to stay with the Strategic Rocket Forces, but the newly created Ministry would become responsible for developing the new launch vehicles, ballistic missiles and payloads for the military and other applications. It would combine of all the different design organizations including the Fourth Scientific Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense, Agat, and NII Khimash, OKB-52, OKB-1, TsNIIMASH, NIITI,. Georgiy A. Tyulin was chosen as the head of the new agency. For the first time ever the USSR would have a centralized ministry for its rocketry and space programmes, further by being its own Ministry, space programmes could be funded directly. Over the coarse of the next few years, the following projects would be approved and cancelled by the new Agency.

Launch Vehicles
N-3 (OKB-1 Korolev) Medium-Heavy Rocket (5000-7000kg LEO)
N-2 (OKB-1 Korolev) Heavy Rocket (20,000kg LEO)
N-1 (OKB-1 Korolev) Super Heavy Lift Rocket (80,000-95,000 kg LEO)
R-7 11A57 (Cancelled)
R-7 Molniya 8K78 (Korolev OKB-1) The N3 rocket would eventually replace the R-7 but this varient would be used untill then
Kosmos-63S1 (Yangel) Light Booster (300kg LEO)
Kosmos-3 (Polyot) Light-Medium Booster (1500kg LEO)
UR-200 (Chelomei OKB-52) Cancelled
UR-500 (Chelomei OKB-52) Cancelled

R-9 (Korolev)
GR-1 (Korolev OKB-1) FOBS
R-36 (Yangel) SS-9 Heavy ICBM
R-46 (Yangel) Cancelled
R-16R (Yangel) Medium ICBM
UR-100 (Chelomei OKB-52) SS-11 Light ICBM

Korolev's influence on Sergei Khrushchev and his father could be found with the approval of the N-family of launch vehicles and cancellation of Chelomei's Universal Rocket (UR) family of rockets except for ICBMs and other military purposes.

Manned Spacecraft
Vostock (Korolev OKB-1) Manned Orbital Flights of Vostok would begin in early 1961. A decision was also made to accelerate the enhancement and modification of the Vostok for multi-crew spaceflights with two or three cosmonauts, simultanious flights with a second Vostok spacecraft, Extravehicular Activities (EVAs) and long duration missions. Although Korolev protested, claiming his Soyuz spacecraft would be able to do all those things in addition to rendezvous, docking and actual lunar missions, the new leadership weren't convinced the vehicle that was so far only a paper design could achieve these milestones earlier than a modified Vostok. Nikita Khrushchev provided his support for the modified Vostok initiative, wanting more "firsts" and milestones in the wake of Gagarin and Titov. It was also reasoned that this would allow testing of hardware and components to later be used on the Soyuz. Scientific goals were replaced by Engineering goals that would aid in the lunar programme.
Soyuz 7K-OK, Soyuz 7K-L1, Soyuz 7K-LOK
These three varients of the Soyuz would be developed and used for manned low earth orbit rendezvous/docking and spacewalk crew exchange missions, manned circumlunar and lunar orbit-rendezvous lunar landing missions.
KMV (Korolev) Development would be deferred on manned interplanetary travel as such was considered a long-term (post 1970) prospect. Research into long lead technologies would continue (such as closed loop life support systems).
LK-1 (Chelomei) Cancelled

Scientific and Planetary Spacecraft
M (Lavochkin / Chelomei) Mars Probe
V (Lavochkin / Chelomei) Venus Probe
E (Lavochkin / Chelomei) Lunar Probe
Elektron (Chelomei OKB-52) Radiation belt mappers
L-2 Unmanned lunar lander (Lavochkin)

Military Spacecraft
US-A - (Chelomei OKB-52) - Naval reconnaissance satellite using the P6 nuclear reactor.
Zenit (Kozlov) - Photo reconnaissance / cartography based on the Vostok design.
Soyuz P/R (Kozlov) – Investigation of military variants and uses of Korolev’s Soyuz.
Tsiklon (Reshetnev) – Navigation
Meteorological satellites - (Chelomei OKB-52)
Communications satellites - (Chelomei OKB-52)
DS (Yangel) - Small satellites / launchers
OS - (Chelomei OKB-52) - Space stations
IS – (Chelomei OKB-52) Antisatellite weapons
Military Communications Satellites (Chelomei OKB-52)

Glushko, Kuznetsov, and parts of Isayev and Lyulka were merged with the agency and became responsible for the development of all the different engines required by Chief Designers, including all the developmental work on nuclear thermal or nuclear electric propulsion. It was made it clear to all of them in no uncertain terms, that all duplication of efforts would cease and so would all the petty bickering and turf wars, if not, they would be replaced by those who could get the job done. The USSR was going to respond to President Kennedy’s challenge and send cosmonauts to the lunar surface before the end of the decade. Different proposals from each of the different mission planners were to be examined, with a commitment to a mission profile by the fall of 1961. In no uncertain terms Khrushchev would make it clear that he would be watching the progress of the Soviet Space Program closely and would expect results. The Propaganda flood coming from Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov would continue as it was very valueable to the pride of the country.
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odd, no commets at all ?

by way, the reader have notice we dump the toxicbanwagon UR-700 in favor of much cleaner N-Rocket Family
odd, no commets at all ?

by way, the reader have notice we dump the toxicbanwagon UR-700 in favor of much cleaner N-Rocket Family

Bumping for comments is usually an impolite act in my experience, you may be putting people off commenting by doing so.

And I did spot the lack of UR-700, along with a few other URs that are gone.

Question is, what kind of N-1 will be showing up here? Because, there were quite a few different designs over the years IOTL.
Question is, what kind of N-1 will be showing up here? Because, there were quite a few different designs over the years IOTL.

What i can tell you it's not the N1 Nuclear version :rolleyes:,
also it use proper working Nk-9, NK-15V and first stage engine for N1, N2 and N3 version.
but like OTL the design will change between first design study and it's prototype first launch.
As Toxic and Dangerous as the UR 700 is I'm still a little sad to see it go as it is rarely featured in Soviet Space AH's.

Also I just kind of like it's Aesthetics. :D
Vostok Rising, Mercury Floundering

The first human being to enter space did so on April 12, 1961. Yuri Gagarin, aged 27, was the Soviet cosmonaut who piloted the single man Vostok-1 mission. Not only as this the first human spaceflight in world history but it was also the first manned orbital flight, a feat the Americans would not achieve for a full year with "Project Mercury". The flight lasted a full hour and half, completing one orbit before landing in a fellow Russian's farm. It's rumored that Gagarin parachuted the last few miles which would disqualify him from the historic record, but the Soviet government to this day will not release any information on the topic of those first spaceflights. In anycase it appears unlikely as the later the Soviet Voskhod missions puplically demonstrated soft landing with essentially the same design as the Vostok. In anycase the Soviet Union proudly trumpeted the triumpth and victory of communism after achieving the feat.

On May 5, 1961 the United States launched it's first manned spaceflight. Alan Shepard would have the honour of piloting Mercury-Redstone 3 on a America's first spaceflight. The relatively small Redstone booster sent the Mercury capsule and it's passenger arcing out on a mission lasted just 15 minutes of which only 5 were actually in space undergoing weightless free-fall. Meanwhile thousands of on-lookers and spectators watched as America's first space-man was sent into the history books, his spaceship named after the value America claimed to love so dearly, freedom. However it was obvious that this was no close tie in the race for space, Gagarin's Orbital flight taking place a full year before the American equivelent could occure on NASA's Mercury-Atlas rocket. America had not yet freed itself of gravity.

But the Mercury-Atlas launch vehicle was suffering terrible failures and malfunctions, too dangerous to risk the life of one of America's bravest astronauts on yet. And so piloted suborbital spaceflights continued untill they could, with the Mercury-Redstone 4 mision on July 21, 1961. Guss Grissom, Alan's backup, would pilot this mission becoming only the third man to fly in space. Like Alan Shepard's flight it drew a large if somewhat smaller crowd and was also relatively short. However landing was far more noteworthy than anything that occured during the mission as the Liberty Bell 7 capsule sank beneath the waves and as Grissom nearly drowned. This near-fatal flight ended the procession of suborbital spaceflights so NASA could concentrate on man-rating the Atlas.

The Soviets had no such problems as Vostok 2 launched itself into the history books on August 6th 1961 as it’s R-7 booster (the same that had carried Sputnik years earlier) carried it higher and faster until finally it was coasting serenely and silently after just eight minutes of powered flight. Gherman Titov was eager to take his own place in the world stage after being the backup for Vostok 1 just four months earlier. His spaceflight was quite unlike Gagarin’s mission because of its focus the body’s reaction to microgravity along with his eating, sleeping and defecating in space. He returned safely after rocketing out of his descending Vostok via his ejection seat. The flight was troubled by low temperatures (10 c) a bout of space sickness and failure of the SM to separate properly (as had happened on Vostok 1). But despite these minor issues the Soviet space program had scored a major victory and was on the road to dominate the Space Race in the coming years. Spaceflight was day by day becoming more and more real to the public just as the Soviets presented more and more of a threat.
IIRC it was because the Vostok Capsules allowed their Cosmonauts to move around that they experienced Space Sickness ahead of the NASA Astronauts, since by moving the fluids could slosh around in a weightless/microgravity environment and confuse the brain.

I also recall that Titov would admit to ejecting from his own Vostok capsule, claiming it to be a pre-planned test in the 'event it would actually be needed'.
IIRC it was because the Vostok Capsules allowed their Cosmonauts to move around that they experienced Space Sickness ahead of the NASA Astronauts, since by moving the fluids could slosh around in a weightless/microgravity environment and confuse the brain.

I also recall that Titov would admit to ejecting from his own Vostok capsule, claiming it to be a pre-planned test in the 'event it would actually be needed'.

Yes, the Vostok capsules were much larger than the Mercury or Gemini capsules. IIRC NASA astronauts didn't experience space sickness untill Apollo 8.

Yes, they didn't admit Gagarin parachuted untill 1989.
Vostok and Mercury: Reaching Orbit

The Americans however were quick challenge Vostok as John Glenn became the first American to Orbit the Earth. Friendship-7 (officially known as Mercury Atlas-6) lifted off from Cape Canaveral on February 20th 1962 carrying the brave Astronaut at it's helm. Orbiting the Earth three times Glenn spent just under five hours in space during which he travelled 121,794 km before landing in the pacific ocean. Previously NASA's human spaceflight career had included two Suborbital Mercury missions lasting just five minutes each. It was obviously a major step forward for NASA and the United States in the Space Race. It was largely about sending a message that the United States could compete with the Soviet Union in orbital spaceflight. Scott Carpenter's Mercury Atlas-7 mission repeated and replicated the success of the Mercury Alas-6, completing another three orbits and conducting many scientific experiments.

The creation of a Centralized Soviet Space Agency resulted in a number of changes in spacecraft and vehicle development decisions. One early decision was the upgrading of the Vostok to accomplish the goals of Extra-vehicular Activity, Multi-crew missions as well as long duration missions, double flights between two Vostok capsules and to test hardware neccessary for the later lunar mission. The first of the Vostok 3KD and Vostok 3KV (opposed to the previous two Vostok 3KE launches) saw their first manned launches in 1962. The main difference was the addition of retro-rockets to allow the crew to land inside their capsule. This eliminated the need for ejector seats allowing a multi-person crew to be seated in the Vostok's (relatively roomy) descent module. Without pressure suits, three cosmonauts could be squeezed in while with pressure suits only two cosmonauts could fly.

Vostok 3 had another capability beyond even this interesting novelty. Mated to the side of the vehicle was an inflatable makeshift airlock for the purposes of Extra-vehicular activities (EVAs better known as "Spacewalks"). While Pavel Popovich waited inside Vladimir Komarov found his moment of inspirational awe outside as he floated gracefully about, his name would soon join the ranks of Gagarin and Glenn because of this. Beyond the sheer propaganda value of a multi-person mission and spacewalk the duo also engaged in long duration life science experiments. These were mostly aimed at understanding the human body's adaptation to weightlessness. The 2 crewmembers also set a new duration record of one day two hours in space (beating Gherman Titov's 22 hour record). During the mission the temperatures had dropped to just 10 degrees celcius by the end of the flight and the service module failed to seperate as it had failed to do so on Vostok 1. Despite this the crew returned safely to Earth unscathed.

Vostok 4, crewed by Andrian Nikolayev, Boris Volynov and Valery Bykovsky launched that same day on another voyage of exploration for the Motherland. Not only did this mission become the first three person spaceflight but also achieved the distinction of approaching to within 6.5 km of Vostok 3 (Which had launched just 48 hours earlier) in an unguided flyby. Because of the long duration life support system on the Vostok the three Soviet cosmonauts were able set a new record allowing them to remain in space for three days before they returned to Earth taking their role as heroes of the Soviet Union. But for that unique moment, when radio contact and television contact between the two ships was established there was the inescapable sense that these five men were on the verge of something remarkable in history. Gazing back at the Earth, there was no borders, no ideologies, no nations, just humans.

But Cold War rivalry continued none the less as the Space Race was becoming hotter and tenser than ever. In one dual-flight mission the USSR had set multi-day duration records, performed the world's first spacewalk, the world's first three person spaceflight. Because of the close proximity approaches of the two Vostoks in orbit many observers in America were convinced the Soviet Union had already mastered the technique of rendezvous between two spacecraft (not knowing it was a trick performed by their R-7 launch vehicles and that the Vostok was completely un maneuverable). Some western observers predicted a docking by 1963 and a manned lunar landing by 1965.

In an attempt to gain experience in long duration spaceflight and to keep up with the Soviets, NASA launched a third orbital Mercury mission, Mercury Atlas-8 following the Soviet's victorious dual Vostok mission. Walter M. Schirra (Jr) piloted the Mercury capsule on it's (American) record breaking endurance flight on October 3rd 1962. Unlike prior Mercury missions which were focused on scientific experiments this was a hardware endurance test to see if the Mercury could perform long duration missions beyond the three orbits of Glenn and Carpenter's flights. After six orbits and nine hours the Mercury capsule was still in perfect operating condition and landed within just half a mile from it's target. Despite such a flawless mission it hardly made up for the Soviets major lead with three person spaceflights, spacewalking, long duration spaceflights and a perceived lead in Rendezvous. A new vehicle would be needed to bridge the gap between Mercury and Apollo, that vehicle would be the Gemini. It almost seemed the gap between the two countries was widening with the Soviets further and further in the lead, a situation that had to be remedied if America was to land on the Moon first.