Kolyma's Shadow: An Alternate Space Race

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by nixonshead, May 11, 2014.

  1. valentina New Member

    Jan 9, 2015
    Wow...I just read the post 2 and 3 and it keeps me reading and reading...but I should do some work today :-(

    Thanks for the wiki link and the links to all the posts, however I am a little dissappointed you butterflied out Ms Tereshkova and kept only Yuri :(

    As regards as the Sammit, what a bizzarre idea to take photo from a 1.5 tonne satellite a low polar orbit and return them in a small re-entry capsule a few days after launch!! Was it really the plan? If we think of today technology it was bizzare :)

    I have then a question a little scientific. Sorry I am a bit ignorant on this topic and from what you write you seem really prepared on all the technical aspects of rockets! The point is on the density of the atmosphere. Was it not estimated from the rate of change of the period of the satellite, like Explorer I, Explorer IV, Vanguard I and Vanguard II? I read something like that, but you mentioned a frequency shift in your post. What did you mean?

    And you forgot to say one important thing: the Vanguard-1 established beyond every doubts the geologists' suspicion that Earth is pear shaped :D

    Good work...I am enjoing it a lot!
  2. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Don’t worry about it, I’m glad to have these things caught!

    Looking again at comparing synergistic plane change vs. rocket:

    For the rocket, I assume it’s a simple vector calculation at apogee (500km), where the velocity magnitude doesn’t change, just the direction. That means:

    delta-v(Rocket) = 2*(orbit speed at apogee)*sin(inclination change/2)

    For the synergistic change, I’ve assumed:

    delta-v(Syn) = delta-v(lower orbit) + delta-v(raise orbit) + (recover speed lost to drag)

    (The delta-v for the plane change itself is assumed to be ‘free’ from aerodynamic lift, hence doesn’t appear here.)

    The delta-v to lower and raise the orbit is assumed to be the same (50m/s in our example). For the speed lost to drag, I’ve related this to the equivalent delta-v of the plane change, which I’ve calculated based on the vector change at perigee for the lowered 500km x 80km orbit (which, incidentally, would be somewhere over Antarctica on DS-7 - which raises a few interesting operational issues!):

    delta-v(Syn-Equiv) = 2*(orbit speed at perigee)*sin(inclination change/2)

    Assuming that this aerodynamic delta-v comes from lift, I’ve related L/D to approximate the speed lost to drag (as L & D are forces and F=ma=mv/t, with m & t baselined to 1), I’ve taken it as directly proportional.

    According to astronautix.com:

    That means, taking the best-case L/D of 1.2 [EDIT: That's one error! I should have taken 1.9 as the best case. D'oh!] (which is almost certainly better than we’d get when hauling a Mission Module), for the 7.6 degree change given:

    delta-v(Syn) = 2*50 + 1031*(1/1.2) = 960m/s (3sf)
    delta-v(Rocket) = 1000m/s (3sf)

    So a saving of just 40m/s. [EDIT: or a more impressive 357 m/s using an L/D of 1.9...]

    Lowering the angle changes the result, with the cross-over point being about 5.4 degrees (just 1m/s difference) [EDIT2: With an L/D of 1.9, the best case from astronautix.com, the cross-over point is a much lower 1.66 degrees, which would require about 219m/s delta-v using either method. Taking an L/D of 1.4 as a guestimate of the value with the MM attached, it would be around 2.9 degrees, delta-v 382m/s). Anything below that angle (if I’ve done my sums right), it’s better to use rockets than try an synergistic manoeuvre. At the largest plane change that could be done using all of my original 208m/s delta-v budget (about 1.58 degrees), the synergistic manouevre ends up needing 70m/s more rocket power (EDIT2: Synergistic needs 45.5m/s at L/D=1.4, or 5.1m/s more with L/D=1.9).

    Unless, as I say, I’ve introduced some stupid error or assumption!

    Sorry to disappoint, but I hope you understand my reasoning (it’s buried somewhere in the discussion threads!). As a great man once said:


    Yep, similar to OTL, where the Zenit spy sat weighed in at 1.5 tonnes.

    It’s been a while since I put those posts together, but IIRC the ground tracking stations used the change in frequency of the radio signals caused by the movement of satellite to calculate it’s speed, then compared that to what they expected the speed to be if the only forces were gravitational. The difference was (broadly) assumed to be atmospheric drag. How that drag changes with altitude let them build up a picture of how the atmospheric density varies.

    Good point, though maybe ISZ-1 beat them to that punch as well...

    Thanks! Don’t forget to vote ;)
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
  3. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    You are certainly not the only one sad that the Soviet program of this ATL did not include a stronger contingent of women cosmonauts. Counting only ones actually launched that is--I believe in this ATL too there were female candidates trained--but going by actual launches, the Soviet Union of OTL had just one, and was thus 1 or an infinite percentage ahead of the USA until shortly before Sally Ride became the first American woman astronaut in the early 80s--to attempt to keep their lead in this matter, the USSR orbited their second female cosmonaut just months before Ride's mission.

    I'm quite a partisan of some of the other women in the early Soviet program and feel they should have had some missions long before the 1980s. At least the Soviets did have some trained candidates; the USA did not start training ours until the later 1970s.

    I'm quite a fan of timelines with a better outcome for the USSR, aware though I am of the challenges and obstacles involved--and my general belief is it requires ATLs where the Bolsheviks lived up to Marxist ideals at least a bit better. That implies to me that in ATL Soviet Unions headed for better success than OTL, they would have had an even stronger and more serious commitment to women cosmonauts from the beginning, in part because in such an ATL USSR, women would be stronger in governing the society from top to bottom--hence, women fighter pilots in regular service (beyond the emergency of the Great Patriotic War), hence more women test pilots more integrated, plus more pull among Party members high up in ruling circles who happened to be women themselves (or were men very comfortable with women as equal comrades) keeping the ratios more even.

    One can even argue that women averaging lower mass than men, it would be most logical to assign a very small woman to fly in the first orbiting capsule, to achieve the earliest capability with the lightest possible design. But I have to admit that by the time one has provided adequate mass for basic survival, the mass difference between men and women is pretty much a negligible factor.

    Anyway, as the author says here (and others have said elsewhere) the idea is not a Utopia, but an extrapolation from OTL realities with a few things changed, and we all know it is realistic that both the competitors in the Space Race were quite male chauvinistic in their actual societies.:rolleyes: The Soviets at least had ideological reason to be a bit embarrassed by it, but on the other hand the liberal society of the West did enable women to improve their situation enough to demand a position in space exploration approaching equality, eventually.

    A healthier Soviet Union headed for long-term survival past 1990 would have allowed for such evolutions in Soviet society too, IMHO. And quite possibly earlier and more comprehensively than in the West, perhaps.
    Well, it's the state of the art of the early 60s. American spy satellites kept on relying on shooting a finite roll of film and sending that roll down to Earth for retrieval and processing too, for quite a long time. The earliest American programs of OTL did include some that would have relied on transmitting television images (or other methods still, such as taking a picture on film and then sending down the data captured there in a very slow, very high detail scan instead of sending down a capsule) but these approaches were not as promising early on, given the state of electronics in those days. I believe it took quite a while for any sort of transmitted-image approach to come close to matching the quality of image you could get from a (successfully retrieved!) film canister. Of course both sides (well, the Americans certainly) failed to retrieve some of them.

    There's a world of difference between the usefulness of spy sats that can transmit an image of what they can see instantly to the ground, and one where one has to wait weeks between when the picture was taken before it can be recovered and processed.

    Still, dropped capsules had some other advantages in the day when they were the best option at least for really quality images--if the spy sats transmit their images, there's not much but cryptography standing in the way of the rival power simply listening in on the transmission, storing the signal and setting its codebreakers to work cracking the encryption and thus getting access to the same images the power that sent up the spy sat have, conceivably just as soon as they do. Any side would want to know everything the other side does while keeping their own secrets absolutely secure; in a world where you can't prevent the rival power from observing your own activities it is still some help to know exactly what they did and did not see. Even if it takes a while to interpret the images it can be helpful to know this.

    So the dropped-film model persisted in spy sats (at least in conjunction with other models that could give a real-time image) for a very long time, into the 1970s I believe.

    I might even speculate they might still have a place today, for one-orbit quick launched single-pass overflight surveillance, except I suspect the sheer number of Earth observation satellites, including those launched for public, civil uses, is so great and the quality of their images so good that there are few sites in the world that are not under immediate observation by some satellite or other. But if there are gaps in that kind of coverage, or one needs extra-high quality images, I suppose a one-shot film based approach might be the way to go.

    Or given that charge-coupled devices can match and exceed the imaging capabilities of film, a modernized version of those old drop sats--one where it launches with several micro-reentry vehicles holding some dense and robust electronic storage medium (which would self-destruct or anyway scramble itself if the wrong hands who did not know the proper access codes got ahold of it) to send down the images securely, in batches. Probably with a backup/alternative mode of transmitting images also available, but avoided for the most sensitive images. Or make it so it transmits in a very tight beam to receivers that can secure the region of transmission around them, say to a ship at sea in a task force that can guarantee no rival ships or submarines within that region.

    I have to admit the photobucket approach does strike me as quaint and old-fashioned, but I'm old enough that it was the normal way to do it when I was little.:p
  4. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    on Shevek23 remarks on Spy sat

    in begin of 1960 was ONLY way to get High resolution Picture, was a Photographic picture !
    while a TV based Sat camera system could transmit a 200x200 pixel picture to earth.

    ehh 200x200 pixel is not very helpful to identified ICBM sites in USSR

    so Sat with Photo Cameras were send in space to take picture and drop them with Capsule
    but there were several problems with concept in 1960s:
    Hardware problems the USAF needed 13 attempts to fish first 70 mm film capsule intact out pacific.
    then landing site had suddenly a fleet of Soviet fishing cutter, so USAF went to air catch the Capsules
    and allot of Picture show....cloud cover

    NRO and USAF needed a Manned system were Astronaut look down if sky is clear to photograph
    and land the Film save at Edwards AFB
    first ROBO, later Dyna Soar was wanted system, then came Robert McNamara and kill the program.
    He wrongly believe that cheaper Gemini could make job what let to Blue Gemini and M.O.L.
    While USAF start all over again and work on M.O.L happened revolution in electronics
    KODAK build E-1 camera of SAMOS-A also in Lunar Orbiter, it develop the 70 mm Film in space, scann and transmit the data to ground control
    the Resolution was humble for a Spy Sat but it not needed a Film return Capsule !
    in 1968 the TV based Sat camera system could transmit now 704 x 945 Pixel, so a operator at ground control could look if there cloud cover.
    This and Vietnam war cost were the dead blow for M.O.L.

    in 1970s KODAK improve the E-1 camera system, in 1980s it became digital camera system
    in time the USAF stop to air catch the Capsules, the USSR collapse so now Russian fishing cutter went after tunafish instead...
    Today Photographic film is consider a anachronism, KODAK no longer exist and digital camera system dominate the World.

    Yep that digital camera in your Smartphone,It's ancestors were build for Spy Sat...
  5. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Okay, I've updated the post to have some more realistic plane-change values, keeping the behind-the-scenes assumptions of a hypersonic L/D of 1.4 and a total MkI delta-v in the 208m/s area. That's given a very modest 0.2 degree plane (it's the first test of this theory, after all) change requiring about 120m/s of rocket-power (as opposed to 26.3m/s if the change had been made all-rocket at apogee)..

    I did consider adding a bit about worry over aerodynamically-induced structural and thermal loads on the Mission Module for larger synergistic plane changes, but as I haven't currently got any information to base this on I thought I'd leave it out for now - I've learnt a lesson there! :eek: :eek:

    Thanks again to everyone who chipped in on this topic, especially Shevek23. I trust I can rely on your eagle-eye to keep me similarly on the straight-and-narrow in the future. :)
  6. marathag Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2013
    Though even a average roll of 35mm film was equal to 16 Megapixel Digital image.

    Enlargements is where film really shined
  7. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    The OTL officially calculated hypersonic L/D figures for the X-20 design you cite are pretty sobering. Note that they do correspond to what I estimated from your original version of the post--which assumed the delta-V budget was an insanely high 1000 m/sec of course.

    But it's clearly the matter of raising the L/D ratio that is key to realizing the Air Force dream of a true hypersonic space plane. I've thought a little bit about what these figures imply for the somewhat related, in a sense ancestral dream of Sänger's skip-gliding concept, where an aerospace plane is launched to some speed somewhat lower than orbital speed, but as its suborbital arc brings it down, it aerodynamically reverses the downward motion to go back up on another arc, thus skipping across the upper atmosphere like a stone skipping on the surface of water. It's a perennially popular idea that keeps resurfacing with modern enthusiasts. It's always seemed pretty dubious to me; the concept as Sänger conceived it and in the usual revivals does not assume that further thrusts are applied to maintain suborbital speed but instead that the "skips" diminish due to the drag from each skip, whereas I always figure in terms of supplementary thrust to maintain the energy of the arcs.

    Either way it seems unreasonable to me, unless again as with the DynaSoar concept of synergistic inclination changes, we can get considerably better L/D than 2. With L/D like the DynaSoar you have here, a skip-glider would have to increment its velocity cumulatively to match and exceed orbital velocity many times over to circumnavigate Earth; it seems much more sensible to just go the extra mile with the initial boost and put it into proper orbit already, then deorbit when approaching the destination. I guess Sänger was assuming that if lift/drag ratios on the order of ten or twenty could be achieved for subsonic airplanes, it would just be a matter of getting the details right to do the same at Mach 20! He could be forgiven for such optimism in the middle of World War II I guess, but the question now is, can such goals reasonably be reached in the light of what we know nowadays. If not the constant revivals of enthusiasm for the idea should get a proper quashing with hard numbers, once and for all.

    The skip-glider and DynaSoar are related beasts of course; the latter evolving from Air Force and industry investigations into the former in the 1950s. A skip-glider, if it worked at all, could easily do major changes of its suborbital inclination in the course of the basic task of bouncing off the atmosphere vertically; just bank a bit. This was an attractive idea to military aeronauts interested in challenging an enemy they proposed to bomb or spy on, by presenting them with an unpredictable (sort of) approach. Not really that hard to track I'd think; each skip (or each DynaSoar synergistic vector change) involves hard turning on the atmosphere, which involves, at speeds in the Mach 20+ range, a lot of heat generation (less the higher you can get the lift/drag ratio of course!) which should make the craft glow brightly on infrared detectors; the foe thus knows where the skips happen (if they have the capability of observing that part of the sky, say from surveillance satellites orbiting above) and can probably even observe the vector the craft leaves the maneuver on, thus pinning down the suborbital trajectory and predicting where to look for the next turn. (Also they can guess which targets their foe is aiming to look at or strike at; a possible range of them can keep them guessing, but they'd scramble defenses for all of them I suppose while tracking the intruder closely).

    Even if practical, with much higher L/D than 2, I'd think it is generally of little strategic advantage to pursue these alleged advantages for hostile purposes. I do think that the ability to do synergistic vector changes might come in handy for particular civil purposes, though not generally. Generally the smart thing to do is just aim for the orbit one intends to use and live with it until the goal is accomplished.

    If in fact L/D ratios of 10 or more can be achieved, then I certainly think someone should go ahead and develop the capability for when it might be useful, as for a space rescue mission for instance. It's the fact that I'm unaware of anyone having done so, combined with the low L/D actually developed for even DynaSoar apparently, that suggests that there are strong theoretical upper limits on that ratio for orbital-range speeds and ratios comparable to those achieved by subsonic aircraft routinely are fantasy.

    Also, if it can be done, I'm sure it is still pretty challenging to realize it. Low drag in a hypersonic environment strikes me as quite a good trick, since it would also imply low heating (the drag force times the speed gives the power that produces the heat, meaning if the heat is unavoidable, so is the drag). How can a solid craft slice cleanly through the upper atmosphere without leaving a thick trail of air heated to white-hot plasma? I'm envisioning something wicked thin, a literal knife-edge leading edge--but that means that a very thin edge of material, presumably metal but maybe some exotic ceramic or the like, is being heated white-hot. The rest of the structure behind it helps by serving as a heat sink, but has to be very slim to stay within the narrow bounds the leading shock wave defines. It only has to be slim in one dimension of course, a wide delta wing like DynaSoar's seems reasonable enough. But the stress of the heat and pressure on that razor-thin edge is a big deal.

    I'd also think it would be pretty unstable. At just the right angle of attack you get the force vectors you want--let it vary some tiny fraction of a degree and they are in a different ballpark. Since these "forces" are distributed over a wide area and vary over it, they involve torques that generally speaking will not tend to cancel out, requiring some kind of counter-torques to balance them and hold the desired attitude--how do we get these controlling torques? The aeronaut will of course say "well, we have control surfaces, elevons and what not, on the wing like any other airplane." Fine, but these represent changes in the aerodynamic profile, probably at least a doubling of the drag and more regions of concentrated thermal stress. Alternatively we can do it X-15 style with attitude control rockets--until we run low on propellant for them that is.

    A capsule designed to simply reenter and deliver something that was in orbital speeds to a point on Earth typically works by having very strong braking early on, slowing the thing down to more moderate supersonic then subsonic speeds. And if the main force vector we want is going to be opposing the motion--that is, mostly drag is desired--then compact and relatively simple shapes suffice and can even be designed with some ease to be inherently stable--drifting off-axis can result in torques that automatically counter the drift and center the attitude again. The conical and "headlight" Soyuz style capsules can be held on other attitudes with modest control forces and thus generate a bit of force at right angles to the drag/motion vector, aka "lift," so entry tracks can be controlled. As long as we are not trying to maintain speed but rather lose it quickly, we are in good shape. Trying to get the lift without the drag is much trickier and liable to spin out of control too.

    I still think someone should go ahead and investigate how far we can safely push it. But since no one has to my knowledge (or they did but were disappointed by the results) I'm sadly pessimistic.
  8. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Don’t forget their advantages in needing fewer consumables, too. There’s a good case to make that the first interplanetary colonies should be all-female, with the only critical male requirement fulfilled by a few kilos of frozen sperm.

    Drop capsules also serve an important function as a handy McGuffin for Cold War thrillers ;)

    You can bet the Air Force will be looking further into this as the Dynasoar, DEL and DOS projects progress.

    My girlfriend’s a big fan of film photography. Admittedly, that’s more down to her general love of retro, but she does get some great results - they seem somehow ‘warmer’ than digital images. Not that that’s likely to have been a factor for the NRO ;)

    One thing to consider in comparing Dynasoar L/D with Saenger is the very different speeds. According to astronautix, the mid-1930s version of Silverbird would reach a maximum of Mach 13, cruising at Mach 3.3, with a hypersonic L/D of 5.1. The 1940s version apparently got to an L/D of 6.4, but it doesn’t mention the speeds. However, those values are a bit suspect (I don’t know how much was known about hypersonic drag back then), as the formula here indicates a maximum theoretical L/D at Mach 13 of around 4.9, though the value for Mach 3.3 is 7.6.
    Conversely, Dynasoar in a synergistic orbital plane change would be around Mach 25, indicating a maximum L/D of 4.5. That’s clearly still a big improvement on the 1.9 indicated for Dynasoar (though the 4.5 is only an approximate theoretical maximum). According to Wiki the Space Shuttle had a hypersonic L/D of 1, so Dynasoar is still ahead of that.

    Unfortunately, it looks like hypersonic L/Ds as high as 10 aren’t theoretically possible above about Mach 2. :(
  9. Krevsin Member

    Mar 10, 2014
    I'd like to express my admiration for this excellent AT, nixonshead. Its writing is fantastic and the art you make is brilliant, as always. Keep up the great work. :D

    And a question for Michel Van; do you know where one might procure some german ebooks of Perry Rhodan and what would be a good place to start for a newcomer such as myself?
  10. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    Search Perry Rhodan ebook
  11. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    next to that

    you can find them on Amazon worldwide also for Kindle
    there also private dealers in the Internet selling them or the abyss of illegal downloads

    Were to start ?
    Hell that is good question, because next to Perry Rhodan is the reboot series Perry Rhoda NEO
    Here introduction on original series in german

    The Current original Serie cycles "The Atopic Tribunal" is very good to get in, from issue #2700
    the story is self explaing with a glossary with cross reverence
    and also Perry Rhoda got Wiki page the Perrypedia
    The use google translate could bring some problems because some terms used in series are not translatable...
  12. Threadmarks: Part III Post #3: The Call of the Future

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Hello everyone. Last week we looked at how the plans from Part-II are starting to bear fruit. This week we look ahead, in...


    Part III Post #3: The Call of the Future

    Even before Neil Armstrong had flown Aura on her first orbital mission, engineers, managers and dreamers across the United States had been looking forward to what would come afterwards. The Air Force’s plans for the immediate future were to first establish routine operation of the Dynasoar system, then fly the DEL space labs to prove out longer duration on-orbit operations, before finally establishing the DOS space station as a testbed for a more permanent outpost in space. Beyond these priorities, Air Force objectives became more hazy.

    Part of the reason for this was the increasing utility being gained from unmanned satellites. By the late sixties the USAF were launching spy satellites at a rate approaching ten per year. These included increasingly powerful optical systems for the NRO, as well as electronic intelligence gatherers and high-powered radar satellites for the Army and Navy, not to mention the Air Force’s own Missile Launch Alert System (MiLAS) satellites. These new space-based sentries were invaluable for national defence, but the fact that their missions were being carried out so well undermined many justifications for having men in space. Although the flexibility and on-the-spot decision-making capabilities of human beings was talked up, the bald fact was that the support systems needed to keep a person alive in space imposed huge penalties on spacecraft design, translating to significant costs.

    Even worse, for many missions the presence of a crew would actually degrade operational effectiveness. This was especially the case for optical reconnaissance, where the increasing power of the telescopes used translated to ever-more-stringent requirements on pointing accuracy and stability to avoid blurring. An astronaut moving around would introduce jitters to the optics that could ruin an important intelligence photograph. Other missions, such as missile warning, depended upon the use of orbits unsuitable for manned missions, either due to radiation concerns or from the large propulsion requirements they implied. These factors were especially critical for the Dynasoar Orbital Station, which since its inception had gradually seen its intended missions taken over by cheaper, more powerful unmanned systems. This repeated changing of requirements in turn delayed development, so that by the time of Aura’s flight the target launch date for DOS had been pushed back from 1968 to no earlier than 1970, whilst the projected budget through to completion of the first mission had ballooned to three times the original estimate. Each new delay and each increase in cost led to more concern from Congress, the White House and the new Office of Management and Budget, all of whom started demanding clearer answers from the Air Force about exactly what military mission DOS was intended to meet. The standard response of “technology development and assessment of the military utility of Man in Space” was starting to wear very thin.

    If manned spaceflight was losing its military justification, there were many who believed it was time to look for a civilian role. In particular, there was a considerable cabal of engineers, led by von Braun and Faget, who believed that the manned exploration of space should be carried out for its own sake. With the enduring popularity of Westerns on TV and in the cinema, this view was often framed in terms of providing America with a New Frontier to match the excitement and romance associated with expansion into the Old West. As with the migration West, this group saw humanity’s expansion into the solar system as the Manifest Destiny of the species.

    The ideal template for how the fulfillment of this destiny should proceed had been laid out in magazines and TV shows by von Braun in the 1950s. After establishing a toehold in space with a rocket-launched space-plane, the next step was the building of a permanent manned space station. Unlike DOS, the primary purpose of this station would be to act as a waystation for the assembly and operation of deep-space vehicles to take a series of crews first on a flyby of the Moon, then a landing. After establishing a base on the surface, with regular traffic between Earth and Moon, it would be time to build an even larger expedition for a flight to Mars.

    This gradual, progressive expansion of capabilities had been the unspoken background assumption of a generation of engineers. This was in large part thanks to von Braun’s 1950s collaborations with Colliers and Disney, as well as the movies of George Pal, which presented this architecture to a wide audience. In the late 1950s von Braun and his team had further fleshed out the engineering details a multi-launch Moon mission, to be assembled at an Earth orbit station, for the Army’s Project Horizon to establish a permanent base on the Moon.

    However, this “Earth Orbit Assembly” paradigm was not the only option under consideration. In 1958 the Air Force had proposed Project Lunex to put men on the Moon, cutting out the space station in favour of a direct ascent to the lunar surface. As the 1960s dawned, von Braun also began to investigate the Direct Ascent approach at the DRA, culminating in 1964 with his “Super-Minerva” rocket concept, a behemoth of a launcher capable of putting over 50 tonnes into a lunar transfer orbit. Such a vehicle would require a completely new manufacturing and ground support infrastructure, would take the best part of a decade to develop, and would consume funding at a rate comparable to the Manhattan Project that had developed the first atomic bombs.

    With no military mission with which to gain the support of the Air Force, von Braun realised that Super-Minerva would be impossible to sell to Congress or the White House, at least until after DOS had been established on orbit, and so went back to the drawing board to see if there was a third, lower cost option he had not yet considered. Restricting this new study to using only moderate upgrades of the Minerva launch system, the DRA team soon came across a concept published a few years earlier in a dissertation by an MIT grad student. Called “Lunar Orbit Rendezvous”, this architecture would use separate vehicles for the Earth-Moon transit and the lunar orbit-to-surface portions, allowing each vehicle to be optimised for its particular mission requirements. It also opened the possibility of splitting the launch of the mission between two or more launches, sending the lander unmanned to lunar orbit, with the crew following later in their own ship. When the numbers were run, assuming modest upgrades to the Minerva-24 rocket, it was found that each of the two launches would be able to throw just under 10 tonnes into TLI, or 11.5 tonnes with a Centaur 3rd stage. This made the mission extremely marginal, probably limiting the landing to a single astronaut, but it did appear doable. Development of the new crew capsule and lander would still make this an expensive project, but re-use of the Minerva helped bring the price tag down from the absurd to merely daunting, especially if the cost of the necessary Minerva upgrades could be allocated from the Air Force’s operational enhancement budget rather than the Project budget. Adding a larger rocket to this architecture (though still smaller than Super-Minerva, and named “Minerva-Plus”) would allow for more capability, but would cause the cost and schedule to balloon once more.

    The final option considered was named “Earth Orbit Rendezvous”. This would involve launching a Minerva Upper Stage into LEO and then topping it up with two or three “tanker” flights. Once fully fueled, the crew capsule and lander would be launched and rendezvous with the Upper Stage, which would be able to boost up to 43 tonnes into lunar transfer orbit. This would be enough to have a two-man landing crew, but at the price of at least doubling the number of launches needed to support the mission compared to the baseline LOR concept. It would also require the acquisition of new skills in automatic rendezvous, docking and refuelling operations, a not inconsiderable challenge at a time when the closest two US craft had ever come to one another was the 2 km fly-by of Mercury-6 and -7.

    Up until 1968, the one thing that all of these options had in common was an almost complete lack of interest from the White House. Despite occasional lobbying efforts from the large aerospace contractors, eager to grab a piece of any government spending for a large new space project, Congress was also reluctant. The steady drain on resources from operations in South Vietnam, the increasingly belligerent rhetoric emerging from Shelepin’s Soviet Union, as well as increased tensions in the Middle East after the failed Arab attack on Israel, all made more conventional defence expenditure a priority. Money for military space was funnelled almost exclusively towards unmanned communications, early warning and reconnaissance systems, with even Dynasoar being subject to budget cuts as the development phase ended and operations began. It seemed that no-one in Washington was interested in going to the Moon.

    This began to change with the elections 1968. Following a tough fight in the early stages of the primaries, Robert Kennedy’s agreement to withdraw from the race in exchange for a cabinet post had left Edmund Muskie as the clear front-runner to be the Democrat’s candidate, and he was duly confirmed along with his running mate, George McGovern, at the National Democratic Convention in August. Muskie’s Republican opponent was Nixon’s VP Henry Cabot Lodge, but Lodge faced an uphill battle. The economy, whilst still growing, was slowing in its rate of growth, with manufacturing experiencing a steady decline and inflation starting to pick up. In foreign relations, Nixon’s earlier successes in restricting Communist expansion were starting to lose their shine as a number of Soviet-sponsored coups from 1966 onwards began to topple previously friendly regimes in Africa and the Middle East, as well as the formally China-leaning Communist governments of Albania and Yugoslavia. On top of all this was the simple fatigue of the electorate after fifteen years of a Republican White House. But the final blow came from Lodge’s own boss, President Nixon, when he orchestrated an attempted smear campaign against Muskie. The attempt, and the President’s involvement in it, was uncovered in mid-September, fatally undermining Lodge’s image and souring Nixon’s final months in office. Come November, despite the loss of several Southern states to George Wallace’s American Independent Party, Muskie scored a comfortable victory to be elected America’s 36th President.

    Soon after Muskie’s inauguration, his administration started to put out feelers to the Air Force, NACAA and DRA about a potential new, inspirational space effort in order both to enhance America’s image abroad, and as part of the administration’s wider drive to promote science and engineering in order to boost the growth of high-tech industry as a counter the decline in more traditional heavy industries. Whilst the Air Force pushed their existing DOS plans in an attempt to give the ailing station project renewed relevance, von Braun seized upon the opportunity to sell his lunar ambitions. Allying himself once more with Max Faget and NACAA chairman Robert Gilruth, von Braun put all three of his major options on the table, whilst Faget presented the results of the previous four years’ work on capsule design to propose a “Universal Spaceship” capable of carrying up to three astronauts in support of any of von Braun’s mission architectures, as well as Earth orbit missions.

    However, as expected, the price tag proved to be a problem. After reviewing the options presented, Muskie’s Science Advisor, Dominic Brooke, sent back a memo indicating that the only option the Administration would be able to get support for funding was DOS, but that this was considered too closely associated with the military to be useful as a positive inspiration. Therefore, unless NACAA and the DRA could provide a much lower cost civilian option, Brooke would recommend to the President that the whole idea be dropped.

    After a month of frantic telephone calls and commuting between Langley and DC, von Braun and Gilruth came back with an alternative proposal in October 1969, dubbed internally “The Verne Option”. Whilst nowhere near as ambitious as the two men had hoped, the option they put forward would fit within the prescribed budget and would gain America experience in manned deep-space missions that could be leveraged to more ambitious goals at a later date. After receiving the cautious approval of Brooke, the plan was passed around the other White House departments for their assessment, then feelers were sent out to Congressional leaders to assess their response, before finally ending up on President Muskie’s desk for his approval. That approval was granted, and in his first State of the Union address in January 1970, Muskie made his historic announcement:

    “In just six years’ time, our great nation will celebrate its two-hundredth birthday. Throughout those two centuries, we have always striven to expand our frontiers, both the frontiers of geography and of knowledge. It is in this tradition that I announce today my firm intention that our nation’s bicentennial be celebrated by American citizens not just in these United States, but by brave representatives of our great democracy as they continue to expand the frontiers of knowledge on a voyage around the Moon.”

    President Muskie announces his intention for American astronauts to undertake a voyage to the Moon, 22nd January 1970.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
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  13. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    So it seems that July 1976 is the target date for either Manned Circumlunar (easier) or Lunar Orbit (greater value). Problem, as always, is not just getting there, but finding the cash to do so, and with far fewer Soviet Firsts, the psychological need to really push it isn't nearly as great.

    On that note, I do wonder what they've got planned. While they don't have the same drive as they did IOTL given they've been largely behind in the firsts (though not with regards to return value), this goal set is easier to attain.

    So many variables...

    But I'll take a guess here and say that just slapping six Minerva Cores around the central one isn't going to cut it, at least not without massive reworking of the entire system. Not least because AFAIK, that requires a major redesign of the launch sites to cope. And that will cost. Then there's 24-28 engines to be kept happy at once, not easy.
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  14. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    Now that i call a intelligent use of the US two-hundredth birthday !

    Why do i have the sneaking suspicion, that the capsules for lunar missions is really a modified Dyna Soar ?
    That's not so big problem, you simply stretch the design in length, so the heat shield is bigger and take more heat.
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  15. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Oho, Edmund Muskie!

    Am I excited? Well, not extremely--most of what I know about Muskie is from reading Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (1972) where he doesn't come off as a very inspirational figure--other than that I've got nothing, and it has been decades since I read that. Nor is HST considered a mainstay of sober journalism.:p (I've had the experience of re-entering the USA in the 1980s and having a US Customs officer, inspecting my baggage and seeing a copy of The Great Shark Hunt, comment "I don't want to see that!" Fortunately for me this was pre-9/11, so I was let go, with my book. It's almost like we had the idea of free speech or something.:p)

    I'm going to have to read up on him now I guess. Anyway as a boilerplate New Deal legacy Democrat, and with Nixon having not apparently worked to start the ball rolling on polarizing the nation on right-left lines as he did OTL, I suppose the Muskie admin will fit in a spectrum with OTL Johnson to Carter, more in an LBJ direction.

    Except we don't have a strong sense of just how much of the cultural ferment of OTL's 1960s carried over to this timeline. My sense is, it would have been somewhat muted, but perhaps by that same token, has not evoked as strong a movement of cultural counterrevolution and so a bit of cultural radicalism is still fermenting. Indeed Abbie Hoffman OTL said "the Sixties went on to 1975" or something like that, so here we might see a reversal--instead of LBJ's second term being a cultural hurricane, with a suppressed/repressed hangover lasting until Nixon leaves office in disgrace, we have a low-grade countercultural fever under a neo-Eisenhowerian consensus, and in Muskie's term it might blossom flamboyantly, so that the counterculture is seen more as a 1970 thing in retrospect, with its precursors being seen as persistent Beatnikism.

    Or possibly the whole thing just slips by smoothly, as a gradual evolution, with no period of apparent cultural war going on.

    So--"American on the Moon by '76," except much less sense of a war-like emergency crash priority.

    Paradoxically, since we still haven't seen the foundation of a single central civil space agency, the Air Force still has an opportunity to leverage this into absorbing the mission as its own, thus finally getting sufficient clout to make DOS a priority in Congress. As I've remarked here before, assuming the military has the mission of undertaking exploration of the unknown is the default assumption of European civilizations, if not all of them indeed. It's a Lewis and Clark situation, naturally you give the job to men in uniform. Muskie's quoted words give no indication that he sees it as important to separate the mission from any involvement with the military. Building DOS all by itself looks too much like just more weapons building to be sure--but building up DOS as a jumping off point for deep space is in line with the way exploration has generally been done and won't seem very odd to anyone.

    The Air Force's opportunity is to enlist von Braun and Faget onto their team, with the understanding they aren't designing spacecraft as weapons systems but as exploration vehicles--but the Air Force absorbs the exploration mission, explicitly, and so on one hand space exploration is funded via DoD's huge slice of pie, on the other the military might reasonably resent diversion of resources away from their prime mission of defense, indeed waging war. But with this mission, the role of the military is softened in public perception, and thus justified even in times when it seems the existential military threat to the USA is remote--as might happen if a round of detente occurs.

    As I understand the basic dynamics of US politics in the Cold War era, Muskie is not likely to lead the way in detente, however. As a Democrat, his party suffers from the "Who Lost China?" rhetoric and Democrats must prove they are hawkish and firmly anti-Communist; as the party of the business establishment Republicans like Nixon are free to alternate between leveling charges of being "pink" on their Democratic opponents and at the same time cut deals with Leninist regimes at their discretion, on the assumption that as the party of free enterprise of course they aren't plotting to turn the country Communist, but as sensible businessmen they will negotiate deals to our advantage.:rolleyes: Muskie then can be expected to take a hard line against the Soviets, especially if the latter are quasi-Stalinist and also successful.

    OTOH as I've said, I don't have much of a sense of the cultural sea changes the US underwent in Nixon's two 1960s terms here. The New Left of OTL despised the Democratic party in power as much as the paleoconservatives and businessmen of the Republican party. Here with the Democrats less thoroughly in power, might radical progressivism have been concentrating more on taking control of the Democratic Party from below, so that big shots like Muskie might not like the hippies, but realize they are a force to contend with if he's going to keep control of a party that can still win elections? Might Democrats be evolving toward openly embracing and defending certain planks that are clearly and forthrightly socialist, such as universal medical care? Might not Nixon's own wonky welfare technocracy have legitimized such trends in the Democratic party?

    The effect might be for Democrats to denounce the Soviets entirely because of repression, while supporting the concept of public intervention in private markets for the greater good under democratic control.

    I realized at this point that I raised some questions a long time ago, when we were first discussing Nixon's election, about how situations like Vietnam would develop, and now I can't remember if you have dealt with them in updates while I was distracted by technology, or if they have indeed been addressed at all. I'm going to have to go back over the archives to check on that.

    Meanwhile--Wernher von Braun is nearing the end of his life OTL--he died in the mid-70s IIRC, so he doesn't have long to go on influencing events unless his OTL death was early and easily butterflied. He needs a successor soon.

    Back to space technology--if in fact the Air Force gets to absorb the Lunar mission, and deep space exploration in general, as part of its own mandate, I suppose the most sensible thing is do go with both EOR and LOR--that is, develop the DOS as a staging base for assembly of translunar stages to enable a LOR mission at the Moon.

    There is an alternative to developing either new capsules or stretched Dyna-Soars as direct reentry vehicles too; I've suggested it before--aerocapture (or "aerobraking," the standard aerospace terminology of OTL that distinguishes them strikes me as perverse and therefore hard to keep straight:rolleyes:) to low Earth orbit with a single pass. (Having to do it with multiple passes takes too long and leaves the manned return vehicle exposed to the, um, Vernov belts). The energy to be gotten rid of in a direct return to Earth from Lunar space is twice that that a craft returning from orbit needs to get rid of--this implies to me that the same heat shield that can handle surviving low orbital reentry can handle the task of reducing near-escape velocity to stable orbital velocity.

    Thus, a "standard-issue" Dynasoar, if only it were generally suitable as a deep space vehicle (I say it isn't because it is too small) could in principle, without any improvement of its TPS, come in from Lunar space, skim the atmosphere so as to brake off the excess speed above orbital speed, cool off in orbit, and then reenter the atmosphere for final glide-down in standard fashion.

    Alternatively, it, or another craft designed for this aero-manuever, could do the atmospheric braking, then rendezvous with a space station such as DOS-Gateway, and its crew could transfer to a standard return vessel there. This holds out the prospect that the aerodynamic deep space craft, remaining in orbit as it does, might be reused for another deep space mission.

    Note that this sort of thing can be done by a capsule with suitable lift/drag ratio (which might be far less than one) or, if the higher L/D of Dynasoar is desirable, that craft already is superior to the OTL Shuttle in that respect and far superior to the capsules. If that's desirable. It might not be--I've never worked out the math of this maneuver, which I believe has been done once anyway, with a Soviet Zond, and called (by Americans obviously) skip-reentry. (Assuming it goes straight down for final reentry instead of heading off to dock with a space station). So it can be done, and by a capsule, and perhaps therefore no spaceplanes need apply--though perhaps there is an advantage to doing it with a higher L/D vehicle.

    I'm thinking specifically about dealing with the narrowness of the reentry window. Infamously enough the OTL Apollo had to hit a 2 degree window--if reentry angle were shallower they'd bounce off the atmosphere (as I'm suggesting they might want to, but here to an unpredictable, probably too high, degree); too low and heat builds up too fast and they burn up. A craft with a greater L/D range might be able to compensate for a wider range of angles and guarantee the net drag is just enough to put them in low orbit regardless.

    I wonder if there is any chance Faget will settle here on some variant of Kehlet's lenticular proposal? Convair's lenticular alternative for Apollo would have had a hypersonic L/D of 4.4! Others in the same vein had much lower hypersonic L/D. These are Apollo proposals and so the idea is again to achieve high braking, capsule-style, in the hypersonic regime and then to consider advantages and disadvantages regarding subsonic flight and final landing. Here, I'm suggesting something different, namely these craft aerobraking to orbit and not being intended to operate as landing craft or in the subsonic regime at all. Hence my choice to illustrate the Convair version. In addition to an obvious potential for high maneuvering capability at hypersonic speeds, we also have here a compact design that also, according to Wade citing Kehlet anyway, would have low heating of the capsule.

    When I was looking for alternate links to Encyclopedia Astronautica, I came up with not much--but I did stumble upon other military projects investigating hypersonic (or anyway high speed supersonic) applications of the lenticular concept--notably the "Pye Wacket" air-to-air missile briefly developed for the B-70's self-defense. You can see a few other concepts for military space planes listed on the first link I offered.

    So apparently OTL, the lenticular concept was not alien to various high-speed military, indeed specifically Air Force, projects, and even without Kehlet offering his views in the context of Apollo which would not happen here, I suspect that in this timeline, with the Air Force interested in orbital-speed craft that can also maneuver aerodynamically at those speeds, someone would propose a lenticular DynaSoar, and we need not assume here it was rejected mainly on technical grounds but rather due to a preliminary commitment to the more conventional airplane shape evolving from X-15.

    We already had the Air Force a bit embarrassed with the last post at the limits of the Dynasoar design; if at this juncture they see an opportunity to grab the Moon landing mission, they might step back and consider whether developing lenticular craft can simultaneously give them something viable for a moon mission return capsule (either skip-orbiting as I suggest, or direct-landing) and also an improved DynaSoar with superior hypersonic aerodynamics.

    In the past three or four years I've been enthusiastic about this approach, and the worst drawback I've encountered (aside of course from the question of just how believable is that Convair claim of L/D of 4.4, and other claims) is the matter of landing on water, should the vehicle be designed for direct-reentry or the DynaSoar mission which also involves landing. It seems believable enough that it can land on land pretty well, flying as a glider (with those ladybug wings deployed one can see in most proposals) to a horizontal approach--then, Kehlet stressed, there would be no need for landing gear as such, rather the hull can simply touch down and be dragged to a rocking stop on a typical runway! Alternatively of course there could be wheels, or skids.

    But what if it has to land on water? That would never be the plan, the idea is to land at a ground base. But suppose something goes wrong and it must come down at a random location, which would imply mostly ocean--or coming down at an unchosen location that does happen to be over land, it may be the only suitable "terrain" is a big lake. Now what?

    Turns out it has poor characteristics in this case, tending, when coming in with substantial horizontal speed, to bounce off wave crests, being violently tumbled in the process so that it is quite likely to then come down upside-down!:eek:

    A possible solution, should such a craft be planned as a reentry vehicle or designed to survive that as an emergency contingency, would be to have a drag chute pop out the back to reduce the airspeed, then have retrorockets a la Soyuz to brake the final descent, dropping it straight down on whatever surface, land or sea, at low to zero horizontal speed.

    If it isn't designed for routine reentry, but only provided with the means of surviving an emergency one, there wouldn't be the built-in ladybug curved wings; to stabilize the saucer shape in subsonic gliding flight it would be necessary to have something like a parachute-wing deploy in back anyway--such a fabric "wing" would probably be very draggy. But now I'm trying to visualize a single solid-fuel rocket that rides that parasail, and upon the pilot choosing the landing site, fires--first backwards and up a bit, to brake the airspeed, then swinging up to slow the fall, before being released to drag itself and the chute away from the crash-land site, while the capsule falls straight down a few meters.

    I guess a design meant to reenter routinely could have such rockets installed on the ladybug wing, or even on the bottom, TPS side of the hull, to give such a brake-to-stop, drop option if a suitable runway is not available. This might even be designed to be the routine mode of landing, if it turns out the G-load of this maneuver is bearable and it saves wear and tear on the TPS. Which note, would have for an Apollo type have been disposable ablative surface, and for other applications a metal tough heatshield, not something like the Shuttle's fragile tiles!
  16. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    I took a moment to read up on Muskie OTL at Wikipedia. This could be quite interesting; anyway I feel better about him than I did before.

    Note how ITTL he is the first Catholic President to be elected (the third major-party candidate, after Al Smith and John Kennedy's failed bids, all Democrats). He is Polish-American too. What excites me most is his rather Trumanesque background--at first glance nothing could be more different in that Truman was a Democrat in a traditionally Democratic state, and in fact a pretty mainstream southern-Dixiecrat type politician in a state where that was the traditional Democratic style. Whereas Muskie struggled to position both himself and his party very much against tradition in a conventionally strongly Republican state, Maine. However, as a Democrat of strongly "Dixiecratic" background (his grandmother fainted to see him show up at home in a military cadet uniform--since he was of course dressed as a Union soldier:eek::rolleyes:) Truman moved throughout his career to embrace a broader civil-rights stance, first joining forces with distinctly non-WASP Democratic elements in Missouri (urban Catholics of various stripes) and then African-Americans, largely motivated by a sense of outraged justice at their mistreatment. The common ground uniting Truman's vision is the notion of the solidarity of "little people," whether struggling agrarian farmer types like himself or urban workers, banding together via party solidarity to take on the power of wealth.

    So I can see Muskie in some senses paralleling this mindset, coming from a state that is more rural than the norm in New England, doing the Catholic/Protestant unification thing from the other side as it were, turning a Republican state Democratic (as Truman would do in several cases in his 1948 Presidential campaign) presumably on a populist platform.

    There is also the stuff in Wikipedia about the Nixon-masterminded smear campaign in which he allegedly broke down in tears defending his wife's honor. My suspicion is that they really were tears, and perhaps the American people, whether in ignorance or knowing it, would be better off voting for a man capable of them than not.

    His wife was allegedly foul-mouthed and drunk--Truman was actually pretty careful with liquor, not abstaining but avoiding serious drunkenness, but he was infamous for his earthy speech--and so here too we might see a recurrence of Trumanesque atmosphere!

    Obviously it makes a difference whether we are talking about the President himself or his First Lady here--but I'd consider it a gratifying touch of genuine populism, and should the First Couple face down the hypocritical attacks on them on these grounds, a gratifying punch at false gentility too.

    Which brings us back again to the social climate this is happening in. I can see these earthy "flaws" of the Muskies, tying them closer to their grassroots outsider status as Catholics, Mainer "hicks," and people from a hard-working disadvantaged background as endearing them to New Left types who otherwise might attack them more, while winning some respect in "Archie Bunker" type circles as well. (Maybe, maybe not--the dominating characteristic of blue-collar types who are strongly conservative is hypocrisy--the ideal to be lived up to and admired need not be completely or even close to real at all; its very unreality is what makes it admirable--so Archie Bunker might well despise a leader who talks and acts like himself and prefer to believe the blue-bloods he supports are at heart with him while charmingly above him in manner. But other blue-collar types who are more focused on the question of who is for us, for ordinary working Americans, might be charmed and supportive--hence the blue-collar vote might not skew as far right as OTL).

    It could be then that a distinctly left-wing consensus, made of many wings and elements that to some degree clash to be sure, could be as characteristic of TTL's 1970s as the drift to rightward was OTL, with the corporate and hence military leadership sector veering in that direction a bit thanks to its dominance of the consensus.

    I imagine Muskie is going to be savagely attacked from the Right no matter what he does, but if what he does wins over a broad enough spectrum of the center as well as left, those attacks will sound shrill and crazed to the majority. I actually think that the dice are always loaded against leftist populism in this country, and would be in this ATL too, since the corporate sector owns the media, and so Muskie will always, when researched in terms of the mainstream press, seem unpopular and radical and irresponsible--but when viewed from the perspective of actual votes and the candid opinion of common people, be "unaccountably" popular despite the venom of the so-called informed classes. So there will be shrill and savage attacks from the far right (perhaps the occasional assassination attempt and/or demonstrative act of right-wing insurgency) with a gray chorus of disapproval from the monied classes (no matter how much good he does them) but crowds will turn out to listen to him.

    Unless, on the model of post-Nixon Democratic presidents of OTL, he caves in to the right-wing pressure, governs as a moderate Republican would, and thus undercuts his own support save as the lesser evil on the left. Then he might be turned out in '72, or grudgingly retained by a public that does fear the greater evil, but not remembered fondly--not anyway until decades later.

    How you wind up portraying the Muskie years will color in what has been happening in US culture I guess.

    Though you've given it a bright and warm glow among us space fans already by having him adopt a Kennedyesque goal on a similar time table!:)
  17. Shevek23 Spherical Cow-poke

    Aug 20, 2010
    Reno, Nevada USA
    Now I've skimmed back through the thread, well picking up from post(s) 7 in part II, and really we haven't been told one way or another how the USA and presumably Western Europe developed culturally between 1964 and '68. Although nixonshead did mention how Nixon would be somewhat better off in Vietnam than OTL (due to agreements with Khrushchev not to aid the North as much, and getting the Commonwealth nations, especially Britain itself, more involved) we still don't know how that worked out--whether Nixon was therefore able to keep Vietnam on the back pages and fear of the draft from becoming a major thing among young men.

    On other fronts of the political drama of OTL, we know that Nixon did support some Civil Rights progress, enough to win him some southern Black votes in '64. But of course one of the developments that puzzled mainstream politicians of both parties OTL was that the more progress was made on Civil Rights, the more explosive US urban African "ghettos" became. This "paradox" is clear enough to solve when we remember, the beneficiaries of court mandates and governmental initiatives regarding the hitherto poor treatment of African-Americans were generally Southern blacks who had stayed put in the Jim Crow south--the massive legal support of systematic discrimination often crossing the line over to outright terrorism was dismantled. (Still leaving private actors to act as they would, though this too was subject to some--much more controversial!--legal remedies. Nowadays it was less likely that white supremacist violence as performed by extremist groups like the Klan would get off scot free--a lynching might possibly lead to its conspirators being investigated, perhaps charged, maybe even sentenced to hard time in prison. Not an ideal situation for Southern blacks yet, but a massive improvement on their situation before.

    But by the 1960s, and for some time before, African-Americans were not all rural Southerners any more. Quite a few now lived in northern cities, in many if not all of which they had never suffered any legally encoded discrimination at all--just the "private choices of individuals" led to their drastically different life chances.

    As far as I know for instance, California and the county of Los Angeles never enacted laws specifically discriminating against African-Americans--Asians, certainly, blacks not to my knowledge. I could easily be mistaken about that of course. But in its "color-blind" neutrality, the common law of the state had nothing to say against racial covenants in private contracts, which by private action thus barred African-Americans from entire cities of Los Angeles County, these cities being essentially real estate schemes where the original entrepreneur happened to issue such contracts to buyers, forbidding them to sell to non-"whites."

    Thus, the nature of the discriminatory practices that affected the lives of Northern, urban blacks was hardly addressed by all the quite substantial advances in equality before the law coming out of the Federal government and the Supreme Court. The only manner in which their issues were being addressed was under the rubric of "welfare," of programs to address American poverty generally.

    One thing we were told (or left implied anyway) about Nixon ITTL, was that per his OTL moderation on welfare issues both in the '60s and in office 8 years later than ITTL, he would be reasonably progressive on poverty issues in general. I for one suggested he had better be, if he wanted to be reelected in '64, and I would guess that he was, to a moderate extent.

    Still it is quite hard to imagine he went farther than LBJ, and seems likely that if he did on a few issues he'd more than offset it by holding back on others. Given the magnitude of poverty issues in the USA, and that with all the condemnation LBJ gets from the Right about allegedly overspending on these programs (which rightists also believe undercut the national moral fiber and compounded economic problems beyond their immediate fiscal cost) the fact is the Great Society programs of OTL were rarely advanced beyond pilot program stage; never fully funded, rarely sustained. Thus the bar Nixon has to clear to match LBJ's actual "War on Poverty" is low, and yet I can barely believe he just clears it.

    Therefore I imagine a huge array of explosive issues, the ones that made for the firestorm of late-60s culture, particularly exploding in 1968 OTL, remain much as OTL here. The New Left, even if it doesn't have the "bully pulpit" of draft resistance to organize around, is likely to be advancing on many eclectic fronts.

    I would suppose that between a lesser "Revolution of Rising Expectations" (Nixon having not promised as much as LBJ did OTL) and the Republican-led nation being a bit more ready to indulge in police repression without apology, and the established upper classes being a bit less indulgent of leftist fads than OTL, the cultural revolution of the 60s is on a high simmer in 1968 rather than a rolling boil. And that the Muskie administration might be cut some slack for time to offer some solutions, and if it can come up with funds to pay for some, some of the frenzied pressure might be off, so that the next four years will be one of relatively steady ferment instead of any sudden boil-over.

    However, we have to wonder how the economy is doing. OTL, most of the '60s was a period of rather delirious growth in the USA and in the Western sphere in general, a boom that seemed to be a natural increment of the prosperity of the 50s. Then late in the decade, and especially in the early '70s, there were problems--inflation becoming rather scary, jobs drying up, then the oil crisis in the wake of the Yom Kippur war and with that the whole western world was suddenly facing "stagflation;" slow growth and yet with inflation unprecedented in such a situation, precluding Keynesian "pump-priming," whether that would have worked or not, lest inflation suddenly explode into total ruin of world currencies. Furthermore, governmental revenues which had seemed ample in the early 60s (Kennedy calling for tax cuts, not because the there was any tax revolt of any note, but because the revenues seemed more than enough to cover reasonable expenses, even with programs like Apollo being funded out of state largesse) suddenly were tight and programs that either were entitlements or were the political equivalent of them (such as Defense budgets) were importunate, every government program needing more money and every taxpayer protesting hard times.

    Now the question is, should the incoming Muskie administration be facing an indefinite continuation of the Go-Go 60s, or should he be facing some version of the morning-after hangover of the OTL stagflation 70s? Worst of all, should he be, in January 1969 upon taking office, apparently blessed with a strong economy and federal revenues, only to find the whole house of cards suddenly collapsing on his watch? Which he would doubtless be blamed for, rightly or wrongly.

    I generally believe capitalist economies operate on deep and material-based cycles, and so if we had a downturn in the late 60s OTL, there is little reason to hope for otherwise here. Critics of Nixon OTL blame him for much of it, especially for funding the Vietnam War with financial jiggery-pokery that allegedly undermined the system and caused the downturn; right-wing politicians of his day of course blamed instead welfare spending, both for its direct costs and for its alleged moral costs.

    My belief is that the boom years before were, as booms generally are, based on borrowed energy that had to be paid for in a painful crash later, and this crash could be worsened or mitigated, handled to minimize pain or mishandled to exacerbate it--but not headed off--certainly if a steady, sustainable rate of growth could by some miracle be established and held (with all economic and political leadership flying blind on misguided economic theory) that steady rate would not be the boom times the nation and world had gotten accustomed to in the 60s. Everyone's expectations would be disappointed even in the best case; the likeliest outcome being panic on the part of the richer classes which would worsen things, and blame falling on the poor or their proclaimed champions--such as say the Democrats under Muskie.

    Thus, President Muskie will be facing years of backlash, of claims from his own constituency of the poor and average who have been hoping for improvement finding few opportunities, while the wealthy who would be less keen to support him broadly speaking now also face harder times and find it quite easy to point to better times under Nixon and thus take a harder line against social welfare generally.

    I hope Muskie can somehow vindicate his populist credentials in these hard times.

    Obviously it is going to require some serious political resolution on his part to persist with the Moon program, especially since he doesn't seem to be spending money like water building up politically difficult to attack new institutions like NASA of OTL, with huge pots of porkbarrel funding being larded over strategic political bailiwicks across the nation.

    Muskie has got to make people believe in space, enough to carry them through belt-tightening times where their more immediate hopes are being disappointed, for the Administration to follow through. Otherwise he'd be facing a much tougher mood than Nixon did in 1971, regarding skepticism in Congress as to funding more space ventures.

    Or of course the author could disagree with my intuitions about economics, and suppose that for some reason I didn't consider, '69-'72 are remarkably good years economically, with no one feeling very cramped. I've said why I think that's unlikely but of course I hardly can claim to possess the master key to all knowledge of economic possibility either. It's just my private opinion, for reasons I've offered, that the period is likely to be blessed with yet more of the Go-Go vibrancy of the Sixties, which I presume did benefit Nixon ITTL.
  18. Astronomo2010 Well-Known Member

    Jan 3, 2010
    another Great chapter , lets see moon landing , construction of moonbase , and approval to the missions to Mars and beyond . Cant hardly wait for the next chapters .
  19. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2013
    Absolutely. In fact the wording Muskie uses intentionally leaves the door open to either a flyby or orbiter mission, depending on how the development goes (and how much money he can secure). I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that budget battles with Congress will be featuring in future posts.

    Indeed. As mentioned in the post, von Braun and Gilruth had to scale back their ideas on new launchers and pretty much go with a minor increment of the existing Minerva. This forced choice will drive the mission they come up with.

    Don’t forget that this new project is being driven by the old Capsule Faction, in particular by Max Faget, who’s just spent four years studying capsule concepts. What do you think Max wants? Because What Max Wants, Max Gets ;)

    In Part-III I’ve taken a conscious decision to focus as much as possible on the space flight developments and a bit less on political and cultural changes (hence the lack of a Wiki infobox for the 1968 election - I felt the amount of effort needed to put them together didn’t match the value to the ongoing story). Political and social changes will be (and indeed already have been) touched upon, but generally only as much as is needed to explain choices in the space programme.

    One exception being a guest post I’m very much looking forward to… :D

    So, although I’ve not said much about the social changes under Nixon, you can bet they were there. The Baby Boomers are coming of age and doing things their own way, and Tricky Dick isn’t going to rain on their parade! We’ve already seen in the Trailer that there’s are active anti-war, anti-nuclear and environmental protest movements (by the time of the Rhene disaster, anyway). Civil Rights will also have been a big upheaval, as per OTL (and as implied by the successes of Byrd and Wallace in the 1964 and ‘68 elections). So there’s a lot going on in the background.

    Don’t forget that part of Muskie’s reason for supporting a lunar mission is specifically to promote high-tech science and engineering as attractive career paths outside of the military. ITTL, space flight, and especially manned space flight, has been strongly linked to the military in the popular consciousness - a link that’s often got negative connotations (as indeed the military-industrial complex did IOTL amongst many groups). The intent is to distance this new initiative from the military as far as possible. How successful that effort will be (given they’ve already accepted use of an Air Force rocket), well, we’ll just have to see...

    The short timescales involved for development, plus the amount of work already done on a more traditional capsule design, make this unlikely.

    In early drafts the announcement was even more Kennedyesque - I considered having Bobby win the White House! However, ITTL he’s only got 4 years experience in the Senate and no executive experience under his belt, so we figured that (plus sharing a name with a Presidential loser) would probably make him decide that ‘68 was too soon and instead barter his support for a nice juicy Cabinet role.

    The background assumption is the war has stabilised into something closer to OTL’s Afghanistan of a couple of years ago. There are still VC insurgents in the jungle taking a regular toll of US servicemen, but they have little support amongst the population and the South Vietnam government is pretty secure (though not particularly democratic). As for the social effects of the war on the US, that’s something we’ll touch upon in a later post.

    Well, Yom Kippur hasn’t happened ITTL, or not yet at least, though there has been a parallel version of the Six Day War (simply because I see it as pretty much structurally inevitable). As of the late ‘60s, the US economy is starting to slow and inflation is picking up, pretty much as per OTL, but government spending is looking slightly healthier without the drain of Apollo and with a reduced drain from Vietnam (though to observers ITTL it’s still pretty horrific). There have been social reforms under Nixon, though probably without the same kind of unifying vision as LBJ’s “Great Society”, and Civil Rights have also been advancing. So Muskie comes to office with some warning signals starting to flash, but nothing he figures he can’t handle...

    Glad you’re still enjoying it! Next week we’ll see how the Soviets react to the Muskie challenge.
  20. su_liam Incompetent planetary engineer

    Feb 15, 2011
    Eugene, OR
    You got Brainbin on board for a guest post? :D :p