A Thousand Small Steps. How NASA may have been after the Apollo 1 fire.

Wonder if John Glenn will make an appearance (RIP, John Glenn)...
Well as far as returning as an Astronaut that would be quite unlikely since he had retired from NASA in 1964. But as a political figure I might be able to find a place for him to make an appearance or two. Actually now that I think about it he would make a perfect fit for a certain position that I planned on creating after the moon landing.
Part 9: One Last Ride

January 22, 1969, 7:32PM. Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A.

Wally Schirra flipped the cabin vent switch from his seated position. With a hiss the oxygen-nitrogen ground testing atmosphere began leaving the spacecraft. His crew had just finished with the final plugs out test before their Apollo 9 mission marking the final preparatory milestone before they could lift off.

Soon enough they were leaving the cabin of their command module and standing on the servicing platform looking back at the small craft that would be their home for over a week. Their capsule and lunar module would be the first to carry names since Gus Grissom named his Gemini 3 capsule. Wally remembered those discussions with great amusement.

Gus wanted to name it the Molly Brown since there was a popular play called the Unsinkable Molly Brown. The reason he wanted to name it that was because his Mercury capsule's exit hatch had prematurely blown, causing it to sink with Gus nearly drowning in the process. Gus thought it would be hilarious to then name the Gemini 3 capsule Molly Brown, which NASA management heavily disagreed with. They told him to pick another name and he settled on The Titanic, needless to say they let him use the first name and quietly banned future flights from naming their own capsules.

But now that there would be two separate spacecraft in orbit at once, the Command module and the Lunar module, names became necessary to differentiate between the two. David Scott being the Command module pilot had suggested the name of Gumdrop for the Command module because of how the conic capsule had looked when delivered to the cape under a blue tarp. Walt Cunningham had taken the challenge of naming the LEM a bit more conventionally and decided on Santa Maria. They, like Columbus before them, would be making the first voyage of a new journey when they became the first crew to fly the LEM in addition to being the first to completely separate themselves from the spacecraft they were launched in.

Wally was a bit nervous about the idea of the LEM. If anything went wrong and Walt and he couldn't meet up with Dave in the CSM then they would be stuck in a spacecraft with limited power and no ability to reenter the atmosphere. At least on Mercury and Gemini flights if something happened you could always make an early abort to the mission and splashdown. But then again he never signed up for a safe job when agreed to be flung into space strapped into a tin can on top of a modified ICBM back in 59. This would be one hell of an end to a 10 year spaceflight career. Best of all he would be the first person to fly in 4 different kinds of space vehicles, a title which no one could take away from him.

As he rode the elevator down from the Command module and watched the massive rocket drift past them, Wally couldn't help but smile. He honestly couldn't have picked a better crew to come with him on his last adventure past the stratosphere. Just a little longer and they would each get their turn to ride on the biggest rocket ever built after years of waiting.

January 30, 1969, 9:57AM. Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A.

"T-Minus three minutes until liftoff and all systems are checking out as expected," came the voice of Buzz Aldrin serving as their capsule communicator.

"That's good to hear Huston. We are just about ready to leave the planet if you will let us," Wally chimed back.

With a chuckle he replied, "I'll put in a good word for you with the propulsion boys, see what I can do."

As he looked over to his right Schirra realized that they made a line of experience. On one end was him with this being his third spaceflight. On the opposite couch was Walt Cunningham on his rookie mission. In the middle of them was second time spacefarer Dave Scott. For some reason that idea just made him crack a smile as he rested his head back against the crew couch. He just had a good feeling about this flight, despite his earlier trepidation.

Over the radio checks were made and before he knew it, it was coming up on the time for launch. Frank Borman had warned Wally that the Saturn V kicked like a mule compared to the Titan but even then he was unprepared for the sheer immensity of the launch. On his earlier flights there was a distinct feeling of rising up from the Earth but now it was almost as if instead of lifting off from the surface the Saturn V with its F1 engines was simply pushing the Earth away from it. Even through all of the shielding and sound dampening the noise of the launch was deafening.

The vibration was heavy but not as bad as he had imagined based on the warnings of the previous crew. While he could read most of the minuscule writing on the instruments he did note that they were quite blurry. This vibration lessened with the second and third stages of the moon rocket as the hydrogen-oxygen fuel combination seemed to give a smoother ride. Within minutes the J2 engine of the third stage shut down and they were in orbit.

The Lunar module adapter panels which held the CSM in place during launch were jettisoned. Taking RCS control Dave backed them up before turning Gumdrop to face the LEM, giving the crew their first sight of the craft in space. Slowly Dave eased them forward into docking with Santa Maria. Once hard docking was achieved springs at the base of the LEM were released pushing the new double spacecraft safely away from the spent SIV-B rocket stage.

February 1, 1969, 11:03AM. Gumdrop CSM.

With the first 2 days of systems checkout and basic Earth observation done with, the crew of Apollo 9 was ready to remove the docking hatch and transfer from the CSM into the LEM becoming the first crew to internally transfer from one spacecraft to another. If all went well with the next few tests then tomorrow Wally and Walt would undock in Santa Maria leaving Dave alone in Gumdrop so they could conduct a thorough flight test of the LEM in Earth Orbit to prepare for Apollo 10's lunar 'dress rehearsal.' If no hitches went off with 10 then 11 would be go for the first moon landing beating Kennedy's deadline be just 7 months. If for some reason 11 couldn't make it then Apollo 12 and 13 would have a chance to land before 69 came to a close.

And all of that hinged on Apollo 9 proving that the LEM was safe for use in Earth orbit paving the way for lunar orbit operations. To accomplish this the crew had just removed the hatches covering the docking tunnel and prepared to board Santa Maria. The first thing that Wally noted when he was about to go into the LEM was how fresh the air smelled. Walt had a small bout of space sickness at the beginning of the mission which left a foul tint to the air in the CSM. Once the switches had been flipped and the gauges started reading the crew was ready for the first part of the test.

Walt suited up in the new A7L EVA suit. He would open the hatch that a moon walking astronaut would use to exit the LEM and stand on the porch as it was called completely disconnected from the spacecraft. With the new EVA backpack that would be needed for the lunar landings Walt Cunningham would make history by making the first spacewalk using internal consumables. All previous missions had the spacewalker use an umbilical cable to provide oxygen and any other needed consumables to the astronaut.

As Dave Scott stood in the open hatch of the CSM with a camera in his gloved hands Walt opened the hatch and slowly made his way out of the Santa Maria. There he stood facing out into the cosmos connected by only a thin tether to keep him from floating away from the craft. Then a few moments later Walt completed his secondary objective as he slowly made his way from the LEM porch to the hatch of Gumdrop. Once inside the tether was withdrawn by Schirra and they closed the hatches to both ships. They had done it, they proved not only the soundness of the basic A7L design but also that it was possible to transfer from the LEM to the CSM without using the docking tunnel if for some reason the tunnel was inaccessible.

Now there was just one last thing to do.

February 2, 1969, 9:47AM. Santa Maria LEM.

After a good night's rest the crew began operations the next day. After a short breakfast the crew suited up and prepared for the days big activity. Dave shook hands with Wally and Walt one last time before their one ship would become two.

"Houston this is Santa Maria we are go for undocking," Cunningham reported over the radio.

"Santa Maria, Houston here. We concur with your assessment and you have permission to undock from Gumdrop.

The two of them noticed a slight shudder as Dave engaged the undocking springs and backed Gumdrop away. Looking through the top mounted window they could observe the sight of the CSM growing smaller as they prepared to begin their free flight.

The first order of business had them twirl their LEM around and over so that Dave could visually inspect it. With his okay they used the RCS to distance themselves before activating the LEM engine at minimum throttle. Being that the descent engine was the first throttleable rocket engine ever developed this was a big step in verifying the LEM. At first the engine chugged unevenly, likely from the helium that pressurized the tanks getting sucking into the turbo pumps, but as soon as they began the throttle up the thrust evened out.

Like clockwork they ran through the various scenarios and maneuvers required of them by mission control. Even the separation of the ascent stage from the descent stage went smoothly. In just a few hours time Walt and Wally were redocked with Gumdrop having completed all of the checks needed to send Apollo 10 on its way to the moon.

Only a few days after that the crew of Apollo 9 was safely floating in the ocean awaiting recovery.

"That was some mission," Dave said after he removed his helmet.

With an almost childlike wonder Cunningham replied, "I'd have to agree with you there Dave. That was one hell of a rookie mission. I just hope that I get another chance to go up again."

As he tossed his gloves by his feet their Commander said, "I'm sure that both of you will get another shot. You two performed great up there, just excellent. As for me, this old man has been to space enough to last me the rest of my life. I have to say, you two were the best crew that I could have asked for to fly with me on my last go round."

"You sure that you don't want to stick around Wally? After Apollo we will likely be heading over to Mars," Dave shot back with a grin.

Chuckling back at the command module pilot Wally simply said, "I think I'll let the young guys go punching Martians while I watch from my living room."

With that said the recovery helicopter began closing in ready to retrieve the triumphant crew. Wally was feeling a great deal of emotions as he left the command module and was greeted on the deck of the carrier. He summed it up best in his response to a question at the post flight press conference when asked to sum up the results of this third mission of the Apollo Program.

"Well I think that you will agree with me when I say that third time's the charm."
I've once again gotten pretty busy with college. I have about half of the Apollo 10 update done but I haven't really been in the mood to write on this. I will at some point finish this but I don't know how long that will be. I guarantee that I will write up to the First moon landing and the return to Earth but after that I will likely put this TL on hiatus for while. I have a game plan for the space programs through the 80's but I don't want to start posting then get a dry spell like this last one and leave you guys hanging in the middle of everything. Sorry about the wait. I'm not making any promises but I will try to get the moon landing posted within the month
Part 10: Apollo 10

March 7, 1969, 3:52PM. Cape Kennedy medical clinic.

John Young felt the coldness of the alcohol pad as it was wiped in the crook of his arm. Next Dianne, an older nurse whom had become a favorite of the astronauts, stuck a needle in his arm and began to fill a small vial with his blood. As the red liquid filled up the empty container John continued with the conversation he had been having before. No matter how many times he had been poked and prodded with needles in his time as an astronaut he never got used to it and always had to pause his conversation until the needle was in.

"Like I was saying I know that he has been making a good recovery but I just want to get confirmation that he isn't pushing himself too hard. I want to see him back in the air just like everyone else but I want him to do it when he is at his best."

Dianne simply smirked and gave his arm a sharp slap to get the blood flowing eliciting a wince from John and a smile from her, "Well as touched as we all are at your concern Jonny, you should be the one that is worried. Chaffee is in better health than any other Astronaut in the corps and if you don't watch your back you will end up being a CMP under his command."

Young really hated being called Jonny which was exactly why she insisted on using it in place of his real name. In fact she was the only person he let call him by that nickname.

"Oh now you are saying that I'm going to get demoted huh? Well who do I have to, entertain, to keep my position then darlin?" he said with a wink and a grin.

As expected this got a snort of laughter from Dianne and a playful smack to his head as she replied, "Honey you couldn't handle me."

"If you say so," John shot back with a grin just before she removed the vial and placed a cotton ball over where the needle had been.

Placing his fingers over the cotton ball and bending his arm up John walked out of the room with a smile on his face back into the waiting area which the rest of the prime and backup crews, all of them shirtless like him. Jim Lovell was chatting with his two crewmates while John's crew were seated across from them. Gene Cernan was rapt as he watched a news broadcast about the President's most recent speech on the clinic's TV. Rodger Chaffee was talking with Kurt though he gave a quick nod to his commander when he saw him exit the office.

Kurt was one of the janitors around the cape and from what he could over hear the two of them were discussing their kids. Apparently one of Kurt's boys was having a birthday soon. With his chest exposed John could see the results of the fire firsthand. Patches of his chest and back were uneven and bumpy from the scar tissue. Other areas where he had gotten skin grafts were a shade or two darker than his natural skin tone. A large dark line stretched from his chin along his jaw line all the way to his right ear. This scar was the one that was visible in all of the photographs in magazines and on the news as they updated America and the World of his recovery.

In the two years since the Apollo 1 fire Rodger Chaffee had gone from one of the many new and unknown astronauts to one of the biggest celebrities in the US. His story of returning to flight status after being told he may not walk again inspired millions and his natural friendliness endeared them even more.

John took a seat in between his two cremates.

"Yeah Bobby is having a space pirate on his cake," Kurt continued.

Rodger chucked a bit and asked, "Well what made him want a space pirate?"

Smiling and gaining a bit of composure Kurt answered, "You did Mr. Chaffee. When he saw that photo of you on the cover of Time in your spacesuit he said that your scar made you look like a pirate and one thing led to another."

Laughing Rodger continued, " Well I'm glad that I could be of inspiration. Tell me is he keeping up with the missions?"

"Oh yes he sure is. No matter what he makes sure that our TV is tuned in for the news when they do reports on the most recent flight. He can't get enough about space. In fact one of his presents that he has been asking for, for months is a model of the Apollo spaceship with the Lunar Module."

With a grin Rodger said, "Tell you what Kurt, whenever he gets that model built and all painted up you let me know so he can meet a real space pirate that can answer any questions he has and sign his model if he'd like."

Kurt's eyes just lit up at that as he said, "Wow! Oh man he would get such a kick out of that. Thank you so much Mr. Chaffee, I'd be sure to pay you something for your time..."

Cutting him off he said, "No need Kurt, we are going to need kids that are interested in space to take up the mantle after guys like us retire. And you can just call me Rodger."

'Damn,' John thought. 'Forget getting his own command, with a personality like that Rodge will end up in the White House.'

March 9, 1969, 7:15AM. Kennedy Space Center pre launch checkout.

The voices in the room became muffled as the clear dome of the bubble helmet came over John's head. He then conducted the radio check to ensure that his mic and earpiece were working. Once this was completed the hoses were hooked up to the nozzles on his chest and John was now flight ready.

In his suit which was now a self contained environment he bent up and down and stretched his legs every which way that he could to make sure that all the buckles and straps were fastened both tightly and comfortably. After he was satisfied he walked a short distance to Rodger, who was already suited up, and Gene, who was having his gloves put on, with the plastic cover over his boots squeaking with each step.

"CMP check in, how's the signal?" he asked through his mic.

"CMP Chaffee checking in. The signals strong and clear Commander," the rookie replied.

"Good, so how are you feeling about the flight? You nervous?"

"Well John to be honest I've been waiting since 67 to fly so I'd say it's about time that that held up their end of the deal," Chaffee replied with a smirk.

"Well I'll do my best to make sure the boys don't bump you from the flight then," John said bumping an elbow in to Rodgers suited midsection.

March 9, 1969, 8:39AM. Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A.

Gene Cernan slipped off the plastic covers on his boots and hauled himself into the Apollo command module which they had christened Fred. Soon after he was inside he and his crewmates shook hands with Gunter Wendt the Pad Leader. This was a tradition for every departing flight from the cape that started with the Mercury program. Gunter would tug on your straps and make sure they were fastened then give you a firm handshake. His face would be the last person that the crew would see before departing the Earth.

Once the crew check was complete Gunter retreated from the hatch which was subsequently sealed behind him leaving the Crew to wait for the launch.

"Hey Rodge, this is your third flight right?" Gene asked.

"It sure is."

"And they are letting you take a crew to the moon?"

"I know I can't believe they were dumb enough to let me take the stick either but what can I say, I'm a charmer."

After a moment of silence Gene continued, "I have to admit that I'm a bit jealous that you guys get to take Barney almost all the way to the surface while I've got to stay up here in Fred. But I guess that my consolation prize is that next time I go up I might just get to plant my feet on the moon."

"I'm sure you will Gene. Hell you might even beat me to it, we just have to wait and see. But for now we have to be happy with painting the track in the sky for Gus's Landing."

March 9, 1969, 7:59PM. Three days from lunar orbit.

"Rodger don't move!" John shouted at his crewmate.

"Why is something wrong?" the first time spacefarer asked confused.

"No nothing is wrong. This light is hitting you just right," his commander explained as he raised a camera and snapped a photo.

Realizing why he told him to freeze Chaffee took off the rubber eye patch that had to wear while checking the guidance computer against the stars and tossed it at his commander who was having a giggling fit with Gene simply shaking his head as he ascended into Barney.

March 12, 1969, 2:36PM. Lunar Orbit.

"Fucking Hell!" Gene shouted as he braced himself against the wall of the LEM.

He saw the moon's surface for a brief moment before it passed once again as they tumbled wildly through space. John and he had just simulated a landing abort when the LEM suddenly jarred out of control and they began to tumble towards the lunar surface.

"Christ. What the fuck is going one Gene?" the Commander asked as he looked over the panels in front of him trying to find the error.

"I don't know. While we figure it out try to use the RCS to counter this damn roll," the LMP fired back.

Quickly taking over John used the propellant to slowly ease them back onto their normal attitude while Gene went over what might have gone wrong, "I've almost got this some-na-bitch back under way. We did everything off the checklist right? I mean I flipped the abort switch and then separated and we started tumbling."

"What do you mean you switched us to abort mode? I flipped it John."

"Well shit there's our problem," Young replied with a grin as he reached over and flipped the switch for a third time returning them to their intended setting.

May 22, 1969, 5:22PM. Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39B.

"Well I tried to paint the line to the moon as bright as possible since you're and old feller there Gus," John said as the two of them walked near the base of the massive Saturn V that was scheduled to take Gus and his crew to the moon.

"Thanks for your consideration Mr. Young, but I think I'll trust the computer more than your line," Gus said ribbing his former crewmate.

"Man she packs a wallop when those engines light up," John said as he gazed up at the towering mass of metal perched in front of them.

"Yep. This one is a hell of a lot bigger than the firework that took me up on my first mission. And this mission is a hell of a lot bigger than the one I signed up for. I'm going to the damn moon for Christ's sake."

"You are the man for the job though."

"What makes you so sure of that?"

"If you weren't they would have fired you by now," John replied with a grin.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence. I suppose your right though, they have a lot of astronauts at the cape and they want me to make the first step."

"Hey I was wondering if you know what you are going to say when you step off the ladder? I heard that they had a whole team writing up a speech for you to deliver when you step on the moon."

"You shouldn't believe everything that you hear John. But that would be helpful since I've been thinking about it and I haven't been able to come up with anything that would suit the occasion."

"Just be yourself then Gus. I'm sure you will only slightly embarrass the human race," Young teased at his fellow astronaut.

"That's big talk coming from the guy who had to apologize for yelling fuck on live TV," Grissom said referring to the incident that resulted from the LEM's abort mode switch being in the wrong position.

John lit up at the mention of the incident as he said, "Hey that's it. Man's first words on the lunar surface- I'm on the Fucking Moon!" spreading his hand out in front of him as if reading a headline.

Letting out a chuckle Grissom replied, "Yeah I'm sure that will go over well."

"Well what could they do to you Gus, say that they are making you turn that LEM around and return to Earth. You are already on the moon so you can say anything you want." John said as they continued their stroll around the base of the Apollo 11 moon rocket shooting the breeze.
I know that this update has been long overdue but I finally got around to completing it. I don't know when I will post the Apollo 11 update since I haven't started writing it and I want it to be a grand finale since it will likely be the last update for this timeline for quite a long time. I will likely be absent from the forums for a while after I post the Apollo 11 update. When I come back I will have several updates already penned for either this timeline or another that I have been thinking of. I think I will go the Kolyma's Shadow route of having all updates for a certain arc written out before posting that way if I stop writing again you guys aren't left in the dark in the middle of a story like you were this time.
I just want to get a feel for what you are interested in. After I complete the Apollo 11 update I can either work on this timeline or another I have been planning. Would you be more interested in reading this one where I will detail further moon landings, Soviet space stations, and the Apollo Applications Project or an entirely new Timeline that begins at the start of the space race and details the founding of a different space agency and a different US Manned spaceflight program being developed in response to a more dominant early soviet space program.
I'd admittedly prefer that of the former in terms of detailing further moon landings, Soviet space stations, and the Apollo Applications Program, since it's something I like to read in terms of exploring where Apollo might've gone.
To keep everyone informed I have begun the Apollo 11 update. It is outlined and just needs to be fleshed out. I am taking a summer class that ends on the 8th and have found that a wonderful alternative to studying for the class I am paying for is writing about alternate Space ages. The update should come out sometime in July. When I post the next arc of this timeline it will focus mainly on the early space stations and the Soviet attempts to land on the moon with a few select Apollo missions taking precedence. The plan is for it to cover the period of 1969-1973. I am looking at my spreadsheet with all of the missions though and it may be required to break up this arc into two pieces since a large number of missions that are entirely different or new from OTL take place and require their own individual update. As I stated earlier I will not post any new updates to this Timeline until I have an entire story arc written out so it will likely be several months until I post an update after the Apollo 11 one.
Part 11: The Small Step

May 18,1969. Pre flight interview.

The three astronauts sat in a line in cushy brown chairs next to the interviewer as they were preparing for the broadcast. Different members of staff were hooking up microphones and cables and preparing the cameras. At the request of NASA public relations the interview would be pre-recorded instead of broadcast live as it was felt that the crew may get too technical in their explanations that they may alienate some viewers. With it being pre-recorded they could trim the fat and make sure that everything moved along at a smooth and engaging pace.

Once everything was ready all parties smoothed out their clothes and got ready for the interview to begin. While the host was in a suit and tie the astronauts were wearing regular polo shirts and slacks as it was felt this would make them seem like regular American Joes.

As the cameras started to roll the host began introducing them, "Hello and welcome. I am Jack Kinney and I have with me three remarkable men about to embark on a journey of world changing proportions. Going from my right down the line they are Virgil Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Michael Collins. Thank you for agreeing to this interview gentlemen."

"Why it's not trouble Jack. You see when we go on interviews they let us off of work early," Gus said opening with a little joke.

"Why of course they do. Now speaking of work I understand they you have been training for many months for this first moon landing, do you feel that you are ready for the task ahead."

Shifting slightly Grissom answered, "Well first of all I would like to remind the people at home that this is merely the first ATTEMPT at a lunar landing. This is an never before completed endeavor so we don't know what difficulties may arise. That being said I feel that we are as ready as possible given the circumstances to have a good chance of success."

"As a follow up to that last statement what do you three define as a good chance of success?"

At this point Ed White chimed in, "Well we have had discussions amongst each other and have settled around a 50 or 60 percent chance of landing with this first mission. After all Gus and I have learned personally that every precaution and procedure must be followed."

"A thought provoking point. Now Ed you are the lunar module pilot, does that mean that you will be making the decent yourself?"

With his boy scout smile and charm he replied, "I hope not! You see I am in charge of reading the navigational instruments and relaying that information to Gus as he pilots the LEM. if he is incapacitated I have the ability to take over and make the decent myself but we would like to avoid that."

Holding up a finger Gus remarked, "And if I may just cut in a for a second, we are landing at very precise coordinates so the majority of the landing is automated. Only about 500 to 1000 feet above the surface do I take over manual control."

"I see. Now Michael you will not be joining these two on the surface is that correct?"

Answering the CMP replied, "That is affirmative. The Lunar Module only has enough space for two people so I will stay in orbit of the moon for the duration of their stay."

"I would imagine that it might get a bit lonely up there all alone," Jack continued.

Flashing a smile Mike replied, "Well if you know Gus and Ed personally then you would know that period will be the only time during the trip that I get any peace and quiet."

The group let out a few light chuckles before the next question came up, "How exactly was it decided who will be the first man to step onto the lunar surface and who will it be."

Raising his hand Gus answered, " That will be me Jack. Now I imagine that many people will assume that is because I am the commander but it really comes down the design of the door. The hatch that we open to step out of the LEM swings inwards and it opens in front of me while blocking in Ed. The LEM is quite small so we don't have the room to switch places once it is open, so since I'm right there I will be the first one out."

"Speaking of being the first one out there has been considerable speculation on what you will say once you step onto the Lunar surface. Can you tell the folks at home what you will say and whether you wrote it yourself?"

"Well I hate to disappoint everyone watching but I have no idea what I might say. I haven't given it any thought since I figure that my mind would be better focused on the mission. If we do manage to make a successful landing I'm sure that I'll think of something snazzy though."

June 2, 1969. Discovery lunar module on descent to the Lunar surface.

"Houston we have program alarm 1202, advise," Gus Grissom relayed through his mic as the flashing red alarm sounded with a screeching follow up.

At that moment the usually quick response from mission control was sluggish. After several seconds of silence he asked, "Ed do you know what a 1202 is?"

"I don't."
"I repeat Houston, 1202 alarm advise."

After several more seconds of tense silence they received a response back, "Discovery you are still go for descent."

With that conformation they turned off the alarm and continued their way to the lunar surface. A short time later as Ed was giving readings to Gus they realized something.

Communicating to Mission control, "We are a few seconds ahead of our burn Houston so we will be landing long," letting them know that they would be going past the intended landing sight.

Following that announcement Gus read off their readings, "Alright 5000 feet is good 1000 feet per second is good."

"Discovery, Houston, you are go for landing."

"Rodger that Houston," confirmed White.

"Ed give me an LPD," Grissom requested.

"3000 feet."

"I don't know that's a pretty rocky area," After a second or two of observation Grissom had to make a decision or abort the landing, "I'm going to Manual Descent," he replied before altering their course to pass over the boulder strewn crater rim that they were headed for. He decided to continue straight ahead versus trying to bank to the right or left side of the crater.

"58 forward Gus."

"Copy Ed."

"600 feet down 19," had just barely come out of White's mouth before another red flashing alarm sounded in the LEM, "Program alarm 1201?"

A few seconds of tense flight were followed by Capcom with, "Same type we are go. Repeat same type we are go."

As his gloved hand gripped the manual control stick Gus felt a bead of sweat creeping toward the corner of his eye and he wished that he weren't wearing the bubble helmet so he could wipe it away. Being in the position that he was though he simply blinked a few times as it mixed with his eye and continued with his mission. Seeing a possible site he gave slight twitch to the stick to rotate them to the right direction then rolled the craft further forward to get them there. Soon after he did this White relayed that he hit max horizontal velocity so he had to ease back a bit to ensure that they maintained control.

"250 feet how's the fuel."

"7 percent Gus. Just ease her down... 220 feet."

"I'm going to put us down right on the other side of that crater," Gus informed his crewmate.

As they were coming up on the rim of the crater the fuel light flashed on leading the White saying, "Quantity light 60 seconds to go, no-go."

Throttling down Gus drew closer to his intended landing spot as White read off the instruments, "50 feet... 2 forward... 40 feet down one and a half... 30 seconds remaining... 5 forward... you're drifting to the left... 15 seconds... we are blowing up some dust..."

At this point Gus spoke up, "I can't see the surface. Tell me when we have contact."

At this point the fuel reserves were getting mission critical. White glanced between the fuel clock and the contact light gauge hoping that the light would come on before the fuel ran out. 10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3... 2...

"Gus the 60 seconds is up we have to abort," White said as the quantity gauge hit zero.

"We are almost there."

"Gus we have to Abort," White said as he reached over to the abort button. Just as his hand was about to touch it he noticed a blue light come on, "We have Contact light!"

Replying quickly Gus flipped a switch confirming, "Shutdown."

"Rodger engine off," White said as they felt the jolt from the footpads of the LEM impacting the lunar regolith.

At this point the dust began to settle and the surface appeared to the two men from Earth. Not saying anything they just looked at each other a grinned before Gus keyed his mic to relay, "Houston, Discovery here. We landed."

Three hours later the duo in the LEM were suited up and ready for their exploration. The hatch was opened and Grissom crawled backwards onto the ladder on one of the legs. On his way out he pulled on a lanyard which deployed the TV camera to broadcast his famous first steps to the entire world. He slowly made his way down, getting confirmation that they were receiving the TV signal along the way. He finally made it down to the meter wide circular footpad of the LEM.

"I'm at the base now. The footpad only appears to be indented a few inches into the surface. From my view it appears to be very fine. Almost like talcum powder. I'm about to step off of the footpad but I won't be doing it alone.

I did not get here on my own. I got here on the backs of millions of people who put forth all of their effort and expertise to achieve this lofty and amazing goal. I am not on the moon as an American but as an emissary for human kind. This is the culmination of human achievement from fire, to the wheel, to the atom. I walk in the spirit of peace and discovery as a man from Earth."

With that final proclamation Gus Grissom placed his left foot onto the lunar soil becoming the first human being in history to walk on a non-terrestrial body. Upon placing his second foot on the surface he stepped on a small stone causing him to stumble before righting himself. He then turned to ensure that his helmet was facing towards the camera. He then exclaimed the often repeated first words from the Moon's surface, "Houston, I've hit rock bottom."

He then extended the contingency soil collection bag and scooped up a small soil sample ensuring that the rock he stepped on was inside. He then placed the sample in his right thigh pocket ensuring that no matter what some lunar soil would be returned to Earth.

Soon after Ed White joined Gus Grissom on the surface of the moon. They collected several more samples and tested out different methods of movement in the unfamiliar terrain of the moon. The pair then set up an American flag with each one giving it a heartfelt salute. After all they were both former military men whose country had just landed them on the moon.

Near the end of their EVA they received a Communication from the white house, "Hello Gus and Ed. I am calling you from my office in the white house in what has to be the most important phone call any president has ever made. I can't thank you enough for the service that you two have provided to your country. On a personal note I am sure that my brother would have been thrilled at seeing his vision come to fruition. The thoughts and prayers of all mankind are with you on this day. As I am talking to you from the sea of Tranquility on the Moon I can't help but think of how here on Earth we could use your example and discover peace and tranquility with each other, not because it is easy, but because it is necessary and just. Thank you two for your service to this planet and I wish you a safe and restful return to this far away home."

Answering off the cuff as they had not been informed of the President's call Grissom replied, "Thank you Mr. President. Your late brother inspired us to become greater than ourselves by participating in the pursuit of ideals greater than we had. Now that we have met this pursuit I ask that we not forget the lessons of the struggle and the journey to get here. I ask that we forge ahead to new frontiers and new improvements so that way our children and their children may wake up to a better Earth than we have."

After just under two hours on the lunar surface their time was up and the men from Earth were bound to return to it. As Ed White ascended the ladder he gave himself one last glance of the moon. They may have been the first to reach it but they would most certainly not be the last. With that the second man was inside of the Lunar Module which soon after blasted away from the moon on a pillar of hypergolic flame leaving the moon undisturbed until it was to be visited by the next men from Earth.
Just found this. An interesting story and well written. Quite enjoying it.
Thank you for those kind words. I am currently writing the next parts of this timeline but as I said earlier I won't post them until I have the entire arc written out since I don't want to get busy and stop writing for a while leaving you guys high and dry. I will be continuing A Thousand Small Steps but it may be a while before any new material is posted. In the mean time I welcome all of you to speculate, predict, and suggest things you would like to see incorporated into this timeline and if they fit the overall story I might put them in. For instance an earlier poster mentioned John Glenn and I am inserting him into a role I had previously envisioned but couldn't figure out who to put in there.
Oh, hi, seeing some recent activity I've caught up too!

I guess the part I am most curious about is the Soviet side. The American side goes as OTL pretty much except for juggling in different people. Naturally I wonder how different America is with RFK instead of Nixon. The very first president I remember from TV and so forth is Nixon--but I also remember seeing RFK's funeral on my grandmother's BW TV--we lived with her while my father was overseas, bombing Vietnam from a base in Thailand. So it is of some personal interest to me. However this is a space TL, not general affairs, and it is therefore OK with me if your future story arc does not go into much detail about general world affairs.

Since you yourself asked way back when about advice about Vietnam and getting out of it, and I gather a bunch of people gave their opinions through private messages while I posted a belated suggestion, I do wonder if you resolved it in background, or if RFK goes into office with the war still dragging on.

At the time I suggested that LBJ negotiating a peace treaty similar to the one Nixon did get done some 4 years later OTL would be plausible, and this would be true even if he were forced to wait until too late to affect the election results. Clearly Johnson failed of nomination as OTL, equally clearly RFK surviving an assassination attempt would be enough (I suppose anyway) to put him over the top in November '68, peace treaty or no peace treaty. And unlike Nixon who qualified with "Peace With Honor," where he rode "Honor" through another 4 years and more of widening and deepening war (admittedly, conducted in a way that reduced risk to American draftees, but...oh nevermind explaining why I still think this was a bad thing) RFK is pretty much committed to ending US involvement in the war no matter what, and ASAP. So it just now occurs to me keeping him alive is your ATL early Vietnam war strategy; you don't need Johnson's treaty.

However--on one hand, Johnson probably does not like RFK much at all; I think mutual hatred was well documented OTL. He will be bitter about another smug shiny Kennedy snatching glory from him. But OTOH, he certainly can trust Kennedy to go to bat to continue and extend Great Society programs. Overall I suppose it is fair to say Nixon was not as totally against them as mere partisanship or ideology would lead one to expect, but it is certainly true that between the costs of ongoing war in 'Nam, his Republican ideology (pragmatically as he interpreted it) GS programs suffered OTL. Now Kennedy is going to be facing a Congress, one that is of his own party to be sure, but that party is a bit divided to say the least. The people who voted for either Nixon or Wallace (I assume Wallace ran and got a lot of votes as OTL) are still out there even if Kennedy came in first, and very possibly as with Nixon OTL, Kennedy did not get the majority of popular votes, merely enough of a plurality to dominate the Electoral College. What I'm saying is, Kennedy is facing some adverse political currents and despite the magic of his name and perceptions he shares in his brothers practical sainthood due to taking an assassin's bullet himself, he is not going to get everything going his way.

Therefore--even if Johnson is angry with Kennedy and personally hates him, for the sake of giving RKF enough of a break in the hope of using political capital to maintain Great Society programs despite adverse public opinion, Johnson might still want to hand Kennedy a clean slate in Vietnam. By getting the treaty signed on his own watch, LBJ vindicates himself, and gives a Democratic successor a leg up. So I think that if the treaty is not torpedoed as OTL by South Vietnamese leaders denouncing it in advance, he'll still go for it.

Yet another possible twist--Johnson tries to finalize it, but seeing that he is a lame duck the Soviet/North Vietnamese side stalls, and waits for Kennedy to take office so they can try to get a better deal from him, or see what he is made of anyway. So Kennedy takes office with the treaty still pending.

OTL Nixon stands accused of being the one to orchestrate the South Vietnamese refusal to participate. I am not sure how 100 percent proven that is, but anyway if Nixon was influential, after the election I don't think he'd stick his neck out just to spite the Democrats. Also, if one believes Nixon is the one who did it, presumably he would try in the ATL, especially running against a peacenik who has promised to end the war anyway--torpedoing the treaty gets Nixon the votes of many who hope Nixon can get peace when Johnson couldn't while still keeping his hawk voters on side. If he doesn't try, it is presumably because he is unaware of his opportunity--or just perhaps, the enormity of how much trouble he'd be in if he got caught somehow, or even the sheer immorality of interfering with the sitting President trying to do his job might stop him. It is also possible to believe that the South Vietnamese leaders would act as they did anyway--but OTL they did go along with Nixon's version of the same treaty, 4 years later.

Thus, the treaty is still in play. Johnson could get it agreed to by the foreign parties before Kennedy's inauguration--of course any treaty still has to be ratified by the Senate. But I think in an election year where the candidate who promised immediate peace won, getting this treaty through the Senate would be pretty quick and sure.

If Kennedy takes office with peace in Vietnam already a done deal, on paper anyway, that is a coup for him even if he owes it to Johnson. To actually save South Vietnam, the existing regime in 1969 in Saigon has to keep it together domestically with a lot less American help, and if Kennedy withdraws all troops completely the South is vulnerable to a Northern armed invasion as OTL. Kennedy might have to sit by and watch that, and his reputation would surely take a hit. If the treaty allows a small American deterrent force to assist the South against conventional invasion, I am not sure if Kennedy would take advantage and keep one there. But if he does, I don't think the North would dare invade conventionally. They probably would keep up with guerrilla attacks despite the treaty but perhaps the Saigon regime can ride them out. Best case for Kennedy is if SV survives and the treaty appears to have some good effect. In that case, RFK might have lots of political capital!

And he might use some of it to slow the collapse of NASA's budget somewhat. OTL it was plummeting fast already by 1969, and fell every year for several years, slowed mainly by the commitment to continue Apollo a few years, but eventually falling to the 1970s low levels it stayed at for a decade.

There is another RFK wins TL out there now where the author suggested Kennedy could keep the budget way up at late 60s peak levels. You've done a lot of groundwork already in this TL to give him some leverage to keep it up, but I am very skeptical that it could be kept at the high peak it reached in 1968.

Still, relative to OTL we have 1) Apollo 1 team is still alive 2) the Soviets are still proceeding with the N launcher family, and some of its test launches are a qualified success. It is in the cards for the Russians to put a cosmonaut on the Moon, if not before Apollo 11 now, than soon after. Or they could ditch the whole LK program but focus on a space station; the N-1 can lift quite a large station and perhaps long before Skylab can go up. And we have 3) Kennedy charm in the White House again and 4) perhaps the USA is effectively out of Nam before Kennedy gets there, and if not he is going to disengage per promise, so a lot of money being burnt up OTL is not here.

Even at the very high peak of 1969 budget, NASA cost peanuts compared to promoting the Vietnam War.

In your ATL, probably more plausibly than in the other one, Kennedy can perhaps push through a huge NASA budget. And if not keeping the 1968 level, I think at the very least he can keep the planned number of Moon landings, several more than OTL, and very possibly get some more Saturn rockets, perhaps even a few more 1B along with improved VB orders (Saturn V but substituting in F-1A instead of F-1 and J-2S instead of J-2 engines, which might allow a significant tonnage increase for moon shots--or Skylabs!) What else might he do with extra bucks for NASA?

I will wait patiently in suspense for when you've written the next arc to find that out I suppose!

Meanwhile, the Russians are forging ahead with the N rockets.

I am not sure I believe an N-2 can send an LK to LLO; shouldn't Korolev argue for a complete pair of two N-1 and develop a less marginal LK if this is the case?

The competition the N rockets, eclipsing the Proton, offers the West argues for NASA budgets stabilizing at a higher level than OTL even if the Kennedy magic wears off in a few years. The pressure is on to try to be more cost-effective with Saturn legacy tech, and I don't think you shone a light on the misery in the Apollo Applications office only to leave them to sink as feared just as OTL.

OK, we've been warned it might be a very long time before this TL comes alive again, and given the consolation that if it does, it will be to tell a complete tale, so I for one will be patient but hopeful. I threw out everything I though might be relevant because we won't have chances to comment for many months or perhaps years to come.

Looking forward to that day, whenever it is!
Well Shevek23 you made some good points and arguments. You will be pleased with some updates and surprised with others. Just to inform you I noticed that I neglected the soviets quite a bit in the lead up to the Apollo 11 landing, but do not fear they have an extensive role in the updates to come. In fact I've already written the first two of them and they have a strong focus on the immediate aftermath of Apollo 11 on the Soviet space program. I'm glad to see some discussion going on and would encourage others to do the same. As far as when the next updates will come out it will likely be closer to the months than years.
I was wondering if anyone had any information on the 156 inch solid rocket motors tested by Aerojet in the late 60s. I have been able to find plenty on information on the 260 diameter but very little on the 156. For instance were they segmented like the Shuttle SRBs or monolithic like the 260? Did they plan on using gimbaled nozzles or fuel injectors like the Titan UA 1205's for steering. How much thrust was produced by each, how much fuel was planned to be contained, and what was the ISP or burn time? Any information would be appreciated.
Ah, who were the backup crew? Myself, I would have pegged White as the CMP. After all, initially, Collins was a lunar module specialist...........
Ah, who were the backup crew? Myself, I would have pegged White as the CMP. After all, initially, Collins was a lunar module specialist...........
The backup crew for 11 will be the prime crew for Apollo 14 so as you will see it will be Jim Lovell, Neil Armstrong, and Ken Mattingly as Commander, LMP, and CMP respectively.

Well with White and Grissom surviving the fire and White being the first American to walk in space it was felt by management that he deserved to be the LMP on the first mission to walk on the Moon. In fact White was offered the option of being the backup commander for Apollo 11 so that he would be the commander for 14 but declined it in favor of serving with Grissom since he respected him so much after Apollo 1 and Apollo 6.
This was some talk that Grissom's first step speech was originally :" I guess we did good work", but Thomas Paine nixed it.
This was some talk that Grissom's first step speech was originally :" I guess we did good work", but Thomas Paine nixed it.
I hadn't heard that but I figured that Gus would take it seriously enough to deliver his nice speech on the LEM Leg. Then when he stumbled on that rock his real personality showed through.