DBWI: No Joint Soviet-American Lunar Programme in the Sixties

I've been inspired to post this by the knowledge that, because of COVID-19, we won’t be able to properly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon. That day in June 1970 was a milestone in scientific and political development.

It’s been argued that Kennedy’s offer to Khrushchev of a joint lunar mission in the early 60s was the starting point of a process of détente and of serious nuclear disarmament in the latter part of the decade. We all remember JFK's speech to the UN about joint exploration. The programme survived the failed assassination attempt on Kennedy in 1963 and by the time Khrushchev was removed in the late 60s, the joint programme had a momentum that couldn’t be stopped. Indeed, it set the scene for further joint missions, culminating in the 1985 landing on Mars.

So what if that joint lunar programme never happened? Kennedy was getting cold feet about the sheer expense of the Apollo programme and was apparently never that interested in it anyway.

If the Joint Mission Programme hadn’t happened, perhaps Kennedy would have rowed back on his end of the decade deadline? Or cancelled it entirely?

Maybe if Kennedy had died in Dallas in 1963, America would have pressed ahead on its own as a kind of tribute to its slain young president? In that case, perhaps it would have been someone like Gus Grissom who was the first man on the moon rather than Alexei Leonov?

If space exploration remained a pawn of the Cold War, and a nationalist exercise in flags and footprints, would we still have moonbases at Clavius and Tchalinko?

Could the Soviets have even gone on their own? Their N1 rocket showed some promise apparently but never flew once the Joint Programme started.

Any ideas?
 
I've been inspired to post this by the knowledge that, because of COVID-19, we won’t be able to properly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon. That day in June 1970 was a milestone in scientific and political development.
While I'll admit to some disappointment that the original plan to replicate the original mission fell through but as there's been no sign of C19 on the Moon I'm happy to keep it that way.

As for the rest, let’s start off with the elephant in the room; If you've read any of the more recent deep-dive histories on the subject, or even a lot of the press around the world at the time it's clear that this should never have happened! It wasn't just that it seems inconceivable at the time for the US and USSR to see eye-to-eye on any subject, it was that a brash young, unproven American President had recently told America and the world that a nation that had less than 15 minutes total "spaceflight" experience was going to put a man on the Moon and return him to the Earth, all in less than 10 years!

Everyone laughed except the US, the London Times wished us "well" but made it clear that they didn't believe it could be done! East Germany published a front page cartoon of Kennedy using a sling-shot to toss astronauts into space, aiming at the Moon but missing. And a few weeks later had an internal cartoon showing a Mercury capsule with a long-bearded astronaut in a Robinson Caruso scene looking longingly up at the Earth. And they weren't wrong with what was known of the American space program at the time.

I mean the Mercury was tiny compared to the Vostok, a third of the mass, half the volume, and the launch vehicles were even worse with the Atlas barely able to put the Mercury in orbit while the R7 had power to spare and was continually upgraded to this day! At the time the Mercury had only flown a single sub-orbital flight, while the Soviet Vostok had gone into orbit around the Earth on the first flight! The American’s seemed to substituting bravado for ability, how could anyone take them seriously?
But significantly the response from Moscow was subdued and cautious.

There was a good reason for this since only Moscow and those actually working on the Soviet space program knew and understood how marginal their lead was.

It went back to Sputnik and the unexpected reaction that the Soviet coup of launching the first artificial satellite had engendered. It reaped propaganda benefits and took the USSR from being a nation of 'tractor builders' to being perceived as on par with even the United States in technology and progress. At first as stunned as the US over the acclaim this feat brought many in the Kremlin and space program pushed for more and more 'firsts' and to pile as many humiliations on the US as possible. The very public failure of Vanguard 1 and the battery problems that led to the short lifetime of Explorer 1 seemed to only add to the reasons and the unmanned 'firsts' and missions continued to pile up.

Many were aware that Sputnik and it's ICBM launch vehicle the R6 had put spurs to the American missile development effort. With concentrated effort the American's had gone from almost no long range missile development in the early 50s to several medium and intermediate designs operationally deployed along with their Atlas missile which was soon to be joined by both the Titan and Minuteman ICBMs. Coupling a new, untested President and possibly another humiliation with the planned manned orbital flight (the Cuban Bay of Pigs disaster had not yet taken place but was in the end another factor that pushed Kennedy to the Moon) what would happen if the US committed seriously to this ongoing "Space Race"? What would the USSR have to do to stay in the lead, or even to keep up?

There's no direct evidence to support the supposition that forces in the Kremlin tried to delay Yuri Gagarin's orbital flight anymore there is direct evidence that Eisenhower and the White House delayed Vanguard to allow the Soviets to launch first so as to "settle" any possible over-flight protests had the US gone first. Still, there is some circumstantial evidence that the initial flight was delayed enough that had everything in the US gone as planned that Alan Sheppard would have been the first man into "space" and Gagarin the first man in orbit. But it didn't work out that way and Sheppard's flight was delayed. And whatever else the poorly kept 'secret' plans for a US sponsored invasion of Cuba was too much of provocation to ignore so five days before that disaster began Vostok 1 rose into the sky and Yuri Gagarin went into the history books.

And that double whammy proved far to much for Kennedy to ignore or set aside. As his own biography states he agonized and searched for any other possible 'counter' to the Soviet postion and in the end was convinced that the US going to the Moon on it's own was the only plausible goal that could be announced with a high certaintly that the US could win. So that's what he did on 25 May, 1961 in front of a joint session of Congress.
And within a few days he was regretting it, badly.

It was clear that NASA as it was organized, funded and operating would not be able to meet the goal and the agency as well as the fundamental way it was run and supported would have to drastically change. NASA Director Dryden was not happy about or supportive of such major changes nor the role he saw manned space flight having to take in the overall NASA organization in order to meet the goal and deadline Kennedy had set and he told Kennedy so and offered his resignation. But Kennedy convinced him to remain and undertake a series of cost-benefit analysis studies on various Lunar mission models including a joint mission with the Soviets.

This was no accident as he was already making plans to suggest to Soviet Premier Nikta Khrushchev such a joint mission when they met the next month, and which he did much to many peoples surprise including Khrushchev! While Khrushchev didn't take up the offer at that time, shortly after John Glenn's orbital flight in 1962 Kennedy and Khrushchev began a heavy exchange of letters and included Dryden and his Soviet counter-part Anatoll Biagonravov exchanging cooperative communications and meetings.

When the Soviet-American Space Cooperative Agreement was finalized in October it was pretty much overshadowed by the announcement of the Soviet-Cuban defense treaty and the demands of Turkey and Italy for the removal of American Intermediate Range nuclear missiles from their nations. Still by December when the agreement was presented to the UN there were clear signs that such an agreement was going to meet with pretty widespread acceptance. (It did after all become a core of the later UN Outer Space Treaty)

It’s been argued that Kennedy’s offer to Khrushchev of a joint lunar mission in the early 60s was the starting point of a process of détente and of serious nuclear disarmament in the latter part of the decade.
I'd say more the details are argued rather than the outcome because it was obviously the increased ability to quickly and easily communicate with each other during that critical year that arguably allowed both nations to not only talk but understand each other without all the rhetoric and paranoia getting in the way. The afore mentioned Cuban-Soviet defense treaty sent the American hawks and more than a small percentage of moderates ballistic. But as it came out over time the reasoning made sense since Cuba was terrified of another US invasion and the only other choice was to somehow elicit a promise from the US that they would never invade which was something Kennedy couldn't politically do. When Khrushchev privately informed Kennedy that the USSR had studied putting short and intermediate range nuclear weapons in Cuba as a 'deterrent' Kennedy was livid but when asked how having such US weapons in Italy and Turkey was any different he had no good answer. Especially since those nations had in fact been low level lobbying for their removal ever since they'd been deployed. When Kennedy went on national television to explain the missiles removal, (specifying as "at the request of the national government of Turkey and Italy") and graphically showing how "Allied" (but mostly US) weapons encircled the USSR that struck a chord.
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Probably more than that the withdrawal of some Soviet forces from East Germany and the beginnings of the Intermediate Weapons Treaty negotiations helped reduce some of the tensions in Europe. Meanwhile the admission of a Sino-Soviet split in Asia helped calm some Western fears of an aggressive and monolithic "Communist" bloc. it didn't immediately make everything great but it brought enough breathing room that the sides were more likely to talk than engage in proxy wars or exacerbate existing conflicts.

If the Joint Mission Programme hadn’t happened, perhaps Kennedy would have rowed back on his end of the decade deadline? Or cancelled it entirely?
Polling showed that half of America were 'meh' at best over the proposal. There were numerous other things Americans thought the government should spend the money on. Where this gets tricky is a solid majority believed and supported a continued expansion of the US military and a growing number wanted more "militarization" of space as a byproduct. The US and USSR military wanted to not only put up more spy satellites but actual weapons platforms and bombardment systems. I'm wondering if without the increased cooperation of OTL we wouldn't have seen a serious escalation of tensions instead. Keep in mind this is the period where the US Air Force was trying to pitch the Cis-Lunar Deterrent Force using nuclear bomb propelled Orion-battleships! I think if he'd gotten no support from Khrushchev on the idea then Kennedy would have had little choice but to ramp down the Lunar program to a more manageable level.

Maybe if Kennedy had died in Dallas in 1963, America would have pressed ahead on its own as a kind of tribute to its slain young president? In that case, perhaps it would have been someone like Gus Grissom who was the first man on the moon rather than Alexei Leonov?
Ok, first of all "Technically" and "legally" Grissom and Leonov DID set foot on the Moon at the same time. Gus admits his count was slightly behind Leonov's which is the whole reason the "who was REALLY first" debate exists. The way Alexei "flails" stepping off the landing pad pretty much shows he realized they weren't in sync but like they both kept saying, you have to pretty much 'pre-plan' movements in those suits for just about anything and 'stopping' is one of those things :)

And yes, I believe given the hype at the time that had Kennedy died the Lunar goal would have become a symbol of a "martyred" President but the Agreement was already in place it would be a question of how it was spun. As Kennedy himself admitted his popularity was on the rise again at the time and due to issues and delays in the joint program getting started in earnest there were calls for the US to go it alone. (Johnson was one of those voices which is why he and Kennedy were so strained) If Kennedy were killed that would have put Johnson in charge and it's not clear how supportive he was of the joint effort really. He tended to talk it up when it was a good for him and down when that served him better. He had positioned himself to be connected with "space" ever since Sputnik but his position as head of the US Space Council didn't convey the power and prestige I suppose he wanted as time went on.

Kennedy seemed kind of wistful when discussing the attempt since as he puts it he'd have gone out at a height in popularity which would have affected his legacy.

If space exploration remained a pawn of the Cold War, and a nationalist exercise in flags and footprints, would we still have moonbases at Clavius and Tchalinko?
I don't know if you've seen some of the more recent releases of what NASA has for the historical "Apollo" program which is what the US would have base their effort off of but I have REAL doubts it would have been affordable in any way unless they either gave it a lot more time, or a lot more money. I mean the Saturn C-V, the Saturn C-8? NOVA for hecks sake? The C-V was a monster but the C-8 or worse NOVA would have required a whole now Cape infrastructure and the program would have been spread out across the whole country to get those things built. And I don't see any way they were going to make those monsters reusable which is the only way to make space flight economic.

The Saturn-1 wasn't great but it had been built of parts that were essentially off-the-shelf and the Saturn-1B built on that. They'd actually tested various means of booster recovery in the late 50s and early 60s so when the time came making the booster able to be recovered and reused was pretty straight forward. Replacing the Apollo 'capsule' with a reusable glider and finally a recoverable upper stage broke the price-point barrier the same way the R6 eventually evolved into the fully reusable Buran. What allowed us to put the bases on the Moon (and go on to Mars) was the NERVA Lunar shuttle system. I'll be honest that I don't see any of this coming about in the rush to the Moon that would have had to happen to pull it off alone.

Let's be brutally honest here, NASA spending has been pretty steady if not particularly spectacular over the years but I've seen several of the budget estimates made for the various lunar landing concepts. They are not pretty and if real-world experience is anything to go by they are very likely low. To get to the Moon within the goal there were two basic methods: Earth Orbital Rendezvous (or EOR as it was known and which is what was used for the Joint Program mission) where multiple flights put pieces in orbit which are assembled, fueled and sent to the Moon. The other was Direct Ascent (DA) where the vehicle flew straight from Earth to the surface of the Moon and then back to Earth and the only way to do that with the known technology was one of those afore mentioned huge rockets.

The EOR made the most sense as it leveraged pretty much what they had and just used it more but it took more time. The Joint Mission BARELY made the June landing slot and that only because everything went right from the start and between two nations there was plenty of backup built in. But it cost a lot more up-front than something like Direct Ascent would have even if DA would have cost more in the long run. Such things matter in politics which is what is always going to be a driver :)

if you've read Buzz Aldrin's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon" book, (or better yet, seen the HBO mini-series) you'll know that the entire mission was very much (as he calls it :) ) "ducks" in that it looked fine above the water but underneath you're paddling like heck to keep your head above water :)
(According to Aldrin and Hayes the scene in the mini-series where they have to kit-bash the square Soviet CO2 filters to fit into the round US filter slots is totally true and was the reason the second mission was delayed a year to 'fix' that :) )

DA would have been 'simpler' in a brute force kind of way so probably would have been chosen to meet the timetable but again, that pretty much means everything has to go right from the start. In the end I'm glad they didn't as I suspect the only booster they could likely have had ready for such a mission was the C-V and I'm not at all confident it could have done the job.

Could the Soviets have even gone on their own? Their N1 rocket showed some promise apparently but never flew once the Joint Programme started.
Well neither did that crazy "UR-700" monster the Soviets had in the background which is likely a good thing :) It really depends on how serious they take the US announcement I suppose. The Soviet program up to the point of the Joint Program was kind of scattershot and conflicting and it took the fact the US was going to get a peek at that to settle things down. Mishen said that initially Glushko had outright refused to build engines for Korolev and as mentioned there were competing designs for a big "Moon" rocket out there but whether the Politburo would have supported a full program or what is open to question since they choose to go cooperative.

Take the US seriously and throw their support behind the N1, UR-700 or whatever that thing was from Yangel and I suppose it would have been a real race. If not then no, it would have been dependent on how committed the US was to the race.

My head-cannon says that it would have been most likely that the effort would have simply petered out since there wasn't a huge amount of interest from either side. And the butterflies from that are REALLY scary! I mean imagine no sat-net gaming or word-wide linkphones! How would I be typing this? Some dialup, land-line nightmare? ::::Shudder:::

Randy
 
Considering everything that happened afterward, I just think it's a good thing things happened the way they did.

Its obvious that both sides used the space programs as a way of feed off of each others' rocket technologies for weapons purposes, and then had the 10/15 Incident to prove why the ability to blow the entire world up in the space of an hour was a really bad idea, thus resulting in the Comprehensive Strategic Weapons Treaty and the end of the all of the ICBM silos and the missile submarines all having their missiles taken out. Who could possibly forget seeing Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan together blowing up the last missile silos in each others' countries in 1986? That probably got more attention than the Mars Mission! And that trust, that acceptance of chasing mutual goals, made possible so many things, from the Bolshoi's first Tour of America (remember that?) to the Centers for Disease Control and the Volgograd Institute's current efforts to fight COVID-19....

And let's not forget the shuttles. The Russians' new solid rockets merged with the Americans' aerodynamic design created the design that served us well around the earth for nearly 30 years, until the Commonwealth and Japanese agencies brought out their single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft and began making going to space possible for a lot more people in this world....
 
The "Big Six" (or, as some call them now the Big Seven with India) of the US, Europe, the Commonwealth, China, Japan, and the USSR's cooperation has shown that the world can wrok together and go past ideology due to the six major powers cooperating together on shared scientific goals and in fostering cultural connections.
Its obvious that both sides used the space programs as a way of feed off of each others' rocket technologies for weapons purposes, and then had the 10/15 Incident to prove why the ability to blow the entire world up in the space of an hour was a really bad idea, thus resulting in the Comprehensive Strategic Weapons Treaty and the end of the all of the ICBM silos and the missile submarines all having their missiles taken out.
There's a reason why nuclear weapons nowadays are deployed by supersonic bombers and not by missiles, considering bombers could be recalled while missiles cannot and are easier to shoot down than missiles.
 
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The "Big Six" (or, as some call them now the Big Seven with India) of the US, Europe, the Commonwealth, China, Japan, and the USSR's cooperation has shown that the world can wrok together and go past ideology due to the six major powers cooperating together on shared scientific goals and in fostering cultural connections.
Indeed, and beyond the COVID-19 battle going on right now, I think this is best shown by the Mankind Star Project, the development of nuclear fusion. All of the test facilities - Turkey Point, Diablo Canyon, Rostov, Beloyarsk, Darlington, Dounreay, Higashidori, Blayais and Qinshan - have been feeding data back to each other, which is how Rostov's discovery of secondary cooling issues in the initial design (Air Liquide and Toshiba get the points for this fix) and Dounreay's and Higashidori's problems with shell contamination was able to be passed on to others and how it got solved (thanks to developments of special alloys, courtesy of your friends at Dofasco Metals, proudly based in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada 🙂). The program is going great these days, and the Diablo Canyon and Darlington facilities have became critical portions of power grids for major cities (Los Angeles and Toronto, respectively) and the program is why the Americans, Russians, French and Canadians are all trying to see who gets the next one built first. Marble Hill, Beloyarsk, Saint-Alban or Fort McMurray, place your bets ladies and gentlemen...

There's a reason why nuclear weapons nowadays are deployed by supersonic bombers and not by missiles, considering bombers could be recalled while missiles cannot and are easier to shoot down than missiles.
That, and those bombers have conventional uses too. Remember when the Yanks got fed up with the pirates' bases in Somalia and sent a couple of B-1As from Diego Garcia to take care of business? The Somalis sure as hell do. They haven't so much as looked sideways at an American vessel since....
 
Well, certainly. Imagine if Khrushchev hadn't been removed for economic conservatism by systems engineering influenced flow and process control operators. Can you imagine staid 1930s style economists reacting to Dubček's labour-motivation socialism with disdain? Imagine if the spirit of peaceful competition limited total-workplace-integration to Japan or Korea, rather than to areas of the metropole like the UK and US which were forced by peaceful competition to expand rather than contract in the face of epochal production technique and capital good changes. It could have been like the collapse of the UK's capital in the 1890s compared to new US or German techniques. Decades of underdevelopment and relative wage decline and stagnation. As Mikoyan said and Enlai restated: quality has quantities all of its own.

yours,
Sam R.
 
OOC: splendid responses, chaps 👍 Will produce some further musings later. BTW: this post was prompted by the repeat showing in the UK of an excellent BBC documentary called 'Chasing the Moon'.
 
While I'll admit to some disappointment that the original plan to replicate the original mission fell through but as there's been no sign of C19 on the Moon I'm happy to keep it that way.
You say that...but weren’t there reports of a virus of unknown origin coming out of Clavius Base recently? (Of course, the tinfoil hat wearers think this is all a cover for something being dug up elsewhere on the Moon. Lunatics. Literally. 🙄 )
 
Considering everything that happened afterward, I just think it's a good thing things happened the way they did.

Its obvious that both sides used the space programs as a way of feed off of each others' rocket technologies for weapons purposes, and then had the 10/15 Incident to prove why the ability to blow the entire world up in the space of an hour was a really bad idea, thus resulting in the Comprehensive Strategic Weapons Treaty and the end of the all of the ICBM silos and the missile submarines all having their missiles taken out. Who could possibly forget seeing Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan together blowing up the last missile silos in each others' countries in 1986? That probably got more attention than the Mars Mission! And that trust, that acceptance of chasing mutual goals, made possible so many things, from the Bolshoi's first Tour of America (remember that?) to the Centers for Disease Control and the Volgograd Institute's current efforts to fight COVID-19....

And let's not forget the shuttles. The Russians' new solid rockets merged with the Americans' aerodynamic design created the design that served us well around the earth for nearly 30 years, until the Commonwealth and Japanese agencies brought out their single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft and began making going to space possible for a lot more people in this world....
Totally agree about the CSWT - the signing of this treaty in Reykjavik gave the world a fighting chance of actual survival.

Perhaps the joint Soviet-American push to the Moon encouraged a more multi polar approach to space exploration. Countries and agencies were more than willing to pool their resources and ideas. Speaking of SSTOs, I'm very proud of the Commonwealth's efforts with the HOTOL project, which of course later morphed into Skylon - and let's not forget that was very much a joint effort between British Aerospace and Avro in Canada. It seems the Commonwealth has also been more open to private industry taking a lead (and taking on the risks) of manned space flight. After all, Canadian/South African Reeve Musk's reusable Excalibur rocket launches from British Guyana in a few days' time, carrying the Crew Pendragon capsule to Space Station 5 (I do like Musk - a serious minded engineer who doesn't waste his time on social media but just gets on with things unlike other tech entrepreneurs I could mention).
 
OOC: splendid responses, chaps 👍 Will produce some further musings later. BTW: this post was prompted by the repeat showing in the UK of an excellent BBC documentary called 'Chasing the Moon'.
OOC: No problem man, any such co-operation between the Soviets and Americans on a Lunar landing is invariably going to lead to a lot better cultural understanding of each other and that can only be a good thing. Hatred tends to be more difficult when you have great knowledge of the people you are supposed to hate....

Totally agree about the CSWT - the signing of this treaty in Reykjavik gave the world a fighting chance of actual survival.
Indeed it did, and it was more amazing by the fact that each other were happy to support the others' efforts. That's how you got American naval crews assisting in decommissioning missile submarines at the Soviet Navy's base at Polyarnyy and Russian engineers supporting the tearing out of Titan missile silos. It all made sense in so many ways particularly after 10/15, particularly since both sides still had so many cruise missiles and bombers, and they both were building better bombers too - the Rockwell B-1 and Northrop B-2 for the United States and the Tupolev Tu-160 and Myasishchev M-20 for the Soviets were all substantially complete when the CSWT came into being, and I don't think its coincidence that both sides wanted their bombers and cruise missiles to remain. It may take you 24 hours to end the world, not 40 minutes, and the prospect of so much being destroyed is why people pay so much more attention to nuclear weapons these days.

Perhaps the joint Soviet-American push to the Moon encouraged a more multi polar approach to space exploration. Countries and agencies were more than willing to pool their resources and ideas. Speaking of SSTOs, I'm very proud of the Commonwealth's efforts with the HOTOL project, which of course later morphed into Skylon - and let's not forget that was very much a joint effort between British Aerospace and Avro in Canada. It seems the Commonwealth has also been more open to private industry taking a lead (and taking on the risks) of manned space flight. After all, Canadian/South African Reeve Musk's reusable Excalibur rocket launches from British Guyana in a few days' time, carrying the Crew Pendragon capsule to Space Station 5 (I do like Musk - a serious minded engineer who doesn't waste his time on social media but just gets on with things unlike other tech entrepreneurs I could mention).
Lots of other companies contributed to HOTOL/Skylon, let's not forget - the engines came from the Rolls-Royce/Orenda consortium, and pretty much everywhere in the Commonwealth contributed parts and equipment and knowledge. As for Reeve Musk, he is a bit of a dick from what I understand but he is a very good engineer, and yes the Excalibur rockets are a fabulous piece of work, even if the Skylon and Mitsubishi's SSO-02 Space Princess and the competitors to it that everyone else is making are surely going to make rockets like the Excalibur obsolete fairly soon.
 
OOC: splendid responses, chaps 👍 Will produce some further musings later. BTW: this post was prompted by the repeat showing in the UK of an excellent BBC documentary called 'Chasing the Moon'.
OOC: No problem man, any such co-operation between the Soviets and Americans on a Lunar landing is invariably going to lead to a lot better cultural understanding of each other and that can only be a good thing. Hatred tends to be more difficult when you have great knowledge of the people you are supposed to hate....
OOC: Ok I'll be the one to point out that you DO realize that what we're describing if you look at it logically from the supposed POD is the beginnings of the Pournelle/NIven CoDominion Universe" right? :)
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CoDominium)

Oh sure we can 'say' that other nations are 'partners' in the whole thing but we'd better hope Mr. Alderson is working hard at MIT to study those 'fusion-generated-forces' as we'll need the Shield and Drive in a couple hundred years at best ;)

Oh and we may have to expand on the "10/15" incident as it's not clicking with me??

Randy
 
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You say that...but weren’t there reports of a virus of unknown origin coming out of Clavius Base recently? (Of course, the tinfoil hat wearers think this is all a cover for something being dug up elsewhere on the Moon. Lunatics. Literally. 🙄 )
That was due to an incident where Clavius initially refused an emergency landing by a flight out of Tchalinko due to a mixup in translation. (Yes they still happen :) ) The flight was flying IN emergency supplies not HAVING an emergency as originally reported. They needed them out on a surface work-site that had some radio malfunction that pretty much wiped out most of the comm units and satellites in that quadrant.

And we all KNOW it was because they found an alien spaceship and fired up the hyperdrive by accident :)

Randy
 
Lots of other companies contributed to HOTOL/Skylon, let's not forget - the engines came from the Rolls-Royce/Orenda consortium, and pretty much everywhere in the Commonwealth contributed parts and equipment and knowledge. As for Reeve Musk, he is a bit of a dick from what I understand but he is a very good engineer, and yes the Excalibur rockets are a fabulous piece of work, even if the Skylon and Mitsubishi's SSO-02 Space Princess and the competitors to it that everyone else is making are surely going to make rockets like the Excalibur obsolete fairly soon.
Very true: Rolls Royce and Orenda have been making beautiful music together since they cooperated on the Avro Arrow successor project. Personally, I've always thought Skylon should have been called Concorde 2 (with the final 'e' being retained as a mark of respect to Canada's dual Anglophone/Francophone heritage).

Now the Soviets and the Americans are cooperating on their Interplanetary Transport System, one wonders whether the Commonwealth should get involved with deep space exploration too and develop its own equivalent to the US/Soviet Neptune super heavy booster?
 
The "Big Six" (or, as some call them now the Big Seven with India) of the US, Europe, the Commonwealth, China, Japan, and the USSR's cooperation has shown that the world can work together and go past ideology due to the six major powers cooperating together on shared scientific goals and in fostering cultural connections.
Ya I have to agree that what we ended up getting with the passage of the 1979 "Agreement Governing Acceptable Activities of Nation States and their Citizens in Outer Space" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Treaty, which is much easier to remember as the UNISAC treaty which created and defined the United Nations International Space Activities Committee) was a lot less problematic than my fellow L5Society members and I had understood it to be originally. Though that group ended up splitting over the results or our US lobbying campaign the actual regulatory environment it created is a lot less restrictive than most were afraid of. After all the USSR who proposed it in 1979 may have been a 'bit' more liberal than earlier but it was still a very controlled society whereas the US and most of the rest of the world were not. Still it did not set up a UN body that would 'confiscate' all "profits" made in outer space by any nation, citizen or organization and put it in a fund to be spread out among all the non-space faring nations as was feared.

I can understand the reason many were disappointed by the requirement to be an "Authorized Non-Government Organization" by a the UNISAC since the late 70s dream of personal "colonization" of space following the myth of the US western frontier but it was pretty clear even then that colonization would always be a more 'group' activity rather than a single family heading out to the asteroids to set up a "steading" of their own. But considering how easy groups like the Lunar Reclamation Society (http://lunar-reclamation.moonsociety.org/) the Mars Society (https://www.marssociety.org/) and the various companies and corporations dedicated to mineral and resource extraction have had little trouble permits. (No matter how much the LRS and MS tend to complain about having been restricted to the current "Main" bases on those bodies. It's actually quite logical as the needed infrastructure to support or help large out-lying settlements isn't there yet)

I think the more substantial point, (and getting back on-topic to the OP which the mods tend to stress is a GOOD thing after all :) ) is that I'm not very confident that a lot of the things we're seeing and taking for granted today would have logically followed from the way the national "Space Programs" of the past were set up or operated.

This is going to be a bit long and full of history so be warned :)

Ok, way back BEFORE the whole "Space Race" thing started there were numerous experts and scientists that worked out a lot of the basics for expanding into space as a culture and species. It was to be a slow, step-by-step process using each previous step to build and support the next step onward. Logical really as that's arguably how transportation system have always worked on Earth, but space is not EArth and the needs and requirements were also different.

People back early on would use sea-going shipping as the example and later they used the more modern air-travel model but these examples had some serious flaws that were glossed over for the sake of expediency and simplicity. And that was a big problem once you got into any detailed discussion or examination of the subject. See sea and air traffic had existing destinations and for the most part existing markets for goods shipped from point A to point B. Space didn't have that, nor was it really feasible to ship materials from space back to Earth for use. A very early space study pointed out that the Moon could be made of gold and covered with diamonds and even if we just picked them off the ground and brought them back it wouldn't be worth the cost to go get them in the first place. This was a primary reason there was only limited interest in the technology or idea of "space travel" by itself.

Then "Sputnik" happened and to everyone's surprise that had a HUGE effect on public and political interest in space travel. Part of the reason this was so surprising was that while from the late-50s the idea of space flight was more acceptable and expected by the general public there was this general assumption from almost everybody that the US would be the first nation to do so. Instead it was the USSR and that was totally unexpected because despite being a Super-Power rival of the US they were generally seen as technological backward and less sophisticated than the US. Both nations were working on long range missiles but the US was behind due to post-WWII budget and policy issues whereas the USSR had more trouble building long range bombers than the US so went with missiles.

in any case this shocked most of the world and especially the US and after failing spectacularly and publicly with the "official" satellite program of Vanguard the US used a fallback called Explorer and finally made it into orbit. While this galvanized some support for a national space program in the US it was politically seen as it being required to be a civilian program for various reasons and this did not sit well with the US military if for no other reason than the USSR felt no such constraint. Worse while this new civilian program was building up with planned manned suborbital flights before moving to orbital ones the USSR again pulled a surprise by putting Vostok 1 into orbit with no preliminary manned flights. Once again the US had 'lost' the race and the US does not deal with failure well.

The US had to DO something and try as he might John Kennedy as the new President of the US was left with the choice of having to do that "something" in space and with enough margin to ensure a 'win' for the US. He reluctantly choose the idea of putting a man on the Moon and bringing him home again "by the end of this decade". Now as I pointed out above the original plan had been closer to the step-by-step process that had been suggested earlier but in order to meet this short timeline such a program was out of the question. Not only that but the entire thing would have to be essentially based on the premise of "waste-anything-but-time" which would be expensive and likely lack any long term utility beyond this single goal. Hence the need for the huge Saturn C5/8 and NOVA boosters and all the facilities and infrastructure to support them all for a few limited missions.

Meanwhile on the Soviet side, (we now know) they were approaching the limits of their current booster capacity and while they had several bigger boosters in the works none of them really compared to the soon to be operational US Saturn-1 booster and both the leadership and scientist were aware of this. So when Kennedy made his pitch Kruscheve was non-commital but agreeable on the issue and things began to roll a few weeks later.

Now this is important because as I noted if the US had gone all the way on it's own we'd have needed not only a vastly more capable spacecraft than Mercury, (which was the Apollo that followed it in it's various versions) and also all the techniques and process that would lead up to the landing and return. Given the short time frame at some point anything NOT directly related to the Moon mission would have to have been scaled back, shelved or dropped to free up resources and money to support the Moon mission.

In such a case it could be questioned if there would be any budget for something like SpaceLab which along with the Soviet Salyut module became the MoonPort Operations Outpost from which the Joint Mission launched and returned to. Even if they had gone with the planned Earth Orbital Rendezvous (EOR) scenario (and again everything I've seen says this would not have made the mission time table) it would have left only a very sub-par SpaceLab like module in orbit. As it was MoonPort was worn out after only 4 missions so that it was retired and replaced by the SpaceDock Orbital Operations Center station.
More likely they would have used the "Direct Ascent" mode and gone directly from Earth to the Moon and back and build NO infrastructure in Earth orbit at all!

And that brings me to my main point, ("at last" you all say I'm sure :winkytongue: ) in that one very tangible result of the Joint Mission and it's follow on cooperative programs is that we DID build up significant infrastructure in Earth orbit that in and of itself has built up a supporting market and economics that have somewhat relieved the cost burden of space flight from being a government only affair and/or niche commercial application. The proliferation of small stations that accompanied the work around the so called "Third Industrial Revolution" being a good example, another is how satellite communications and telecommunications have expanded. Just think how much more such would cost if you had to send up a whole replacement satellite if a 10cent part failed, or you needed to upgrade the systems. Imagine if instead of the four huge Telecomm Stations you instead had dozens in not hundreds of individual satellites as coverage and how much that would cost over time.

I don't think with the cost and complexity of how the US or USSR on their own would have had to use to get to the Moon by themselves that any of this would have happened the way it did. We have official "colonies" on the Moon only 50 years after our first landing, we landed on Mars less than 15 years after that. Not amazed? You should be as experts predicted in the mid-50s that if we landed on the Moon by the 70s we MIGHT land on Mars by as "little" as a century later and have colonies on the Moon around the same time!

As I pointed out before both the general public and most politicians have NEVER been that interested in space or space flight as they have more 'down-to-earth' concerns but that's pretty much the same thing that was true around the time America and South America were being colonized. it was not the 'flash-in-the-pan", "get-there-first"-ers that ended up actually exploiting the land and resources, but the slow, steady trickle of follow-on people who settled and built new lives in the "New World". To achieve that not only does transportation have to be cheap but there has to be an infrastructure at the other end to build upon. (Even more so in space)

Randy
 
Now the Soviets and the Americans are cooperating on their Interplanetary Transport System, one wonders whether the Commonwealth should get involved with deep space exploration too and develop its own equivalent to the US/Soviet Neptune super heavy booster?
This right here is where the 'government' can and should step in to provide something that no commercial or non-government organization can to support the above supposition. No one but a nation-state could really afford such a massive expenditure that is going to be tied up in the "Neptune" launch system and the Orion-drive Deep Space Craft they are going to loft. Nor could you 'afford' the time, materials, and industry that each of those 'pulse units' represent. (And if we're being frank would we WANT thousands of what are essentially 'bomb-factories' all over the world run by who-knows-who?)

The US/USSR alliance CAN afford that and that mostly because they have turned their Cold War nuclear swords into space-going plowshares of a sort. They can afford the huge "Neptune" boosters to loft the components into LEO and the SpaceDock assembly complex to put those components together. They can afford the hybrid chemical/NERVA tugs to haul the whole thing out to the Lunar L4 where they are going to operate and return to. So could (really) any combination of the UNISAC (we'll stick with that because it includes most of the non-launching nations who financially or otherwise support space exploration) nations if they really wanted to.

But, (and this is what you've seen me argue elsewhere) while I applaud the US/USSR for doing this the numerous drawbacks and issues that has always plagued these type of grandiose projects still remains. Each individual "Neptune" is slated at it's most active to fly "maybe" twice a year and that's when all four are built and operational. Each can put about 1/3rd of the Orion DSC into LEO which means three "Neptune" flights per planned Orion which is currently planned to be 6 if they don't drop them to 4 in the short term. And then there's the flight needed for the pulse units which arguably can be carried by smaller vehicles in smaller batches over more flights. The current base-line is one "Neptune" flight per fully 'fueled' Orion but again that could change.

But lets look at an alternative which is the French/Indian/Chinese consortium's proposed nuclear and solar electric Interplanetary Transportation System which will pretty much stick to parts that can be launched by current and near-term systems. They propose using electric space drives to propel spacecraft to the planet with payload sizes on pa with the Orions but taking months or years to reach their destinations and return. The fact that Orion can go anywhere in the Solar System on at most a time-scale of a couple months would seem to make this a non-starter but there's a good reason it's gotten as much support as it has.

The arrival of the Japanese built but consortium funded "Ten no Tsukai" Alpha (https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20020030127.pdf) at Mars last year as a 'test' mission was both a success and somewhat vindication of the principle plan. While it only carried 8 metric tons of cargo to Mars it arrived just before the nuclear reactor of the Cygnus outpost malfunctioned and shut down. By adjusting their power lasers to a high efficiency mode the Alpha powered the base's essential systems till they got the reactor back on-line. And with the Beta and Gamma vehicles already in the pipeline to Mars, while the 'time' is an issue the cost is not.

I'm very much on the fence here as both concepts have advantages and disadvantages but something I find heartwarming is we have the OPTION to seek and experiment WITH options because of a decision made over 50 years ago and still echoing today :)

Randy
 
The joint mission also had a huge social impact. I have two family members (great-grandfather and bubbe) who were involved and their neighbors threw a party for them. There are pictures of my Bubbe in her engineer jumpsuit talking to my mom's 6th grade science class. It also made US-USSR relations a lot better; without the joint mission, there definitely would not be the kind of cultural exchange that goes on. I work in Russia. I speak fluent Russian, and most of my Russian colleagues speak fluent English, and we spend half our time backstage watching French cartoons. There used to be this super strong "us vs. them" dichotomy between capitalism and communism, which got close to completely ruining the US economy and healthcare system, but since relations improved, "socalized medicine" became less unacceptable and now far less people die of preventable causes because they can't afford healthcare.
 
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