A Shift in Priorities

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by rast, Dec 17, 2008.

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  1. Tonyq Active Member

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    Although the die is now cast in Reitsch's direction, in OTL when faced with a similar small cohort of female pilots, the Soviets drew in dozens of parachutists and sky-divers as female cosmonaut candidates, to widen the field to an acceptable number. Presumably the two-person ship only needs one person to fly it and the second will only be along for the ride, so piloting probably secondary to physical suitability and being a risk-taker.
     
  2. Expat Well-Known Member

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    Maybe someone will take up NASA's brief OTL consideration of circus performers! :D
     
  3. Expat Well-Known Member

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    Rast-approved:


    ¡Sí se puede!
    (Cesar Chavez)

    “Oh god. I’m dying,” Cesar Chavez said to the empty room. He was sitting on the floor of his hotel room in Isabel Segunda, having failed to make it any closer to the bathroom after rolling off the bed. His stomach made another dangerous noise, invoking more anger than anguish. “By god I deserved this meal. I’ll be damned if I give it back like this,” he thought, trying to focus his will to maintain control over his peristaltic processes.

    When he'd entered the Central American jungle 18 months ago, Chavez had weighed 151 pounds. Two days ago, upon boarding the plane at Xelajú that began his journey to Vieques, he'd barely topped 110. As soon as the plane landed, he’d found the nearest steakhouse and personally done his best to shove four pounds of beef down his throat and at least make a dent in the deficit. He’d cried while eating, it was so delicious: his first civilized meal in more than a year.

    Now, a few hours later, he cried for a different reason. He focused harder, concentrating on breathing. The meditation calmed him, and so he eventually fell asleep there, sitting on the floor.

    At seven the alarm went off, and he stiffly responded, feeling only a little better. But duty was sufficient inducement to see himself showered and shaved and off to his rendezvous.

    The State Department had put him up in one of the new high-rise hotels popping up all around the city of Isabel Segunda. He could see ten or fifteen more skyscrapers from his window on the 25th floor, each one girded in multi-story bands of neon light, only now being turned off in the burgeoning dawn. This once sleepy island had developed a reputation around the region for glamor and excitement: a forgotten appendix of America’s aborted Caribbean empire, legally undefined and beyond the jurisdiction of most law enforcement bodies (except for the corrupt local cops.) Even Chavez’s own FSO didn’t work here without clearing it with Peter Peregrine, the unspoken kingpin of Vieques.

    Peregrine’s little gray empire was tolerated for a few reasons. For one thing, he was protected by his mistress Wallis Lindbergh, a big muckety muck in Florida politics with a lot of friends in the federal government; some said she had her eye on the presidency when Patton stepped down. Peregrine also maintained a significant legitimate business empire in the States, giving him his own private base of (tax-paying) support. But many in power realized it was also undoubtedly useful to have a spot of neutral ground for the kind of meetings Chavez was here to attend.

    These days, US foreign policy interests were convergent with those of Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the other players in the region. But that didn’t mean anyone was quite ready for official cooperation with the damn Yankees (or vice versa, truth be told.) Coordinating actions against the Japanese in Central America and the British communists around the Caribbean therefore occurred off the books, here in Vieques; surrounded by tourists, gamblers, prostitutes, and fortune-seekers of every kind.

    Chavez made his way across town to his first meeting: a simple debrief with the local station chief covering his activities in Central America over the past year and more. This was mostly redundant, especially since the more stable situation of the last six months had given him time to catch up on his field reports.

    The Japanese proxies were being held in the central highlands with little effort now. US and Mexican special forces had been targeting the enemy’s limited air assets, degrading them to only 20% of their initial strength. Meanwhile a major push from the north, supplied through Mexico, was showing results. Xelajú (Guatemala’s second city and barely 90 kilometers from the Pacific coast) had been secured last month, and guerilla forces were beginning to step up their actions around Guatemala City. The various camps in Mexico were sending 1,000 properly-trained men into the fight every month.

    Meanwhile, Chavez had been “visiting” the Japanese sector to promote dissent. It didn’t take much effort, truth be told. Japanese supply lines were long and were run on a for-profit basis. Food shortages were a looming concern. Japan’s local proxies were widely disliked by the common peasantry, excluding the very religious. Many would rise up, if only they could be supplied.

    The debrief concluded, Chavez (still queasy) went to find a bench outside while the others took a coffee break. There would be many more meetings over the next few days, including several with his Mexican and Mesoamerican counterparts on developing a coordinated strategy for the next major campaign. There would be political discussions (all off the books, of course) on exactly what a Mesoamerican government might look like (probably very close to Mexico’s, Chavez reckoned.) And finally, they were flying in some Cubans and Haitians who wanted to talk about future cooperation opposite the British in the region. Cuba had their eyes on the Caymans. The US wouldn't mind removing the threat of Dominica from between Guadeloupe and Martinique. And Haiti just wanted the communist guerrillas chased out of their territory.

    But now that the initial wave of excitement at being away from the warzone was over, and with his stomach still turning somersaults on him, Chavez found he just wanted to be back in the field again. He’d gotten very good at his job (in his estimation,) and moreover he really believed in what they were doing. When the war was over, Mesoamerica would be free, united under a single banner, and with a government that would protect the rights of the people. And he would’ve been a part of that. This job had started off as a paycheck and maybe an adventure. But now, Cesar Chavez was turning into a true believer.

    The thought made him feel a little bit better. He rose, stretched, and walked back inside.
     
  4. rast Well-Known Member

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    Aug 22, 2008
    Know thyself? If I knew myself, I’d run away.
    (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

    There were those, who were called to lead, and those, who had to do the work, thought Johann Georg Elser, while planing a piece of timber. And as the world worked, he was on the working side, always had been. That was neither bad nor unjust in his mind; he liked being a carpenter, loved working wood. What was irritating him was the folly of those who led.

    Unfortunately, the folly wasn’t restricted to the political enemy, but was also virulent in his own party. They were advertising this Herbert Frahm as saviour – of the women… A communist chancellor candidate as ladies’ man, it was unbelievable… What did they think? What was that Frahm bloke thinking? Had they all gone bonkers?

    Now, that old chairman and chancellor candidate, the barking Upper Austrian, he truly had had charisma, had been able to rock the boat. But Frahm, a wan sapling, was rocking no one, at least not anybody whom Elser knew. Well, that might be different in urban environments, Elser didn’t know the ropes there. But here, in the countryside, folks were only shaking their heads in wonder.

    Elser was chucking another piece of timber. – Yeah, it didn’t look good. Some silly teenyboppers might be induced to vote for Frahm. But serious citizens? Like himself? He would, of course, vote communist, what else? But the trick was to catch those who weren’t traditional voters.

    Darn! There was nothing he could do about it. He started planing the piece of timber. – So, the KPD was going to lose this election, for want of a dazzling idea – or a truly charismatic leader. It was difficult, Elser knew it, to win over workers perpetually pampered by the social-democrats. They were not feeling the chains holding them in their place, because the chains looked like fancy ribbons…

    The communists had completely neglected the whole space hype. This was a serious mistake. – Most voters in Germany were traditional voters. Thus, the whole electoral battle was raging in order to catch the few undecided souls. Changing traditional patterns was a slow process. The social-democrats had required decades to attract their stock of voters. In 1943, the communists had been endowed with a considerable part of this stock – and were about to forfeit it…

    Well, not to the peaceniks. Elser didn’t believe in that contention. The peaceniks were drawing from all camps. They were something new – and thus re-arranging traditional patterns. No, Elser knew his fellow countrymen. The social-democrats would take back the constituencies they had lost to the communists, when Ruth Fischer and her lot had defected.

    Thus, the communists were going to lose seats. Because sunny boy Frahm certainly would not catch enough undecided souls… The space hype would. Breast-groper Streicher and his lousy DVP had jumped upon the space train. Germans to the Moon! Deutschland über Allem! That was to the liking of these goons.

    For the ruling parties, the bloody conservatives and papists, it had become a matter of keep your acquis – or lose… They hardly would win extra votes when the scheduled space mission succeeded. But if it failed, they were going to lose, because many of their traditional voters would desert them. And if – for fear of failure – they should postpone the mission until after the election, they were going to lose as well…

    Elser didn’t mind that the likes of Lettow-Vorbeck and Erzberger should lose. What worried him was that the spineless peaceniks and the thugs of the DVP were going to profit, while his party was about to wither. They should have kept the barking Upper Austrian, the chap had been really good…
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2015
  5. 1SaBy Phlegmatic from the East

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    I'm so glad everybody got rid of their ironymeters as they'd be posing a serious danger to our health right now. :D
     
  6. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    The intention that man should be happy is not in the plan of Creation.
    (Sigmund Freud)

    The spectacular failure of the second manned German space mission, killing Hanna Reitsch and Erich Hartmann in fire and smoke high above the Baltic, was the startling prelude to the Reichstags election held two days later, on Sunday, March 20th, 1949.

    It was a sunny but cold day in Germany, without impending precipitation, and voting started early, when people dropped in to the ballot stations on their way to church service.

    The horror of the scenes witnessed over nationwide radio and TV life broadcast was still in everybody’s mind – and did have a profound effect on the decisions of the voters. The impact, however, was a difficult thing to predict – and the sages had been, as was soon revealed, wide off the mark.

    On the far left, the KPD lost all seats they had gained in 1943 and successfully defended in 1945. They tumbled from 71 seats to a mere 11. This, though, had nothing much to do with space flight; it was the SPD retrieving their traditional constituencies. Accordingly, the social-democrats rose from 83 to 138 seats. They had been stalwartly demanding better funding for the space effort – from the very start.

    On the far right, the DVP had been loudly supporting the space effort – and had always insisted it was clearly underfunded. From Friday to Sunday, they had considerably stepped up their campaign, claiming that the catastrophe was the fault of the penny-pinching frumpish establishment. – Their reward was a sensational rise from 70 to 124 seats.

    The newcomers of the DFU had propagated peaceful conquest of space – in addition to general disarmament and non-violence. The disaster rather damaged their outcome, instead of helping them. Nevertheless, they acquired 67 seats at the first onset.

    The ruling parties lost; but was it rather because of the DFU peaceniks or because of the space accident? The GDNP fell from 95 to 43; the Zentrum and its affiliated pygmy-parties shrank from 81 to 52; and the LDP dwindled from 65 to 34. This time, no independent candidates made it to the plenar hall.

    Thus, the SPD, as strongest party, acquired the privilege to try to form a government in the first place. But their traditional partners, LDP and Zentrum, could only add 86 seats to their 138. The resulting 224 seats were not enough to form a majority government. However, if the 11 seats of the KPD were added, one would achieve just 235; that would be sufficient, if only by one single seat.

    In the same vein, the GDNP could even provide a stronger majority. – But inside the SPD, neither coalition was considered acceptable right away. Neither the treacherous communists nor the haughty Junkers were considered worthy. – It would require a lot of arm-twisting to tinker together a working government…

    So, while at Prerow the rocket scientists were conducting damage analysis and wreck parts autopsy, the politicians in Berlin were trying to determine who should rule Germany for the next four years. In both cases, no smiling faces could be seen.
     
  7. Expat Well-Known Member

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    Very sad, but probably to be expected.:(
    You really shouldn't rush a mission into space, after all.

    Sounds like a tight and unsatisfying election for all concerned.
     
  8. Tonyq Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2008
    What, no launch escape tower mechanism?

    Yes, Reitsch was a risk-taker, but only because, as a pilot, she had a measure of control, in even the most dangerous situation.

    Would she and her younger colleague really have climbed on board such a volatile machine, with no escape route, when something went wrong.
     
  9. Bmao Sorcerous Firelizard

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    Los Angeles
    The space flight failed; that is very sad.

    I'd actually like to see a vignette on the flight itself, done in a different style that bears witness to the event as its unfolding rather than it being referenced 2nd hand, so we really get a sense as to the whole shock of what was just referenced, and give it a more... human perspective than the aloof 3rd person perspective that the timeline takes.
     
  10. Expat Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I imagine this is one of the seminal events of the decade, just comparing it to Challenger IOTL. Which is also what I'd point out to Tonyq. Sadly, there's absolutely nothing out of step with this event in the context of space exploration.
     
  11. Tonyq Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2008
    I'd agree that such a high profile catastrophe would be a significant and memorable event, comparable to Challenger, but my point was around the risk profile and safety measures required, when dealing with a pioneering and largely unproven launch system.

    The STS51L flight was the 25th launch of the Shuttle and would have been the World's 112th manned spaceflight so the risk profile, as it was for all Shuttle launches, was entirely different.

    Interesting idea. Any takers?
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2015
  12. bm79 Citoyen Louisianais

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    New Orleans, Louisiana
    Seconded. With all the buildup, we deserve a fuller picture, not just a mention as a footnote. If you're waiting for the release of the full post-disaster analysis to come out before posting a detailed update on the event, you could have at least done a short "Breaking News" post. You've done it before on a few occasions.
     
  13. GamingWeasel The Wiggliest of All Weasels

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    Fairfax, VT
    Thanks for the updates Rast. Entertaining as always. :)
     
  14. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Science advances one funeral at a time.
    (Max Planck)

    The Russian rocket scientists and engineers gathered at Achinsk and asked to analyse the Prerow disaster were appalled: competing in the space race was one thing; but having to deal with the doom of two intrepid space farers was something else entirely. After having just been salved from a major catastrophe of their own, their mood had rapidly gone from relief to grief, when watching misfortune unfold over the Baltic.

    Apart from the TV and radio coverage, they had the reports of two Russian spy trawlers at their disposal. It allowed them to reconstruct rather consistently what had occurred, although they couldn’t determine why it had happened. The second stage of the A12 had ignited too early, splitting off the first stage, which, however, was still firing and had fuel left. Consequently, the first stage, relieved from weight, had surged ahead and hit the second stage – pushing it from its trajectory.

    The second stage had started to rotate and wobble wildly, before finally exploding. The explosion had destroyed the space craft. – These were the bleak facts. – Now, one knew that it was a dangerous job; Yevgeny Georgievich Pepelyaev had barely survived his voyage. But listening to the terminal radio emissions of Hanna Reitsch and Erich Hartmann, which the spy trawlers had recorded, was heartbreaking.

    Generál-Leitenánt Mikhail Klavdievich Tikhonravov had thought he knew it all, but when he saw his men and women weep, he understood that the first phase of space exploration was over. One had been reckless and lucky, until disaster struck. But now, innocence was gone. – He had to go to Moscow. One had to slow down, had to look into measures to increase safety. He supposed that the politicians were going to agree; media pressure was matching.

    Hell, one had to be very careful. This could well mean the end of manned space flight, if one didn’t handle it appropriately. The public knew that Pepelyaev had barely escaped doom. And now the Prerow Disaster had followed hard on. – He wondered what the eventual German reaction would be. Right now, they were paralysed by the accident and by the result of the recent election.

    If the Germans should quit the space race, the Russian effort would slow down invariably – and perhaps even dwindle to zero. Without competition, the incentive to continue might be too small to persevere. Commercial profits were still far away and elusive… The military side was still content with simple missiles that could hoist their bombs into the sky – and let them fall down again…

    Now, Tikhonravov knew von Braun and Korolev. They were not likely to give up. But public opinion in Germany might veer off… He had never understood this peace humbug, which had splashed over to Russia eventually. These Germans were pretty unpredictable regarding the swings of their intellectual life…
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2015
  15. rast Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Against a stupidity that is in fashion, no wisdom compensates.
    (Theodor Fontane)

    Why do they do that? Again and again? thought Kurt Schumacher petulantly, listening with half an ear to the radio broadcast. It were the last words of Hanna Reitsch and Erich Hartmann. These radio bods seemed to take a kind of perverse pleasure in playing back the horror every hour or so…
    “… Oh my God!” that was Reitsch, hardly audible against a background of deafening booms.
    “… Tell Ursel I love her!” that was Hartmann, faint but distinct. Ursel was his wife.
    “… Our Father!” Reitsch again. Then, a piercing shriek. Then, nothing…

    It was not helpful to replay this perpetually. The country was in shock already. National mourning had been declared for the day of the official funeral, the day after tomorrow. It would be a symbolic act. There were no remnants to be interred. – Schumacher shrugged his shoulders and glanced across to Annemarie Wildung, his secretary and partner in life. She had listened to the broadcast, had now tears in her eyes.
    “Horrible, isn’t it?” she muttered.
    “A tragedy.” growled Schumacher. “But there’s nothing we can do about it. – Shall we continue? – And, please, switch off the radio.”

    Ever since he had lost his right arm on the Eastern Front in the Great War, Schumacher was dependent on willing hands to assist him. He had learnt to write with his left, but it remained a slow and ungainly ordeal. Even singling out a cigarette and lighting it was a complicated process with only one hand. And Schumacher was a heavy smoker. – Headstrong as he was, his aides, however, had little chance to influence him, although they certainly tried.

    After the short-lived chancellorship of Julius Leber in 1945, Schumacher had succeeded in replacing him as party chairman and chancellor candidate. The election result of last Sunday meant his great chance. The SPD had come out as strongest party; he could – should – become Imperial Chancellor. – But it remained difficult. Schumacher was violently opposed to a coalition with the communists; and the majority of his comrades in the party executive board wouldn’t agree to an alliance with the national-conservatives of the GDNP.

    That bode one had to bind in the peace-anarchists of the DFU. They were as unsavoury to Schumacher, the Prussian socialist, as the communists. But: they hadn’t doublecrossed the SPD, at least not directly… There were several treacherous former SPD deputies, who had passed over to the KPD, only to defect to the DFU later. But the leadership of the peaceniks was free of such corrupt subjects. Well, except that shabby turncoat Ulbricht, their party secretary…

    However, the political ideas of these peaceniks were quixotic. Schumacher could not yet see how this was going to work out. – Thank goodness, there was no time pressure. One had time until the summer recess.
    “All right, Annemarie, where did we stop?”
     
  16. Archangel Battery-powered Bureaucrat

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    Will the coalition last?
     
  17. rast Well-Known Member

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    Last edited: Apr 26, 2015
  18. jayel Well-Known Member

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    post a link when it transitions please
     
  19. Nerdlinger All-around smartass

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    A sad parody of a functioning nation
    You passed 10,000 posts a long time ago, though. I don't understand why there's such a limit. Why does it matter how many posts are in a single thread?
     
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