Realistic Soviet Lunar program leading to American manned Mars landing preferably without a POD before 1966

In 1966-1968 the Soviet space industry came as woefully unregulated compared to American (I've written above, the PoD for doing anything coherent is creating CENTRALIZED space agency and going with a PLAN (like just amost in everything in the USSR), other than obeying the whims of whatever spacecraft designer talks up their stuff louder).
So any non-B-list Hollywood movie plan should start with this.

The reaction to Komarov's death in OTL was PANIC, which delayed and eventually scrapped any Moon landing plans (putting the participation of big names like Gagarin and Leonov in the thing in doubt). It would no doubt happen in any "woefully underpepared" case.
In 1966-1968 the Soviet space industry came as woefully unregulated compared to American (I've written above, the PoD for doing anything cogerent is creating CENTRALIZED space agency and going with a PLAN (like just amost in everything in the USSR), other than obeying the whims of whatever spacecraft designer talks up their stuff louder).
So any non-B-list Hollywood movie plan should start with this.
Well that somewhat relates to leadership problems of post Stalin. He left behind more brown noses and yes men then competent leaders and people to lead things after him.

The US literally had some of best scientist in world who fled Germany during 30s and who were actual former nazis scientist that they got after the war. They literally been working on ideas for rockets and a lot of this technology since the days of the third reich. Soviets has some of these scientist too but US often had more of ground work and resources for them to unitize their knowledge.

The Soviets should have spent post Stalin focused more on infrastructure, public education, and modernization over the bloated military it had. It didn’t even need to de militarized just refined it to a more professional and downsized force(Quality over quantity).

Doing that in the 50s would likely mean Soviets are in a much better position during space race and gap between them and US is less then otl.

That’s fortress mindset of USSR did hurt every other sector of life outside of the military.
The thing I'm trying to say that in OTL it was not the lack of brain & talent that compromised the USSR but the fail to organize them, and it was an original sin from 1930ies USSR, when plane designing bureaus worked in the same way of unhealthy competition.

It was literally the only major industry in the USSR that was not CENTRALIZED - if anything, being more like military with clear chain of command would have HELPED Soviet space industry.

Imagine if the Moon Flight plan in the USA was put on tender between competing private companies each advertizing their own spacecraft as the best for the job. Grissom wouldn't have been the only vicitm of this, it seems.
To put stuff in perspective - in OTL the USSR financed THREE competing Moon landing projects, and this is with smaller total budget than the US single one. Getting higher ups to realize that there is some BS going on there is the foremost point of getting anywhere with the PoD.

Especially since the financing in NASA is a)centralized; b) subject to approval with Congress.
As I've said, there is a nice TL on this (the USSR still loses Moon race, but it ends with international mission on Mars in early 1990ies) - but with a 1964 PoD which is 2 years earlier than the topicstarter desires.
As I've said, there is a nice TL on this (the USSR still loses Moon race, but it ends with international mission on Mars in early 1990ies) - but with a 1964 PoD which is 2 years earlier than the topicstarter desires.
Is this in a pod where USSR stays together?
Is this in a pod where USSR stays together?
Yes, with a different government from OTL since mid-1970ies, but that's a consequence, not a PoD - the PoD is centralized space program.

The knock-offs include Brezhnev assassination in early 1970ies, Ustinov-Primakov technocratic government with Andropov (and by extension Gorbachev) sidelined from big politics. Not a true Soviet-wank in terms of "everything is rosy", so even in this technocratic USSR the Chernobyl disaster still happens (and first attempt into Moon base ends in one as well); also there is no America-screw there.

Fron non-USSR consequences there is Benedict XVI the Pope being a thing decades earlier than OTL (due to PR result from German Catholic astronaut/cosmonaut arranging first funeral in space as the only survivor of said Moon base disaster).
On dispute about duration of Soviet lunar mission capacity here some facts

L3-Complex was a minimum manned Lunar Landing
Two men launch on N1 to Moon Orbit there LK pilot has to made a EVA from Soyuz LoK to LK
Then both Space craft separates and LK use remaining fuel of Block D stage for decent to lunar surface
The LK pilot guided by a Lunochod rover that serve as radio beacon approaches landing side and drop the Block D
Then landing near the Rover, now if Cosmonaut survives he has around 6 hour mission time
That Two EVA with small pause inside LK
Lifesupport for Cosmonaut is ONLY his spacesuit, the LK has only air for one two time pressure the LK interio.
After putting soviet flag and some experiment and sample collection after 6 hours the LK has to take of
Rendezvous with Soyuz LoK do hard dock and LK Pilot does EVA with lunar samples back in to LoK
After that Soyuz Lok jettison the LK and Orbital module and Service and Return Module fly back to Earth...

Like i say it‘s absolute minimum Mission
But Soviets look into better mission profile the L3M
A enlarge Soyuz capsule inside Habitat module support 3 cosmonaut up to 90 days on lunar Surface
But it need major overwork on N1 like equip them with Two Hydrolox upper stages, to land L3M on lunar surface with enlarge Block D.
L3M was abandon in OTL as N1 program failed
Yes, with a different government from OTL since mid-1970ies, but that's a consequence, not a PoD - the PoD is centralized space program.

The knock-offs include Brezhnev assassination in early 1970ies, Ustinov-Primakov technocratic government with Andropov (and by extension Gorbachev) sidelined from big politics. Not a true Soviet-wank in terms of "everything is rosy", so even in this technocratic USSR the Chernobyl disaster still happens (and first attempt into Moon base ends in one as well); also there is no America-screw there.

Fron non-USSR consequences there is Benedict XVI the Pope being a thing decades earlier than OTL (due to PR result from German Catholic astronaut/cosmonaut arranging first funeral in space as the only survivor of said Moon base disaster).
Which Ustinov and which Primakov? And how would a more centralized space program have such an impact?

Also, what sort of centralization were you imagining? Is this a ministry of general machine building that has more say in setting policy and goals and more tightly manages its subsidiary bureaus, or a situation where goals are set by a subsidiary management group in the ministry that then oversees the major design groups?

What are the Soviets ability in 1966 to 1968? Could they launch a mission to moon somewhat underprepared and get lucky enough to make it back in relatively one piece?
To land on the moon? Absolutely zero. They were no-where near having the hardware they'd need to do such a thing.

It is within the realm of possibility that the Soviets could get into position to beat Apollo 8 around the moon with a podsadka-style mission.

Also, what sort of centralization were you imagining? Is this a ministry of general machine building that has more say in setting policy and goals and more tightly manages its subsidiary bureaus, or a situation where goals are set by a subsidiary management group in the ministry that then oversees the major design groups?
Second one.
And how would a more centralized space program have such an impact?
Primakov - the OTL pre-Putin late 1990ies Yeltsin prime minister, TTL appointed KGB head instead of Andropov in early 1980ies. "A young man, barely turned 50".
Ustinov - this one.

One of knock-offs of TL is the successful assassination of Brezhnev in September 1972, and that leads to big political overhaul.
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@RGB is invited to this thread (AFAIK he is the user used to be known as Canadian Goose in early-mid 2000ies; if so, he should remember the "Galloping Tortoise" TL).
@RGB is invited to this thread (AFAIK he is the user used to be known as Canadian Goose in early-mid 2000ies; if so, he should remember the "Galloping Tortoise" TL).
Apologies, I'm not the same user. Don't think Canadian Goose has been back since forever. This (Soviet Lunar program) is a topic I do have interest in, but no actual expertise.
I am one owing the apology to you for this confusion (somehow thought that you were his alt-nickname).
Anyways, the TL is old one from mid-2000is and takes a lot of creative liberties (like accelerating Ustinov's OTL career growth so that he can be viable successor to Brezhnev in 1972) and is not as fool-proof from the technical point of view (it was pointed out in comments that the author got the issues with transportation of spacecraft parts on the railways totally wrong (thinking it was height issue instead of width)) as I thought when it was written.
But 2000ies when I came into alt-history were the heyday of wankish TLs that would not undergo nowadays scrutiny (The Galloping Tortoise is one of the best, and even got e-book publishing/distribution (under the different name, "Titanium Stars of Marshal Kamanin"/Титановые звезды маршала Каманина, thought to be more catchy).
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As I've said, there is a nice TL on this (the USSR still loses Moon race, but it ends with international mission on Mars in early 1990ies) - but with a 1964 PoD which is 2 years earlier than the topicstarter desires.
This one, by any chance?

Hah! I once tried to figure out if I could make him leader of the Soviet Union with a successful Lunar landing. My conclusion was that the Party bigwigs probably wouldn't care enough about such a success to launch him into power.

From what I'd been able to find out about him, he seems like the most conservative of the Politburo members. He seemed to me to be an ideal pick to explore what a more conservative Soviet Union in the 70s and 80s would have looked like.

with Andropov (and by extension Gorbachev) sidelined from big politics
Wasn't Ustinov a friend of Andropov though? This is why I thought you must have meant another Ustinov when you first mentioned this.

Of course, not being able to read Russian, my access to sources isn't the best, so if I have gained wrong ideas about Ustinov, please don't hesitate to educate me!

Primakov - the OTL pre-Putin late 1990ies Yeltsin prime minister, TTL appointed KGB head instead of Andropov in early 1980ies. "A young man, barely turned 50".
Interesting. I'm not familiar with Primakov's Soviet-era service. What about him makes you think he'd be an interesting KGB head?

One of knock-offs of TL is the successful assassination of Brezhnev in September 1972, and that leads to big political overhaul.
From what I know about Brezhnev's health, wouldn't a stroke or heart attack be a better cause of death in this year?

It seems unlikely that Viktor Ilyin would delay his assassination (apparently motivated by the suppression of the Prague Spring) 3 and a half years to make a successful attack in 1972.

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This one, by any chance?
Yes, this one. I've referenced it by name.
Though it's apparently hard to read using Google Translate, since the text is peppered with slang/idioms that can greatly impair machine translation.

It seems unlikely that Viktor Ilyin would delay his assassination (apparently motivated by the suppression of the Prague Spring) 3 and a half years to make a successful attack in 1972.
SerB used a fictional assasination (Ilyin attack never happens, but a random guy (named Ilkin) succeeds in 1972)
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A few 'corrections' to some information :)
The issue with Soviet vs US here is the same as it often is. The US due to being capitalist has a lot more money to throw around and have a larger skill pool to pull from.

USSR in otl suck up a lot of its money trying to compete against the US militarily and in the space race which often went hand and hand with the military in some way or another.
Part of the reason for the early USSR lead was that they had significantly reduced their military spending in many areas and dropped advanced research projects in favor of space-based and missile weapons. This in turn was ending up being a huge boost in spending for everything from the "Super-ICBM" programs, (Proton and the N1 specifically) to funding that could be siphoned off towards more 'esoteric' but not officially sanctioned efforts such as the various Lunar and Mars concepts. This was stopped when Krushchev was ousted and a more rigid oversight established. If you'd had a more focused and cooperative space program during that time a LOT more could have been accomplished.

If the Soviets can get to moon first those I could see them maybe deciding to send a woman first for propaganda reasons and just as another bragging right over the US. Kill two birds with one stone basically. Also I could see them them doing it because women can handle high altitude better which was a practice in USSR since ww2 and because the Soviets would know it would annoy Americans more to get out done by not just a communist by a woman on top of that.
The Soviet's were no more 'progressive' than the US in this regard they only sent a woman up OTL because the capsule was designed and built to fly without human input unless in an emergancy and they were VERY conservative on that particualr flight. The planned second launch was to put another woman into a 'co-orbit' of the first but there was to be no manuavering or anything and the two vehicles would be allowd to drift apart. Sending someone to the Moon was VASTLY more complex and required advanced training and knowledge on both the sytem and mission. No WAY they would send a woman.

Women can’t even be astronaut in US during this time due to NASA military requirements which de facto bar women from the profession. If the Soviets land a woman on the moon first that’s not just propaganda points for them but makes the US look more bad especially as women’s movement is about to pick up there soon.
NOT NASA! Sorry but this was specifically a direct requirment from the Eisenhower White House, (specifically a directve to NASA management from the Office of the President over Ike's signature) which set the requirements for teh MERCURY astronauts and was in direct response to the "Mercury 13" effort, ( which he vehemently opposed on the risk grounds. In fact the regulations as written and understood in a strict sense COULD have allowed women into the Mercury program but since it was specificaly ONLY a short "test" program rather than an on-going space flight program, (most of the "Mercury" capsules built were the sub-orbital design since the sub-orbital flights were supposed be done as 'training' flights for the orbital flights, only 12 were built for 'orbital' flight and of those 5 were specific test capsules that couldn't carry a human, it was felt that the woman candidates could simply wait till the more comprehensive and capable follow on Apollo program. Once the Lunar goal was announced the required speed and focus of the program made it pretty clear that only a very narrow range of skill sets and requirements would be needed so the majority of the astronauts were selected under the Mercury criteria as a 'requirement' and it was only when massive science protest was made public that NASA relented on training and accepting a few 'scientist-astronauts' and woman were still not accepted. They wouldn't be until the actual requirements changes that were finally done in the 70s.

Does it have to be really practical for women? This is the same Soviet Union who likely reckless shot few people into space and hide the information of them dying when mission was a failure and ended in someone dying.
Ugh this little piece of "fake-history" realy needs to die a flaming death. The USSR, just like the US, had a lot of political pressure to get things done and in the case of Soyuz 1 that lead to the death of a Cosmonaut... Who the USSR acknowledge had been killed on landing and held a state funeral and set up a memorial. The US and world were aware of this. ( Did the USSR 'erase' any Cosmonauts from history? One, (1) was 'erased' from group and pre-flight photo's as was the previous policy under Stalin. Did he die on a spaceflight? No, in a ground training fire. Was he 'erased' out of pictures of the Cosmonauts, yes and they protested vehemently about it and managed to get him re-instated in most internal documentation and awarded a postumus title of Cosmonaut. Did they lose anyone in space? Yep, three (3) Cosmonauts during reentry in 1971, ( they announced it to the world the same day. In other words there is ZERO evidence to support the idea that the Soviet's EVERY seriously tried to 'hide' or cover up Cosmonaut deaths or injuriers. Cold War paranoia and a couple of amature radio enthusists started this 'rumor' and have kept it alive with out of context audio intercepts and signals.

I think one of these cases were a woman too who ship exploded while flying around the earth.
The board frowns on the use of "Conspiraciy Threories" as evidence or supposition in theads, this is very much one of those:

The USSR is more likely to throw caution to wind compared to US especially if their a chance if doing so will possibly get them there first or edge.
Actually the USSR was VERY conservative and had a great fear of public failure and ridicule so they tended to be VERY cautious in planning and carrying out any operation. They cancled a plausible circum-Lunar flight that could have beaten Apollo 8 around the Moon but considered that the effort itself was very high risk and that there was no follow on possible that would actually beat the Americans to the Moon the effort was marginal at best and could easiliy be detrimental if it failed pretty much in any way. Now once the decsion was made to scrub the flight they USSR hid the effort but there were official records and documentation that clearly stated the effort was undertaken but no, in the end, approved.

The Soviet "Lunar" plan was already very much bare-bones, of limited utility and very high risk. They litterally didn't have enough margin to 'throw caution to the wind" let alone try to subsititure a barely trained 'propaganda' Cosmonaut for one trained and ready to do the actual job. Sorry but there is little 'upside' to trying to compete with the American effort in the first place, the risk of failure is already very high. so trying to tack on a 'propaganda' effect just makes the odds worse.

The Soviets want a successful return too but I could see them rushing to just beat the US. The US in otl was very cautious compared to USSR.
"Said no one that has actually studied the history and effort of the two Space Programs, ever" :) The US took several "long-odds" chances which the USSR in a similar situation declined to accept the risk of doing. The US was thorough and though they had a tendency early on, (specifically the entire Mercury program and a good chuck of Gemini) to toss out the whole system once they started to move on to the next segment of the plan the US program, (and everyone in it) were well aware that they were rushing the entire program, taking too many short-cuts and leaving to many process' and checks to the last minute. An overall management and supervision issue that while evreyone was aware of and worred about no one could see a way to do anything about it without the risk of missing the set deadline. The Apollo One came along and they were forced to face, confront and fix those issues. The Soviets as well sucummbed to political and program pressure and lost their first Soyux mission and it's State Hero pilot and themselves had to stand down and fix their internal issues.

Further and probably more important is that the USSR had by the this time fully understood that the US WAS commmited to going to the Moon and back and doing so first. ANY effort by the USSR had to take into account that US commitment and understand and deal with the consqences. What does that mean? Should the USSR publically commit to going to the Moon and directly challenge to US in who would land first then the USSR would have to match the US effort both in resources and financing. Worse, (and it's actualy much worse) the USSR has to have both a main and likely several 'backup' plans because it was pretty clear by the mid-60s that the US could go to the Moon at any moment of their choosing. It would be a high-risk option but given the obvious 'national priority' the US was giving the Lunar mission it was clear that any attempt at a USSR response and the US would likely take that risk rather than lost the 'race' they had created in the public mind.

Heard of something called "Lunar Gemini" maybe?
Gemini LOR?
Gemini Saturn-1/1B/V?

Despite NASA insisting that any "non-Apollo" work be ONLY "in-house" studies and not reported to Congress, oddly enough there was enough support to ensure these studies had a high degree of fidelity on most of the major technicnal and life support issues... While the 'main' "Plan-B" should it be required was always simply to increase spending on Apollo and increase the pace of completion it's always nice to have options.

And these are opition the USSR has limited if any answer to.

[quoteI wouldn’t say it’s out of the question Soviets with a decent bit of luck and better management then otl could make a trip to moon and back safely.[/quote]

As things stood at the suggested POD OTL the odds are bad and don't get better as time goes on short of a very pubic, very expensive, and a very high chance of a clear pubic failure at the end. An earlier POD, say more of a commitment and support, and the US still has 'reserves' to call on to accellerate their program. As well as 'options' (see above) they can fall back on. In such a public 'race' the USSR has to meet if not beat every US milestone between commiting to the 'race' and the landing. And that money and support has to come from somewhere so where does the USSR get it from? The question is not if the idea is possible, it is quite easily to see, bu tthe question is more what does the USSE 'gain' by winning and what do they risk if they fail?

"Riders to the Stars" is my favourite. "Magnetic Monster" is the one I've not seen.
Ahh, :)

Holidays are more important to you than discussing rocketry now? Who are you, and what did you do with the real RanulfC? :p
Holiday's? No LIVING is more important, (after all the after-life-internet cross-connects have never been reliable as we all know) since they are importan to my WIFE I must take part.. or die... You must admit it is a GREAT motivator!

I wrote:
RanulfC said:
The Air Force bits were used to defining a requirement, bidding contracts, running comparisions, then rinse and repeat till you got what you wanted. (And even then parts of the Air Force system still used combined Army/Navy methadolgy which confused things even worse)
That sounds familiar... Isn't that how NASA does things now?
It's how everyone does it now, and mostly because the Air Force, (being the 'main' service for Truman and Eisenhower) established it as the process.

Do you know why the USAF adopted this system originally? Have any ideas on why it became such a big part of how NASA did things? I've always put it down to that being the ideological preference of the majority of Congress...
Actually :) It started as a neccessity since the majority of personnel that transfereed to the Air Force from the Army Air Force were pilots, navigators, mainteance and the like but few supply support personnel. Which left the new USAF in somewhat of crunch. This got worse as the Air Force, by policy, command and history tended towards seeking 'high-tech' solutions to problems. (Keep in mind that the US military doens't even have air transport since nobody kept the Air Transport Service and as pretty much an afterthought it was finally taken in by the Joint Chiefs and funded from their budget! The Navy kept their transport service but the Army/Air Force units were supposed go to the Air Force who figured that they'd just 'call up' civilian transport if they needed any...) So they (the USAF) had in WWII gotten used to dealing directly with contractors, (mostly air frame, engine and weapons) and manufaturers with direct contracts that were 'managed' by a singel 'leasion' officer and his staff that only lightly, (and shallowly) with any Army supply or logistics units. Since Air Force R&D was a small unit with a small budget and even less manpower they tended to give out contracts for studies, (hence where RAND came from) even bases were being constructed by contractors, coordinated and overseen by the base commander more often than not. The AF came up with the "prime contractor" where one contrator was the "prime" organizaer and oversaw all the subcontactors as well as organized and provided to the AF all the neccessary oversight materials and organized reviews.

Yes Congress prefers the way the Air Force does it, most administartions on the other hand... This was specifically the "Military/Congressional/Industrial" complex that Eisenhow was uncomforable with. Unfortunatly between Truman and him it was really the only way ANY service could keep up with and compete for budget with the Air Force pretty much by those two's 'designed/neglect' of the DoD and miltary rediness.

NASA initially started out using mostly NACA aqusition, research and development standards where they would define a design and then contract it out to production. Time pressure made this less than effective as the coordination between contractors and centers was all out of whack. Perfect example:

The X-15 project.
NACA wanted a very high speed test aircraft using rocket propulsion and a heat resistant skin
The Air Force and Navy wanted a very high speed PROTOTYPE aircraft that would use rocket propulsion but could later be use other types of propulsion and mount weapons
The contractors planned on building more what the military wanted till most of them dropped out of supporing the effort and the Air Force stepped back behind the NACA requirements which specified what type of skin and internal structure the vehicle would have. Keep in mind the 'leading' candidate was the Douglas design, the only 'flaw' was they used a heat sink not a heat resistant skin so they lost to North American. (Who immediatly asked to be released from the project as they had just recieved a bunch more military aircraft projects, nope, your stuck :) )

NACA, (with some Air Force support) and later NASA handled mostly the organizing and requirements while the military, (Navy and Air Force specifially) handled sub-contracting, engine design, fabriction and specifications for the sub-assemblies, (occasionally updating NAA on weights and requirements which NAA would have to scramble to incorperate into the airframe.. somehow... or not. for example a last minute change which required skin air sampling ports in the wings and fuselage to a central anyalyzer system... Fine for the fuselage but the required tubes, bends and ports would require the wings to be almost 5 times a 'thick' as the biggest possible allowed thickness and about 8 times heavier which would mean the X-15 could not achieve supersonic, let alone hypersonic speed...*) propulsion, (The Air Force was responsible for the Motor and it's contractor Reaction Motors International {RMI, taking control from the Navy who had an existing relationship with RMI and ignoring NACA concerns over the AF propellant choice of Ammonia and LOX} picking an advanced but untested motor the XLR139... the engine was late, overweight and over budget... the Air Force blamed the contractor and eventually moved the contrct to NAA's rocket division Rocketdyne... RMI was taken over by Thiokol and eventually shut down the "new" engine, the XLR99 finally arrived, several years late and severly over-budget) instrumentation, pilot life support and suit design. By the time NACA/NASA recivieved the first X-15, (1958) the Navy had fully dropped out, the Air Force was more concerned with what would become the X-20 and NASA was dealing with the 'fallout' of Sputnik and the failure of Vanguard. And management had changed so that the issues with development of the X-15 would not happen again.

As a 'side-note' one thing that NAA had proposed was an "Orbital" X-15B to meet the USAF requirement for "Man in Space Soonest" with what they thought was a pretty good concept. It lost to a 'simple' McDonnel 'capsule' design that was favored by a segment of NACA/NASA lead by engineer Max Faget, whom McDonnel had consulted often to refine their design. The head of space projects at NAA, Harrison Storm, noted that they had won the X-15 by sticking close to the NACA lab concept and lost the Mercury contest by not keeping close to the 'lead' labs prefered design and learned a lesson. When the design for Project Apollo's capsule was given to North American it was becaue it was exactly what they and Faget had agreed to design. Futher to avoid the issues that had plauged the X-15 NAA would not only design the basic capsule but be 'prime contractor' in charge of coordination and organization of the various sub-contactors and the overall capsule development plan. This wasn't new by this point as they'd one this for several Air Force aircraft including the advanced, and new XB-70 Mach 3 bomber...

Despite all that the NAA work a 'prime contractor' was pretty much a mess from day one...

*=NAA ended up telling NACA they not only couldn't do it but that it would render the aircraft useless and if pushed they'd quit. NACA was not impressed but backed down, the Air Force WAS impressed :)

You mean that if the Soviets try more seriously to beat the Americans, their program will end up with a similar management system? Quite possibly. And possibly that could be a bad thing. Possibly a good thing.
Yep but I don't see how they could avoid ending up in the same place as the American's though where they go from there is a bit more 'open' since they don't have to deal with 'election years' and public unemployment being a voting issue and all that.

Agreed to both parts, though early water on the Moon gives a bit more incentive to find early uses for it if possible. One of the major issues with OTL Apollo was even with the longer stays and more activity NASA had to be pretty much 'forced' to put actual scientist on the flights when he 'payoff' of earlier access might have been more interest and less academic resistance earlier on as well. While the argument could likely be made that having (Fred Haise I think most likely) replaced by an 'egghead' would decrease the crews chances of survival I don't buy it.

Just as a general rule of thumb: if it is a good rocket propellant, only go near it if you have to, know what you're doing and have good safety measures in place. Even the most forgiving of rocket propellants are serious chemicals worthy of your respect.
Amen :)

Hydrogen Peroxide is basically water with an extra oxygen in the molecule - H2O2. Really high purity H2O2 (like over 95% pure) is a great oxidizer for rocketry, since it is amazingly non-toxic, is relatively stable and easy to handle for a rocket propellant (note that "for a rocket propellant" you would die if you drank this stuff). It also has a high density, which really helps get rocket dry mass down, since less tank is needed to hold the same amount of oxidizing power. Works well with cheap fuels like kerosene, and really well with more expensive fuels like propane and MAPP gas (the stuff used in gas welding torches). Downsides are that medium-purity H2O2 (where it's maybe 30-60% water) is pretty temperamental and it isn't cheap to make in the 50s and 60s since it's not the easiest process and it doesn't have much civilian utility, so there's not gonna be any cost sharing with civilian industry.
Actually the price was coming down by the mid-50s as use rose for things like bleaching paper and low purity use for cleaning. And the US rocket folks were gaining a new "respect" due to what the folks in the UK were doing;
The only rocket program to seriously look into this stuff was the British one, since part of their loot from WW2 was all the German high purity H2O2.
...Though the British success also lead the American's to 'assume' the stuff was SO safe you could 'float' a layer of it on top a layer of kerosene in perfect safety! (I read that passage in "Ignition" and think that the 'dangerous' thing here is the idea that you an demonstrate how 'safe' H2O2 is by demonstrating what IDIOTS some supposed 'smart' people can be.... Yes it burned/exploded the SECOND time they tried this which proved to the author that peroxide is MORE dangerous than hydrazine... NOT that doing something stupid twice and it 'working' only once is NOT the propellants fault)

[qutoe]The Saturn 1 would have made a really interesting boost stage for a shuttle. A beefed up Saturn 1 stage with a Saturn IVB stage could have launched a c. 30 tonne mini-shuttle (30 tonnes is about what you're looking at for the smallest shuttle that could fit a practical cargo bay 25-ish tonnes of shuttle and 5 tonnes of cargo would make a great space station support vehicle) alternatively, a couple re-usable Saturn 1 first stages could be used in place of the SRBs on a big shuttle like the one we got OTL for about the same cost/shuttle launch.[/quote]

And by adding SRB's some tank stretches and other 'assists' you can also launch pretty heavy components into orbit as well. Couple that with recoverying the S-IVB:
SIVB Recovery Concept lrg.jpg

Your economy improves again :)

And if you have a Saturn 1 first stage and a NERVA second stage, you have a Saturn 1 variant with Saturn V levels payload - easily enough to boost something like the Soviet Buran into orbit.
While I agree per-se... :D
I'm not sure anyone is going to be willing to let that 'fly' as it were. Topping an Saturn-1B based launcher with an inert NERVA shipped up to rendzvous with an LH2 tank in orbit maybe?

Well, Korolev and Glushko worked together in OTL and eventually Glushko would design the best LOX/kerosene engine so far achieved by humans. It's just that at the most important point for the Soviet lunar program they were of very different minds.
Again a few hints about how 'cool' Siberia is these days as a travel destination and how they need compenent engineers would work wonders towards attitude adjustment :)

I don't think it is unreasonable for the right PoD to bring out different (more cooperative) aspects out in both of their characters. Keep in mind that both men are at once ambitious idealists and hard-nosed engineers. My read of their personalities is that both of them liked their propellants of choice for good engineering reasons - Glushko thought hypergolics were the fastest way to a big rocket and thought he was such an amazing designer that he could make the risk of the rocket blowing up and poisoning a good chunk of Kazakhstan negligible, Korolev thought hypergolics were too dangerous and thought he was such an amazing designer that he could overcome all the engineering challenges of a big LOX/kerosene rocket easily. They were both kinda right and kinda too full of themselves.
Yep, pretty much what makes them 'great' engineers is enough of the last one to take on any opposition but you need (either an internal or more likely for these two one imposed from outside) sense enough to know you may know enough to know you are right, but maybe not enough to know when you're wrong...

On the other hand, is a character change what's needed? In the 70s, the higher-ups in the ministry of general machine building (which oversaw all space projects) now had an opinion of their own, and Glushko was told that he'd design a rocket with LOX/kerosene stage AND a LOX/hydrogen stage and he'd like it. So that's what he did.
The Soviet's are going to the Moon? You have problems working together Comrades? You would perhaps rather go somewhere a bit colder? :)

So what if Sergey Afanasyev (head of the ministry) turned against hypergolics earlier? Say, if the Proton didn't enjoy its initial run of successes and kept suffering disaster after disaster... This is too late to get the Soviets to the moon first I think, but maybe it could get Glushko working with a longer-lived Korolev on something like the OTL Zenit system and the Soviets are able to land several missions on the moon before the Apollo program ends. Instead of the Apollo-Soyuz test flight, you might have a LEM-LK joint "moonbase". Umm. Hard to see how this results in a Mars program though.
Needlin is worse? Yangel is in charge and more effected or at least more willing to consider alternatives than OTL? Coming back to peroxide IIRC it had a pretty high ISP when used with Furfuyl Alcohol, ( it's got some issues but maybe they talk Glushko down from this to kerosene?

No real value? Even a temporary moonbase (costing maybe 10 billion 1970 USD for the entire program) would be of enormous scientific benefit. We could have not just one, but a dozen geologists go look at the moon, have industrial trials, serious experiments on extra-terrestrial construction, push forward space suit design, get a decent body of medical research on what the heck happens to the human body (as well as plants and animals) in low gravity (a HUGE deal, since right now we have no idea what will happen to the human body when it is exposed to Martian or Lunar gravity for long time periods). A long-term moonbase would be able to build on these early experiments to actually start small-scale industry on the moon. And that could enormously reduce the cost of a Mars program since anything made on the moon (especially simple bulk items like liquid oxygen) can be launched at Mars for much lower costs than anything launched off the Earth can. There's a reason that scientists and engineers in the 50s were looking at the Solar system and going "first a station in low earth orbit, then a base on the moon, then a base on mars".

By contrast, what does an expedition to Mars get you? If we assume a month spent on the Martian surface exploring... Well, we'd get a wealth of science, no doubt about it. Even today, actual geologists in the field are far superior to robot probes. So we'd know an amazing amount about the landing site, we'd learn a bit of other stuff (like how the human body handled Martian gravity) but that would mostly be swamped in "noise" from the long journey to and from Mars. And for the cost of two moderately competent Mars missions, you could have a couple permanent moon bases. Going to Mars direct from the Earth's surface and without establishing space-based infrastructure just isn't cost effective.
Agreed and for the last part; You really ARE 'repeating Apollo' with all that implies and have people arguing it would be 'harder to cancel' for some reason as well. I don't get that.

In this scenario, why would the Shuttle and the Saturn V be different systems? The Shuttle almost ended up being launched by an evolved version of the Saturn V first stage in OTL. If NASA had a Mars mission funded, there'd be no need to scrap the Saturn V to develop the Shuttle, because the Mars program is gonna need Saturn Vs anyway (and likely upgraded ones at that) so why not build your shuttle with common parts to the hardware you already know you'll need? There's no need to throw the work from Apollo out in order to give the aerospace companies work in this scenario either, since there'll be more than enough work to do on the Mars mission.
Eh, you're Saturn-V can be evolved into a reusable first stage ala-"Right Side Up" but it's always going to be a pretty 'heavy' lifter and that create issues for lesser payloads which are usually you 'main' type of payload for a very long time. If you are using it often enough, you can get some economy but frankly if you're using it that much you need a more efficient system anyway so it's only a stop-gap. Building a Mars mission in orbit is great but that WILL wind down eventually and then you need other projects to support keeping that much capablity which is not going to be so straight forward.

Settling the high frontier is a long, long way from settling the American West though. A better comparison is with our ancestors making the first journeys to islands on the African coast by dugout canoe. That technology would, in thousands of years enable the peopling of New Guinea and Australia, tens of thousands of years further on would get people into South America before the end of the ice age and thousands of years beyond even that would allow Christopher Columbus to sail across the Atlantic and eventually even allow reasonably poor people in Europe to reach the Americas on economical steamships.

Or, for another comparison, imagine how the settlement of the Americas would have gone if Christopher Columbus sailed to a patch of open ocean and then had to dredge up sand and pile it up to build Cuba there so he could discover it.

I think we can completely settle the Solar system and be a K2 civilization within 500-1000 years, but we have much work to do before we reach the "American West" analogue of that process.
And people keep forgetting: There was infrastucture and 'civilization' at the 'destination' before they even headed west. People had been 'settled in Oragon and Washington since the early 1800s. The only 'new' thing was a 'trail' blazed by some folks who, (keep in mind) had explored and cataloged the stuff BETWEEN the east and west coast for the most part. American's had been flooding west since the 1820s, they had just been going a different route. Analoging the "American West" (or really any frontier on Earth) is a VERY shallow analogy and should be abandoned as an example as soon as someone else tries to use it :)


In this scenario, why would the Shuttle and the Saturn V be different systems? The Shuttle almost ended up being launched by an evolved version of the Saturn V first stage in OTL. If NASA had a Mars mission funded, there'd be no need to scrap the Saturn V to develop the Shuttle, because the Mars program is gonna need Saturn Vs anyway (and likely upgraded ones at that) so why not build your shuttle with common parts to the hardware you already know you'll need? There's no need to throw the work from Apollo out in order to give the aerospace companies work in this scenario either, since there'll be more than enough work to do on the Mars mission.
Eh, you're Saturn-V can be evolved into a reusable first stage ala-"Right Side Up" but it's always going to be a pretty 'heavy' lifter and that create issues for lesser payloads which are usually you 'main' type of payload for a very long time. If you are using it often enough, you can get some economy but frankly if you're using it that much you need a more efficient system anyway so it's only a stop-gap. Building a Mars mission in orbit is great but that WILL wind down eventually and then you need other projects to support keeping that much capablity which is not going to be so straight forward.
As far as I could tell from the cost models we did for Right Side Up (admittedly very rough), the cost of the Ride Side Up Space Lifter at a flight rate of 6+ a year was roughly comparable to the Titan III family, in spite of having nearly 3x the payload. This isn't as crazy as it might sound: a reusable lower stage based on Saturn V's S-IC means you're only throwing away an S-IVB every flight, about 20 metric tons of rocket stages instead of the 40-odd tons of Titan hardware. Properly revised for cost reduction or even only partially so, there's no reason the 40-ton launcher can't end up just as cheap as an expendable 15-ton launcher. There might be an argument that a reusable 10-15 ton launcher is more "right-sized" for the majority of the missions...but a reusable S-IC stage (and maybe even a reusable S-IVB-derived stage!) has lower development cost and is thus may be the OMB and NASA preferred option in the critical window, as it can be shared with ongoing lunar or Mars use of Saturn V, meaning there's less of a sharp transition from Saturn V to the "new thing".

In theory, if there's more of an expectation of need for ongoing S-IC utilization in 1970-1972, there's a chance that one of the reusable S-IC options for Shuttle boosters could win. I've tossed the idea around for a moon race-era Apollo-and-derivatives timeline, where the "Shuttle" is a manned glider pushed uphill by a reusable S-IC and a reusable S-IVB in a fully reusable (~30-35 metric ton payload) stack derived from a planned semi-reusable (R-SIC, expendable S-II, RS-IVB) Saturn V for lunar base missions or Mars. By 1973, the chances of that big launcher actually getting flown all-up may fall off, but if the RS-IC and RS-IVB end up enabling that kind of fully-reusable crew-and-cargo lifter, it'd be remarkable for the rest of the 70s and into the 80s.
I agree. Any Shuttle program being developed at the same time as Ares will be very scaled-down, or take longer to develop. I would bet on option 1.
Hrrmmm, don't get me wrong a smaller shuttle would likely be easier and faster than a larger shuttle if for no other reason that's the size they'd been working on prior to building one for real. The Shuttle got 'big' firstly because it went from a carried glider to it's own stage and then back but still needing to carry 'big' space station modules. If you have a heavy lifter system your 'shuttle' never needs to carry more than a couple hundred to a couple thousand pounds of cargo and it's main job is carrying people which means it's a lot smaller and lighter. Consider that the 'main reason' given for the Shuttle was to carry it's engines up to orbit and then back again so they could be reused. Once that's a requirement, and you have a "we need wings and wheels for the vehicle" that sets a good number of parameters that constrain the design. Have the "primary" (booster) and "secondary" (orbital) engines on their own reusable vehicle that then sets a huge number of DIFFERENT parameters on the 'shuttle' design. OTL"s TAOS design was actually pretty far fetched for most of the time till a certain set of circumstances came about which rendered it, first viable and then acceptabel and finally the favorite.

Interesting... that could work. It would require a lot of work to get the POD right, but maybe...

I completely agree. A more robust LEO program for testing the LOK and LK is probably a must have.
At least, and you need to , demonstrate, prove and practice orbital rendezvous and docking and the ability to do it without 'ground control' which for the USSR is the hard part... Early space station work provides a LOT of this but as I noted that's going to be a 'distraction' from the Lunar goal. IF the US is going in under a decade can anyone afford to go the EOR/EOA/LOR route? Likely not...

Ok, that's a good plan. I would guess that something like that could advance the N1 program at least a few months, if not a year or two. If we can have it flying by 1967 that would be amazing!
One thing though is that if Glushko isn't working with Chemolie then who is? Would he and Yangel team up? I kind of doubt it because Yangel had his own idea and Chelomie seems to be to be too blase' about storeable propellant and Yangel lost friends during Needlin. If Glushko isn't backing Chelomie then he may be working for Yangel which will leave Chelomie out in the cold, (as well as Krushevs' son mind you, that won't go over well) and even if Glushko is working with Korolev the N1 as we know it isn't the design we probably want to go with...

Yeah, good points there. I'm still not entirely convinced that they wouldn't still launch it though, even with a super-high chance of failure (just look at Voskhod 2 or Soyuz 1). If they could get even one flight where it worked perfectly unmanned, and if the launch escape tower worked every time it had failed, then I'm sure they would say "screw it, let's see what happens".
I have to disagree here. If you want the Politburo on board it needs to work consistently and be convincing AS A SYSTEM! Otherwise they have too much to lose and not enough go gain by going for it. Keep in mind that at some point they HAVE to make participation in the 'race' public IF they are going to go. You can hide a lot with 'space station' operations but there's specific and crucial stuff you can't and IF you make those little 'side-tracks' you have to have enough performance and spare capability to make up the lag that causes.

Specifically the examples of Voshkod 2 and Soyuz 1 were vehicles that were KNOWN to have some issues but there was redundancy planned to cover that. It was the UNKNOWNS that caused the problems and those could not have been known without the testing that was done. Voshkod 2's airlock worked perfectly on every test on the ground so did entry and exit. It was only once they were weightless and in a vacuum that the problems cropped up. Soyuz 1 was supposed to have another vehicle as back up. Had it had it would have been abandoned in orbit and brought down remotely. Again the problem ON ORBIT was mostly stuff that worked on the ground and were based on known and understood, (so they thought) system. While there might be attempts to launch the N1 into orbit manned it certainly won't go to the Moon till it's working at least 90% of the time simply going to orbit. Keep in mind Saturn worked EVERY SINGLE LAUNCH to degree the N1 NEVER achieved and even the Proton could barely touch. "Let's see what happens" could, maybe, at the outside, be something the American's with a 99% surety of a viable launch every single time MIGHT say, it is nothing anyone in the Soviet program would EVERY say. They knew how far their technology and operations were short of the American and they played it safe for a very, very good reason.

So yes, maybe Korolev sells the N1 to the military as a huge space station or Lunar base builder. Maybe he can convince them that putting missiles on the Moon would be strategically important for some reason.
Huge payload to LEO maybe but it's Lunar throw weight was pathetic and everyone knew it. Putting missiles on the Moon was considered and dropped for some very sound reasons. Something to keep in mind is that after the Soviets had Proton up and running for a while they had a choice to make:
Use it to put a series of long orbit 'command and control' stations into Cis-Lunar long-orbit where it could never be taken out by an American "sneak" First Strike
Use it to put a small outpost on the Moon that could be use as a similar 'command and control' station but buried under the surface for extra security
Use a 'standard" ICBM and a buried command and control center on Earth to launch a single ICBM that would broadcast a "Launch" code to all launch facilities and submarines even though that was 'technically' more vulnerable than the first two.

They and everybody else, including the American's whom we KNOW could get to the Moon or Lunar orbit pretty regularly, chose option 3.

Korolev has to sell the N1 as something the military can use, yes, but he's got to sell them on it to support an already made decision by the civil authorities to support the N1. The N1 is lousy military weapon and always will be so they military interest has to be marginal but interested enough to maintain support. The "Super-ICBM" idea was always a first-strike/decapitation/devastation concept and that was pretty clear to everyone who heard it. That takes an easy to ready/launch "missile" which was never going to be the N1 in any form. Early problems, (especially a launch failure or two) of the UR500 might convince the military to look at the N1 but Korolev then has to face the fact that any "lunar" program just took a back-seat to military needs. Given a good spin on the various sub-systems, (fun-fact! the LK can actually be used as a manned satellite inspection vehicle to look at suspicious Capitalist Satellites Comrade!, "But can't you use Soyuz or Zond to do that"? "Oh look, more vodka!" :) ) some work can continue but the military focus takes precedence till they can convince the military to let them go back to planning the moon shot. This is historical BTW, Korolev ONLY got permission to work on launching a satellite AFTER he proved the R7 was military operational, the same would apply here though he could get pretty far IF the N1 can meet military specifications.

Ok, that sounds promising. I'll have to do the math on it, but it might just work.
Toss in some actual Glushko engines and tweak the upper stages and it's a lot better than OTL. It's 'slightly' less important for the Soviets but if they can work in down-range recovery for not to much of a penalty ...
(I'm seeing a bit shakey but pretty clear black and white of a stage descending towards the steppes under a set of parachutes when suddenly a roar and a cloud of dust obscure everything... as the rumble fades the dust clears to show an upright stage on some way-to-thin looking legs standing against the horizon with a voice over in accented English, "And New Soviet Man shows his technical superiority by returning a booster stage to our Earth as Mr. Helnlien-o-vitch and the non-existent God intended for it to be done!" Martial theme swells... :) )

I actually remember an Enigira-Buran thread where the POD was someone breathing in at the wrong moment, getting ever so slightly too cold, losing his balance, and falling into a lake... and another where someone (Korolev actually) didn't find a piece of bread on some super-specific table somewhere in the gulag and froze to death. Talk about being specific! Anyways I'll probably just keep to my assumption of April 1968.
I think I know which ones your talking about actually :) BTW, the 'bread' may or may have existed in the first place and Korolev admitted he wasn't in his right mind when it happened :) In my take Glushko bluffs him into eating some snow as 'bread' (eating some himself) telling him it fell out a window so he can keep going another day... Works but much later Korolev admits he KNEW it wasn't real but did so to humor Glushko because he thought HE needed the delusion :) Koroleve 'living' should be a butterfly not the POD because we really need an earlier POD or this won't work. There's to much work to do and not enough time to do it in even with the earlier POD :)

That's really good news, a Saturn I can survive parachuting into the ocean. So maybe a good second or third POD would be somehow keeping the Saturn I series alive, I'll have to think about how to do that.
As fasquadron notes if you have a US Lunar program it's likely that the Saturn 1/1B is rapidly regulated to a secondary role. I can work on some 'butterflies' where the support for Saturn is a bit more consistent if a bit less 'panicked' allowing them to actually test out the recovery/reuse aspect which will come in hand later...

Saturn-Clipper (I really like how that sounds) is definitely the way to go then.
I like the way that sounded as well :)

Also, SpaceX definitely happens, I cannot imagine that being butterflied away. I mean, Elon was convinced to start a rocket company by a meeting with Robert Zubrin, so it's possible if he's affected Musk is too, but I would bet it still exists. In fact, SpaceX's entire thing is colonizing Mars (not booster development), so if we've already proved we can go there, and given up on it, all that will probably do is make Elon want to go there even more. Blue origin also probably still exists for the same reasons. And Zubrin too for that matter. Im not sure about Virgin Galactic, paid tourist flights on Clippers might butterfly that away.
Er, SpaceX came about because Musk couldn't find an affordable launch system to put a greenhouse on Mars. Zubrin convinced him about colonizing Mars and (ahem) planted the seed of the Mars Greenhouse idea but Musk quickly realized that OTL there was no way to get it to Mars for an affordable price. Zubrin was pretty specific that 'launch' costs would come down when the "public" forced the "power-that-be" to build Mars Direct type Ares launch vehicles, not private enterprise. Zubrin was adamant ONLY the government could do this and that Musk needed to motivate the public with the Greenhouse. Zubrin was an early critic of SpaceX because he saw no 'use' for the Falcon 1/5/9 though he did get somewhat interested in the Falcon Heavy much later. Had Musk been able to get a fairly 'cheap' ride to Mars for the greenhouse SpaceX probably wouldn't have been founded and he would have gone straight onto Tesla, et-al. Also you need to read up on SpaceX NOT through Zubrin, Musk has ALWAYS been quiet adamant that SpaceX is NOT interested in creating or running a colony on Mars, (Musk in interested in LIVING there but he's in no way interested in the managerial and operational hassles of founding a colony) but in creating a TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM for going to Mars and back. TTL he may actually be more interested in the colony concept and organization, yes but he's not OTL. Getting there and back is his main goal.

Now having said that lets also look a few 'butterflies':
If you have an ongoing, (or have gone) Mars program in the US by the early 90s Zubrin is very different than OTL. For one thing the "Mars Underground" isn't a thing because every single one of them is ALREADY or has been WORKING on a US Mars program and that we did NOT have one is the only reason they came together in the first place. Zubrin never comes up with Mars Direct in this case as it was in direct response to the failure of the Space Exploration Initiative between 89 and 93. Instead he's probably still working at LM developing hardware and technology for the planned US Mars mission.(or the NEXT one at any rate) It's still possible that Musk gets involved with launch services but it's more likely something about privatizing the current government Saturn-Clipper system rather than developing a new LV. If he's 'interested' in Mars at all it's probably likely it's more along the lines of getting Tesla a contract to build a long duration, duel purpose Mars rover for the expedition rather than going to Mars himself. At least at the moment.

If we've gone and not gone back that doesn't help the situation all that much. Zubrin's mad but is unlikely too see the governemnt as a way to get to Mars again, (after all they quite the first time) and if he and Musk end up commiserating then it's more likely Musk convinces Zubrin that commercial space travel is the key to Mars and Zubrin becomes an advocate for that instead. Again, Mars Direct never come into play. Some aspects do but ISRU is really a very old idea, (first serious study in the US was in 1962) so while it will help it's not the 'key' as many think but simply a part of the needed infrastructure to make interplanetary travel less expensive.

One thing to keep in mind is that the position both Musk and Zubrin hold, (that the "general public" is highly interested in space, space travel and space colonization and only need a small 'push' to explode the interest) is going to be MUCH harder to hold to if we've been to Mars and stopped instead of just the Moon. And extra decade or two of 'sustained' interest is going to make the kick-back OTL felt in the 70s that much longer and deeper TTL. So while you might get an upsurge in space utility and industry in the 90s TTL about equal to the SPS/Space Colonization blip in OTL's late 70s/early 80s it's likely to be much more a flash-in-the-pan since the capability is more there but the overall support will be thinner. (With more and more accurate data on space transportation the 'math' is going to contain less guesswork and less chances for optimistic fudging which was prevalent OTL) It will be much clearer that there in fact NOT "Millions" of people waiting impatiently to go into 'space' at the drop of a hat.

Yes it's likely having a 'clipper' system will mean far less guesswork about space tourism and industry it depends on the amount of regulation and control on the system. Given any kind of semi-regular service to orbit, (such as supporting one or more 'international space platforms' will allow more tourist and commercial traffic. Since it's probably cheaper and easier to launch and support a specialty station "Hilton" may in fact have on in orbit :) But we'll also have a much better idea of what we can and can not do in orbit than we to OTL at the same time and it may not be as 'rosy' as some thought. It will be a mixed bag to be sure.

I kind of love and hate Mars direct.
Welcome to my world :)

It just seems too easy. It's like a 'get out of jail free' card. Quite frankly its absolutely brillent, and I'm surprised we didn't see it sooner. But, it's not that interesting. You launch two rockets, and boom, you're on Mars. An Ares mission is better in my opinion, purely because it actually does something interesting. 'It's not about the destination, but the journey' and all that. Plus it was not invented until the late 80s, so as a follow on to Ares it might work, but any earlier and you have to have someone other than Zubrin invent it.
First is IS too "easy" and simplistic and frankly while the concept is over all interesting and 'brilliant' once you first look at it, with any research you realize we HAVE thought of it before, (again it was essentially proposed in 1962 as far as ISRU for mission and vehicle support is concerned) and it is FAR from as easy or as cheap as Zubrin makes it out to be. Worse, it is exactly opposite of what you think it is and it is ALL about the 'destination" and ignores and belittles the journey as being immaterial and unimportant. The key is in the original article where Zubrin makes clear that how we planned to go to Mars in SEI, (over a 30 year period during which we built up the Earth-Luna system into a self sustaining, industrialized and colonized economic and production system which Zubrin ignores) was "not how we did Apollo" as if that was a bad thing and Apollo the only way to 'do' a space program. You may have noted I have issues with this POV :)

Instead of building up infrastructure, (IF he can get 30 years of missions to Mars his plan allows SOME infrastructure but to as you read it, you realize it all happens 'naturally' at a NOT very "fast" due to the nature of Mars Direct and the time, effort and money needed to get to the point where it can 'take off') he shoots one (1) ship and then two years later shoots two (2) more and then two years later ASSUMES there's enough interest to shoot two (2) more... Have you read, (not seen, but read) the end of "The Martian"? A kid asks the protagonist if he can't wait to go back to Mars... And then is hurt when the man who managed to survive and return from that hostile and forbidding place when that man laughs uproariously... No he's in NO hurry to every go back thank you very much. Let me address this little bit:
Actually, Mars Direct is brilliant because it is very hard to cancel.
Specifically and especially the opposite, it's far to EASY to cancel at a whim. Worse than Apollo because it's both 'cheap' (so not very much money 'sunk') and easy, (because people will get bored after the third landing) And mind you that 'assumes' (with all that work implies) that it is actually 'cheap' since as we are already aware the cost per launch of the SLS which is pretty near a Ares rocket is going to be higher per launch than the shuttle it is supposed to replace and vastly more than a single Falcon Heavy launch and it can't even do Mars Direct.... Yet.

Every mission you land a second ERV, so it makes sense to launch a follow-up mission so it isn't wasted. And if you launch a follow-up, you need to launch another ERV for safety, and the cycle continues.
Like Zubrin that somehow 'assumes' that the 'spare' ERV isn't worth 'wasting' by leaving it in place and stopping going. Have you noted the number of LEMS and unused Saturn V's in museums? They were both equivalently MORE expensive to produce. Worse, while you DO explore more area with twice as many people it's still not going to be a 'base' but single expeditions to multiple places and wee, we went to Mars again, what's on the sports tonight....

Seriously there's a REASON NASA TV and the ISS live feed have been drastically cut back.

Also, keep in mind Mars Direct needs water ice unless you want to only use the atmosphere for ISRU (which is possible, but less efficient).
Using the atmosphere and NOT having to find water-ice was in fact the 'selling' point. More so because while 'easier' to make the methane it's vastly harder to harvest the water than the atmosphere which means more equipment dedicated in the payload for processing and less for science and supplies. There's a reason the 'water-ice' spots are to be visited not landed at in the planning.

Plus, you can land them next to each other and build a base.
Yes, eventually if enough missions are run AND there's some reason to land at only one spot. Note this isn't as 'ground-breaking' as you might think the same aspect was examined for modified LEM's for advanced Apollo's.

And the Mars direct spacecraft can be modified quite easily for Lunar missions or even space stations.
Same as the Apollo equipment EXCEPT Zubrin actually points out they are really quite useless for anywhere but Mars... because why would anyone WANT to go anywhere but Mars? He proposes in the original article, (and a bit less in the book version) using MD equipment for the Moon and then spends most of the rest of the section on why that would be 'inefficient' (report) and an outright waste (book) since Mars is right there and the Moon is "useless" as are space stations and why would you go anywhere but directly from the surface of Earth to the surface of the perfect planet Mars? (And I suppose you didn't note that the Mars Direct habs actually DO require either artificial or real gravity to work properly? By design?) And since we're begin honest I myself suggested they were usable for Venus atmosphere stations... Once the "Mars Mafia" got done with the boards the only place that stuck around were heavily moderated sites like nasaspaceflight and a few others. I had the mods try at least on the NewMars forums but they were overwhelmed... At least in recent years you aren't dog-piled for any thread not directly related to Mars and Mars Direct there...

What finally 'killed' Zubrin for me was "The Case for Mars" series and his attitude there and in his 'travel to Mars guide' where he spent half a chapter tearing down and berating anyone using any other method to get to Mars other than something MD derived. His worship of Apollo as the 'right' way to do anything, (and then blaming NASA for 'squandering' public and government support like it was their fault alone) and gushing how people just need to see one human on Mars and they will throw themselves on to anything bound for Mars is both frightening and a bit worrying. (His comment "my daughter would love to live in a mall" when describing the underground housing on Mars as "like a shopping mall", along with the amount of people who eat it up without examination, would be laughable if not so sad as there are groups out there who actually KNOW what it's like to be confined to an indoor environment for years on end and I'm NOT talking about prisoners or something. I have a friend with environmental illness and going outside at the wrong time could literally kill him)

The truth is anyone on Mars or the Moon or in a space station is literally going to be enjoying the "Great Indoors" as my friend says and while that's not terrible IF you are prepared and design things right BOTH of those are quite demanding AND require a lot of work and care to plan and execute. Not be glossed over as being "like living in a shopping mall" or letting people assume they can just throw on a vac-suit and step outside whenever they want.

Sorry, sorry it's not you it's me and let's get back on topic shall we :)

So maybe more (but not complete) collaboration between Korolev and Glushko would be useful. I'll see if I can work that into the POD without going behind the 1960s, it will be hard.
Hey if it were easy everyone could do it... Like me ;)

ITL I had them launch in June 1969, so the US doesn't need to change at all. All you have to do is try and keep it secret, which would be hard, but not impossible.
Actually it WILL be "impossible" since they have to do so much testing in Earth orbit they can't be 'secret' about it. The LK for example is obviously a lander and you can't leave that for the last minute. A successful N1 flight will push the US to advance Apollo if nothing else. Anything the USSR does outside of outright sabotage to the US program to delay them means the US will pour on the coal to keep ahead. And you have to deal with that somehow. (Keep in mind the US was keeping a VERY careful eye on the USSR for exactly this reason)

This is the thing with a Soviet Lunar program timeline of any type: Unless Kennedy or someone never set the goal the US is GOING to be on the Moon by 1970 at the latest. And even if the USSR takes this seriously from day one they are STILL going to both be playing catch-up AND falling behind due to the nature of their production system and technology. (Even assuming the in-fighting can be handled which in itself is problematical) The US has that much excess industrial and scientific capacity, heck France and the UK could 'beat' the USSR if they put their minds to it and got a few breaks the Soviets were never that far 'ahead' of anyone.

And the USSR HAS to commit with all that implies to even have a shot in this so there is little wiggle room or possibility of secrecy.

As for the margins, well, theres nothing they can do about that without some major changes to the timeline, maybe even reworking the N1 to use different propellants (which I really don't want to do because, as I said, figuring out the timescales would be a nightmare). I could change the N1 program very drastically if I had no choice, but I cannot even pretend that what would come out of it would be guaranteed to be realistic. At least this way I can closely follow real events. But as I said, if I really need to, I can change it more drastically.
You may have to :) Frankly we can 'work' with the N1 but to realistically have a shot of beating the US to the Moon with it and the LK plan ... Well either the US has to find some reason to not follow up Kennedy's challenge or just screw up so badly they aren't "our" US anymore. Now that's not 'impossible' mind you, just highly implausible :)

As an example, OTL Kennedy changed his mind shortly after the whole ball got rolling and tried to offer the Soviets a joint mission which they refused. (As I note the reason was they were well aware how short their 'lead' was and how they really had no technical margin which the US would figure out within seconds of getting a look at anything they had) They could possible string a JFK that lives after Dallas along for a good while till he finally either leaves office or the US quits the 'joint operation' in disgust which could delay the US but that won't help much unless the next US President simply back-burners Apollo totally due to other more important Earth bound issues. Thing is then the US isn't going to Mars, or even the Moon as THEY quit the Space Race so the USSR going is "meh" moment rather than a triumph. More likely is Kennedy gets impeached or ousted and Johnson is ruined and the NEXT US President put Apollo back on track which will likely still beat the USSR to the Moon or at least do it bigger and better than the USSR can at any rate. They won't go to Mars though.
(Unless the next US President is RHH in which case we might see "Orion Rising" and the Soviets will have even more regrets than OTL :) )

That's a good point. So a Mars mission would need to be politically viable to get through. That might be workable.
Correction: Politically viable to President and Congress and publicly viable to the public instead of spending the money 'here' where there are numerous and very direct 'problems' the public cares about more than space flight. THAT'S why there's an issue with this working.

I would hold off on reusing the second stage since that's a lot of work. Maybe by the 90s, they can start planning to do that, but initially, it will just be the first stage coming back. Hell, for the first couple of launches they'll probably throw away the entire thing.
Ahh yes, the "SpaceX mistake/maneuver" as it were :)

How's that? Well this is the excuse that SpaceX uses but really what make this 'difficult' lead directly back to certain choices SpaceX is making and the future plans they have which simply preclude second stage reuse. ???

SpaceX set the bar with their "Falcon 9 Recovery video" where both stages were recovered by propulsive retro-fire at the launch site. On top of this Musk himself has disparaged any OTHER mean of landing other than propulsive landings. Oh and then there's the touted 'economy' of only using a single propellant over both stages, (it's not that great, especially with the current low flight rates), really they could go with a more 'powerful' upper stage propellant (such as propane :) but more likely liquid methane and a 'mini-raptor') and vastly increase their margins enough to cover re-usability, but they won't for many reasons but mostly...
And finally there's Starship/Super Heavy. That last? If it's not clear once Starship/SH is flying Falcon has to die, fast. Why? It directly competes against Starship and like the Shuttle to be 'economic' there can only be one. And since by that time there is likely to be far MORE than just 'one' launcher around, Falcon has to die to make room for Starship.

These are choices that SpaceX made and that they have to live with. Unless Starship/SH is VERY delayed or runs into significant development issues Falcon isn't going to evolve anymore... By choice and design. That's all on SpaceX....

A reusable Saturn or Saturn Clipper system is the opposite because the design decisions early on make re-use much easier and further operational decisions make institutionalizing that far easier. The Saturn uses dense, powerful propellants in the lower stage which can be optimized and economized over time. (Shades of Falcon :) ) Re-design and rebuild the booster for easier recovery and more robustness, (a given in the cited design) and economy goes through the roof despite the 'awkward' at sea recovery. (The government would have to really work to make it as expensive as the Shuttle SRB recovery and since it's NOT being shipped across the country for 'refurbishment' that's not going to happen)

The Second stage, (S-IVB really if the go with the SII that's actually easier to make cheaper) is pretty expensive but that's due to being essentially hand built and pretty fragile. Not all THAT fragile as the above cited recovery method, (at Edwards AFB to cut down on transport costs) was estimated to require the loss of around 600lbs of payload for dry land recovery. (Maybe a bit more) But the more advanced J2 engines such as the J2S and J2T were supposed to bring the back to 'standard' Saturn payload ranges with ease. And the J2T being an 'truncated aerospike engine' would have allowed the 'crush-able nose and forward reentry shield to be deleted which would have saved several hundred pounds of mass while saving structural mass due to having to only build for aft stress vectors.

There's more but the main reason you 'throw it away' at first is it's actually cheaper to do that if you have a low flight rate. The more you fly the more reuse makes economic sense.

How hard would building cylindrical tanks be? And how would it effect the overall shape of the N1, would it still look like a giant cone? I hope so, I really like the way it looks, but cylindrical tanks would be a huge help. Maybe truncated cone tanks?
A 'squat' Saturn V probably with 'transition cones' to a smaller upper stage instead of the open latice work OTL's N1 had.

I meant no propaganda value. Plus, it was assumed that a Mars mission could be spun-off into Lunar mission hardware at the end of it. And of course, the president probably doesn't care that much about the cost if we assume that an earlier end to the Vietnam war happened, or they got more funding from somewhere.
If it has no propaganda value what's the point? :) And yes, even without Vietnam cost matters and will still be an issue. Fatigue was an issue even more than the cost, and why the general population didn't much tune in till Apollo-13 went pear shaped. Apollo 14 had attention similar to Apollo 12, Apollo 15 was far less than 13 was by Apollo 17 you only got high points during the News hour, except when they took off.

Also consider that as far as I can tell, the NASA budget at the end of the 60s was around 5 billion a year. If we assume a Mars landing in 1985-ish and a total program cost of 40 billion (Apollo was 20 billion), then the annual budget on the Ares program would have to be... 1.3 billion for 15 years. Not that much. Actually, that's way less than I thought it would be. I'll have to look into that.
Peaked at around 5.9 billion in 1967 and dropped like a rock every year after that. ( Ares would have to follow a similar curve so closer to 10 to 15 billion near the time of the first landing to get the final pieces in place and ready. Adding an extra five years would make it closer to 6 to 8 billion peak with a total approaching somewhere north of 50 top 60 billion total. (You have inflation to deal with as well) and don't forget that a lot of the early NASA peak funding, (1958 to around 1965) was infrastructure and initial outlays that won't occur again as bad as the first time but you have a greatly expanded, (and expensive) run of Saturn's and their launches which is going to cost more as time goes on.

Those are good points. I would say closer to 200 years though. :)
Why? What's the 'draw' to shorten the timetable? I think Fasquadron is actually being optimistic under the circumstances myself :)