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

Many more fuels that are more toxic. You don't want to drink methanol or kerosene either.
Yeah, I should have said "toxic for a rocket propellant". I was just confused since looking up the chemical safety sheet for Furfuyl Alcohol showed something much less poisonous than I remembered and I wondered if I had miss-read the sheet all those years ago. But no, it was just that Ranulf meant Propargyl Alcohol.

Okay, here's the summary of my proposed timeline, called "Fire of Mercury:"
I like it muchly, having a PoD for both the US and the Soviets makes it a more interesting TL I think. Though the Soviet side of things feels a bit handwavey. The Soviets are making a bit commitment when they go around the moon in TTL and I am dubious that no loss of Soyuz 1 is enough of a PoD for Podsadka to look workable and attractive.

If you ever do decide to write a TL and want help with the Soviet side of things, feel free to call on me.

I also wonder if the weight and complexity of a two gas system from Mercury onwards would make the Lunar Gemini concept more attractive? (Assuming there IS a Gemini program at all.) And that smaller, less capable capsule, may make it more worthwhile for the Soviets to race...

Also, I suspect that the LEM would end up being a pure oxygen system for landings at least. Less complexity, less time to get in and out of space suits while on the surface. Does NASA invest in the extra expense of giving the LEM a dual-gas mode as well? Or would investing in life-boat capability for the LEM be too much ITTL?

fasquardon
 
Perhaps I should have said, "Gemini program schedule and achievements largely unchanged" instead of "unchanged"--my point was not that there wouldn't be changes from issues like the ones you cite, but rather that those are are the kinds of operational changes and implications I'd need to research and think through to write the full version. However, they're below the level of detail on the draft, other the implications: Apollo is a little heavier, takes a few months longer to get to first manned flight, and a little longer to the moon (so the Soviets aren't too far behind even with the likely issues with N1 and their trickery with technicalities and multiple-launches).
Uhm the reason I mentioned them is they WOULD effect those operations and have implications for Apollo even if they are not in place by Gemini and probably a bit worse than you assume :)

Probably an easier way to 'delay' Apollo than my idea.. I like it as a concept though :)

Given Shuttle was the very next US crew vehicle, saying that "they didn't change the pure oxygen atmosphere IOTL until Shuttle" is missing the point a little--they changed it as soon as they could without radically altering the Apollo program already in progress because by 1967 they didn't have time to make the changes. In 1962, they can order the change to happen on the drawing board less than two months after originally requesting the switch away from two-gas.
Actually it WAS the point as you note OTL they felt they could not take the time to 'fix' the situation due to time constraint on Apollo but they could and did change things with the Shuttle, ISS and likely Orion. And while they can order it in '62 the down-stream effects are huge and pretty wide-spread. For one thing they still have to use pure O2 on the LM at least on the surface otherwise it suddenly doesn't work. Adding mutliple two-hour 'purge' breaths (and the extra oxygen stores to accomplish it) for EVA"s isn't going to work and neither is having the suits at the higher two-gas pressure so that would have to be built into each EVA itself. NASA can order it but part of the reason they, Grumann and NAA agreed on the change initialy was it saved a lot of mass and allowed a way to start ramping down the CM/LM mass growth issues. Did I mention I LOVE this as an issue they'd have to find a way to deal with :)

I'd imagine after an actual fire in space that threatened an astronaut's life, fire prevention in the cabin will be of much higher concern, as it was post-Apollo 1 IOTL. Thus, a lot of those flammable materials won't be in the cabin ITTL. After all, the "fire of mercury" could have been fatal for Wally in this timeline if he hadn't already been suited up, strapped into a seat, and tied into an auto-switching separate environmental loop so he could vent the cabin. That's not a viable solution for the length of a Gemini or particularly an Apollo flight, so they have to focus on preventing fires from starting, not simply on depressurizing the cabin and surviving them.
Likely correct but probably more to the point pretty much everyone knew NAA was taking such short-cuts as were their sub-contractors. The second thing was those materials were being used because finding and R&D-ing new and more safe materials would take months they didn't think they had. The landing had slipped from late 66 to mid-68 already and the time crunch was that should more issues crop up, (and they had to assume they would given the Saturn V hadn't flown yet, the LM was still on the drawing board and the Apollo CM hadn't flown, etc) they might need to push things back to 1969 even if nothing major happened. It was assumed in fact that while the 'target' was 68, 69 was going to be the reality and despite still being 'in-this-decade' if they had to delay to 1970 there were going to be public and political issues no one wanted to deal with. Part and parcel of the 'issues' that lead to Apollo 1 was the rush, the feeling of lost time, and the absolulte priority of getting things done and setting aside the consequences unless something happened. Something did and while NASA-et-al were then forced to sit down and take the time they should have in the first place that made the time crunch even worse and the 'waste-anything-but-time" even more frantic.

Ya almost losing a Mercury astronaut to an on-orbit fire will trickle down no doubt, but so did "fixing" an 'accidental activation of a pyrotechnic pressure hatch system' which was arguably as reponsible for killing the Apollo 1 crew as a pure oxygen atmosphere in the capsule. The issues that lead to the decisions that then lead to the fire were indemic in a lot of ways to NAA itself and when the lack of NASA official oversight got piled on top...

Thanks for sharing that's quite an interesting concept :)

As an aside I'm begining to realize that none of my 'timeline' concepts are like this per-se. While my research and outlining, (what I do of the latter anyway :) ) is more suited to background for individual 'scenes' and 'viginettes' than a normal time line or choronolgy. I'm thinking I may need to plan on posting them to the writers forum rather than the actual time line threads...

Randy
 
I like it muchly, having a PoD for both the US and the Soviets makes it a more interesting TL I think. Though the Soviet side of things feels a bit handwavey. The Soviets are making a bit commitment when they go around the moon in TTL and I am dubious that no loss of Soyuz 1 is enough of a PoD for Podsadka to look workable and attractive.
It's a little handwavy and sketchy at this point in development, yeah. My thought with regards to Podsadka is that with the American's publicly broadcasting the delays they're experiencing with Saturn V, the Soviet leadership feel like there's a chance N-1 and Saturn V come online essentially simultaneously, and in the meantime, Soyuz looks like it can get around the Moon fine...if Proton can get it to orbit. Michin pushes for the circumlunar flight as PR. This is in part because while his position as Korolev's successor depends on being able to manage Soyuz into regular operation, his own success in stepping beyond Korolev's shadow would come from seeing it to, and eventually onto, the Moon. However, when Proton's problems peak in 1968 and 1969, then Podsadka is the only option--put the crew on the proven R-7, put the mission stack on the Proton which only it can handle. From the Michin diaries, it sounds like they looked at it pretty seriously IOTL, so it's a matter of having its actual execution approved, then roll the hard six for getting a Proton that doesn't fail.

Note the impact here on the Soviet side from the American Apollo and particularly Saturn V delays.
If you ever do decide to write a TL and want help with the Soviet side of things, feel free to call on me.
Thanks, I'll keep that in mind!
I also wonder if the weight and complexity of a two gas system from Mercury onwards would make the Lunar Gemini concept more attractive? (Assuming there IS a Gemini program at all.) And that smaller, less capable capsule, may make it more worthwhile for the Soviets to race...
I think by the end of 1962, the possibility of Gemini being cancelled is unlikely, though it's possible from quick skims of "On the Shoulders of Titans" that Agena tests may be curtailed or eliminated in favor of a less-complex docking partner. However, the same budget crisis in late 1962 that hurt Agena (and may be a bit worse here if they're trying to implement two-gas Gemini or additional fire prevention mid-program) is likely to help scupper Lunar Gemini as it did IOTL. There's just too much benefit in Apollo's ability to dock nose-on with a pressurized passage and a third crew-member, among other benefits. Even if Apollo's another few hundred pounds heavier, that doesn't replace it--if you're willing to accept lunar gemini, you might as well accept just cutting the third crewmember out of Apollo and finding the 200 lb mass savings. ;) But I suspect they'd just lean harder on NAA's S-II and Apollo teams to find the extra mass savings, which gets me my Saturn V and Apollo delays.
Also, I suspect that the LEM would end up being a pure oxygen system for landings at least. Less complexity, less time to get in and out of space suits while on the surface. Does NASA invest in the extra expense of giving the LEM a dual-gas mode as well? Or would investing in life-boat capability for the LEM be too much ITTL?
I think it'd have to have two-gas capability for docked operations, an airlock is infeasible on the face of it. However, it's possible that as you suggest the LM may have a pure-oxygen mode for landing operations, depending on if the prebreathing problems @RanulfC points out render surface operations merely "compromised" or flat out infeasible. If they do, then Grumman will be getting serious pressure to demonstrate they're as fireproof as can be during the surface stay. They can obviously do it--they did IOTL, after all--but it serves to help add more complication and give the Soviets a nearer shot at catching up.
 
"All-up" was a NASA decision, not an OMB one. They did the entire 16-flight series of approach and landing tests for Shuttle, testing as much as they could without lighting rockets. This is a rough parallel--and note it helps qualify the Lifter to self-ferry in normal airspace for trips back to its originally assembly site for maintenance.
For the Saturn NASA managment looked at the testing timeline Marshall had drawn up and felt it was to 'close' a margin since the first manned flight wasn't till the middle of 1968 in that schedule :) So they told Von Bruan to rack-em, stack-em, and launch-em. VB didn't like it but he didn't like giving up on EOR either....

For the Shuttle yes they did the A&L series with an Orbiter which was not configured or made like the Orbiters it emulated. And they also discovered they screwed up a lot of the aerodynamic assumptions. But the A&L tests were litterally the last five minutes of a flight and OMB had been whittling away at the planned "flight testing" plan and the ONLY thing left was A&L.

Well, this is standardized--three stages, three configurations. You could argue that's the same number of individual components and fewer configurations than Atlas V!
Actually my point since it VERY much streamlines the configuration testing :)

Randy
 
Uhm the reason I mentioned them is they WOULD effect those operations and have implications for Apollo even if they are not in place by Gemini and probably a bit worse than you assume :) Probably an easier way to 'delay' Apollo than my idea.. I like it as a concept though :)
They'd definitely be serious problems that would keep legions of engineers up at night and consume thousands of words in the full timeline--they're great "incidental richness" in working to turn the drama level of the moon race pre-1969 up to "11". There's basically three reasons I really like the concept for this timeline.

One is finding a way to delay the US lunar program in the process of avoiding their earliest major tragedy, turning a blessing into a curse in a way, and what that means for them and the Soviets getting to the Moon. Making the first American landing happen in November of 1969 in this timeline is no accident on my part. :) I need the US delayed since there's only so far the Soviets can be advanced, but the Saturn V and Apollo delays (as well as the sideshow of wetlab OWS) are ways to do that without it feeling mean, and in fact making things more dramatic.

The second is how the delicate dance of competing lunar programs changes Shuttle ITTL--IOTL, since the race was basically "over" by 1970 with the Soviets trying to pretend they'd never been in it in the first place, the influence of Apollo operations and future expectations on the Shuttle that we got isn't felt as strongly, at least once AAP and IPP died. Here, the race is actually just peaking in 1970/71 as the Soviets begin their own landings and introduce capabilities that match or exceed Apollo with the two-LK mission plan, so the Shuttle is closely tied to Saturn V (and I can indulge my love of reusability even more than in Right Side Up).

The third aspect is the end of the moon race with the joint lunar expedition of '76 (or '77, or however the timing worked out in writing it). The thought of the handshake on the moon as the end of lunar operations for the Soviets and possibly at least a gap of a few years if not a longer break/end for the Americans as well feels so emotionally resonant as a culmination of the timeline. Part of why I wanted to write this summary up when I did was being worried "For All Time" was going to go the same way, and worrying it'd look like I was copying them. Fortunately, it seems they've chosen to go a more adversarial route.

There's been a lot of talk on the first two points, I'm interested about any thoughts on the second or third. :)

As an aside I'm begining to realize that none of my 'timeline' concepts are like this per-se. While my research and outlining, (what I do of the latter anyway :) ) is more suited to background for individual 'scenes' and 'viginettes' than a normal time line or choronolgy. I'm thinking I may need to plan on posting them to the writers forum rather than the actual time line threads...

Randy
If you do any vignettes like that, I'd love to read them. I do tend to write my TLs as big "arcs" with fuzzy details, and then fill the details back in in the process of writing the full version, but it's also interesting to take details, make scenes, and only then try to stitch them together. I get the feeling that's a bit like how @BowOfOrion writes Ocean of Storms, and that's some of the best written "crazy astronaut stuff" AH we've had on this board in quite a while.
 
Alright, so a lot of stuff has happened while I was away apparently. I don’t have the time to reply to all of the comments that have appeared in this thread, but trust me I have read them.

Okay, here's the summary of my proposed timeline, called "Fire of Mercury:"
Wow.... e of pi on my thread, I must be dreaming! Seriously though, that’s a very good timeline - not what I’m looking for exactly but I still loved reading it.

Anyways, back to worldbuilding:

I’m starting to realise that I have a very big issue: there are a billion different ways to make this timeline work and I need to pick one. So, let’s try to simplify this as much as possible.

The requirements of this timeline are simple: A POD in the early to mid 1960s, A Soviet Lunar landing in the late 1960s, and a Mars landing in the mid 1980s. So, first things first, let’s look at the Americans. The actual American Mars mission will go forward as I laid it out in my earlier post, with a ship similar to the one in NASA’s Waterloo. One of the big issues however is figuring out how much this will cost, and looking back at that post I was way too optimistic.

The Saturn V upgrades will probably cost 3 billion dollars, (1969 dollars), OTL the entire Saturn program cost 9 billion. The MEM will cost 5 to 6 billion dollars, and the Hab Module will cost 2 or 3 billion. The NERVA program will cost around 5 billion I would guess, and there will be around 2 to 4 billion dollars in operational costs (OTL Apollo operations was 1.5 billion), plus let’s say 2 to 4 billion in updating Apollo hardware. Add to that, say, 5 billion in general costs (crew training, ground facility construction, etc), and you get a total of 24 to 30 billion dollars (keep in mind that’s on top of the Apollo program which already cost 20 billion).

So, what will convince congress to spend 25 billion dollars on a program like this? A Soviet Lunar landing won’t do much probably, and a Soviet Lunar base will just prompt an American Lunar base. It’s possible that a really big Soviet Lunar presence could prompt the construction of infrastructure like a Lunar transportation system that could one day support a Mars expedition, but not something like the Ares program. I guess at the end of the day, Mars is a very far-off goal, and to most Americans there’s no reason to go there.

Unless...

———

Lets have an initial POD in the early 60s where Korolev convinces the Soviet leadership and the military that a manned Lunar program is worth looking into. They conclude that the development of heavy lift vehicles and a manned deep-space program would be beneficial, but a more unified Soviet Space Program would be needed to effectively compete with the Americans. So in ~1962 they order the various design bureaus to work more closely together, and Glushko agrees to build a high performance engine for Korolev’s N1 (possibly helped by an accident involving hypergolics that kills a bunch of people). Said engine might run off of kerolox, or maybe kerosene/H2O2 if Glushko wants an engine he can also use on ICBMs. The Proton rocket is probably still built, but may run off of kerosene/H2O2 if that’s the case, and it will probably eventually be replaced by the N11. The UR-700 is never considered a viable option due to it using toxic hypergolic propellents, which are seen as extremely dangerous thanks to the accident mentioned earlier, but a version rushing off of kerosene/H2O2 might survive.

Korolev survives until the mid 70s, and the N1 starts flying in late 1967. The first flight is a failure, but following ones are successes. By early 1967 the Soyuz spacecraft is ready and Soyuz 1 and 2 fly, rendezvousing in orbit. They are followed by Soyuz 3 and 4 that dock in late 1967. In mid 1967 LK-1 flys, and fails. LK-2 flys a few months later and is partially successful. Then in early 1968 Soyuz 5 and LK-3 rendezvous and dock, and a manned test of the LK is performed.

In early 1968 an unmanned Zond spacecraft is sent into Lunar orbit by an N1, and in mid 1968 an unmanned Soyuz 7K-LOK / LK stack is sent to Lunar orbit and back. Finally, in January of 1969, Alexei Leonov becomes the first man to walk on the Lunar surface.

Meanwhile in the US things are not going so well. The CIA had reported that the Soviets had been fielding a super-heavy lift vehicle since 67, but with the initial flight destroying one of the launch complexes and their spies being adamant that the manned Lunar spacecraft were suffering huge delays, they had assumed it wasn’t going to be an issue. That had changes by 68, with the vehicle successfully flying 4 times, but again their spies insisted no manned missions would take place soon. Apparently they were wrong. What’s worse, it wasn’t a one-off stunt. Again in June an N1 rocket blasted off from Baikonur and landed a man on the Lunar surface. By then Apollo 10 had already performed an American landing, but it was still demoralising.

The president is given a report in mid 1969 on the current US Space Program, and after much deliberation, Nixon decides to increase funding for Apollo in the hopes of beating the Soviets to the eventual construction of a Lunar base. To do this the Saturn production lines are re-opened, and work on the NERVA program continues in the hopes of building a Saturn IB derivative that can place base elements on the Lunar surface. Meanwhile LEM shelters and MOLEMs start being developed, and contractors are assigned for the eventual LESA base modules that will be flown in 1976. In 1971 Apollo 16 lands next to a LEM shelter and officially becomes the first Lunar base, while Apollo 17 lands next to a MOLEM a half-dozen months later. By early 1973 the NERVA program is on track to produce a working flight-ready engine within 6 months, Skylab is almost ready for flight, and Apollo 19 has confirmed the existence of ice at the Lunar South Pole. The Clipper Program is also proceeding very well, with the Saturn IB launched mini-Shuttle ready for flights as early as 1979. The Soviets, meanwhile, are still working on building a relatively tiny Lunar program built around their LKs (Lunar craft), LUs (Lunar shelters), and LLs (Lunokhod laboratories).

Then, in July of 1973, everything changes. Confused radar operators across the US report that Salyut 2 is accelerating, massively. Just a few hours later Brezhnev goes on live TV and addresses the world, saying “the Soviet Union has begun to take its first steps towards the conquest of the planets”. Salyut 2, which was assembled over 11 months requiring 1 Proton and 3 N1 launches, is revealed to be not a huge space station, but an interplanetary spacecraft destined for Mars. It cannot enter orbit, but Brezhnev assures the world that future spacecraft will, and eventually, they shall even land there.

The president (perhaps Kennedy) is not happy, and immediately orders a review of the Soviets capabilities, and NASA’s ability to respond. The CIA conclude that they have the capability to launch as many as 5 N1s a year, and that they are in fact working on some sort of large-scale development project. Exactly what that is no one can tell, but it’s about the same scale as their Lunar program. NASA engineers brought on to examine the NRO intelligence warns them that the N1 is fully capable of performing a Mars landing mission, if the Soviets really push for it.

NASA meanwhile has no way to immediately respond. Although they have NERVA motors and better lift vehicles, they don’t have habitation modules designed for interplanetary space, and it will take at least a year to design one. As for actually landing, while the LEM could theoretically be quickly and dirtily modified to land on Mars, a dedicated vehicle would be a million times better and they simply cannot build one quickly.

The president re-tasks NASA to try to solve these issues, and fast. Contracts for a deep-space habitation module are passed out to McDonnell Douglas, contracts for the MEM are passed out to North American, and in September of 1973 the Ares Program is officially launched.

———

So, what do you think? A Soviet Mars mission is defiantly a good way to get an American one, but do you think it’s feasible? Personally I think so, especially with a more successful N1 program. Keeping it a secret from the US might be hard, as some of you pointed out, but I don’t think it’s completely impossible. By the way is the 1973 launch window accurate? I picked that because a Mars probe launched then OTL, but I don’t know if it would work on a return trajectory. For the record the Soviet interplanetary ship has around 5 to 6 km/s of Delta-v.
 
Quick on the LEM:

I think it'd have to have two-gas capability for docked operations, an airlock is infeasible on the face of it. However, it's possible that as you suggest the LM may have a pure-oxygen mode for landing operations, depending on if the prebreathing problems @RanulfC points out render surface operations merely "compromised" or flat out infeasible. If they do, then Grumman will be getting serious pressure to demonstrate they're as fireproof as can be during the surface stay. They can obviously do it--they did IOTL, after all--but it serves to help add more complication and give the Soviets a nearer shot at catching up.
The LM would be able to handle the two-gas mix while docked but itself set up for a pure O2 at lower pressure operation for the Lunar Landing. While docked to the CM it gets most of its LS from the CSM stack but once undocked, (actually about an hour prior to go for landing and undocking) the hatch is closed and the residual duel gas atmosphere is slowly replaced by a lower pressure pure O2 mix all the way to the surface. (This doubles as the nitrogen purge for the astronauts) Once the ascent module has redocked with the CM the atmopshere is again replaced (From CSM stocks) with the two gas mix and 'normal' docked operations resumed until it's cast off. That should cover most of the bases I think?

I like it muchly, having a PoD for both the US and the Soviets makes it a more interesting TL I think.
Agreed as it makes it more a 'race' and less one-sided.

Though the Soviet side of things feels a bit handwavey. The Soviets are making a bit commitment when they go around the moon in TTL and I am dubious that no loss of Soyuz 1 is enough of a PoD for Podsadka to look workable and attractive.
Eh, I can see it especially if someone can convince Brezhnev that it will be a legacy defining moment so he has more personal buy-in which he lacked OTL. The around the moon stunt and subsquent panic may intice him and the Podsadka method can be argued to be 'proven' with such a flight...

If you ever do decide to write a TL and want help with the Soviet side of things, feel free to call on me.
Heh, heh, heh... Er, I mean that's great, wonderful of you to offer "him" help and all that :)

I also wonder if the weight and complexity of a two gas system from Mercury onwards would make the Lunar Gemini concept more attractive? (Assuming there IS a Gemini program at all.) And that smaller, less capable capsule, may make it more worthwhile for the Soviets to race...
Lunar Gemini looks great on paper but has some VERY significant issues that will require turning Gemini into something very much else to get the job done. That's why I suggested it be the way to 'side-track' the US program. Since the original LG program is going to quickly be realized to pretty much be exactly what the Soviet's are doing, (and based on a less capable capsule I might add) it's why I suggest they will switch to Direct Ascent to get TWO men on the Moon for longer just in case...

They'd definitely be serious problems that would keep legions of engineers up at night and consume thousands of words in the full timeline--they're great "incidental richness" in working to turn the drama level of the moon race pre-1969 up to "11".
I don't know, after all the US has WD40 and Duct-tape and we all know about "American Igenuity" being an almost "Weak-God-Like" power and all that... It may end up with details, details, speculation, more-details, (a-miracile-occurs) some-more-details and the US is flying the Enterprise in circles around Salyut...

There's basically three reasons I really like the concept for this timeline.

One is finding a way to delay the US lunar program in the process of avoiding their earliest major tragedy, turning a blessing into a curse in a way, and what that means for them and the Soviets getting to the Moon. Making the first American landing happen in November of 1969 in this timeline is no accident on my part. :) I need the US delayed since there's only so far the Soviets can be advanced, but the Saturn V and Apollo delays (as well as the sideshow of wetlab OWS) are ways to do that without it feeling mean, and in fact making things more dramatic.
I can see/agree with that

The second is how the delicate dance of competing lunar programs changes Shuttle ITTL--IOTL, since the race was basically "over" by 1970 with the Soviets trying to pretend they'd never been in it in the first place, the influence of Apollo operations and future expectations on the Shuttle that we got isn't felt as strongly, at least once AAP and IPP died. Here, the race is actually just peaking in 1970/71 as the Soviets begin their own landings and introduce capabilities that match or exceed Apollo with the two-LK mission plan, so the Shuttle is closely tied to Saturn V (and I can indulge my love of reusability even more than in Right Side Up).
One thing along those lines that I was going to suggest here when/if discussion of going "Lunar-Gemini" rogue is that I noted NASA will be loath to give up Apollo and will fight tooth-and-nail to retain it no matter what Kennedy. (or whomever) wants. So there is the "compromise" where Apollo is scaled back and made the "Post-Lunar-Landing" program instead of the Lunar Landing program. (Apollo Applications Program as it were) with the Lunar Gemini more a stopgap and 'get this job then move on' type program. The idea is that since it will be cheaper and easier than Apollo it will free up money and resources to make better long term plans for Apollo and what comes after it.

So essentially TTL's AAP embraces all the stuff OTL AAP did but also a large space station and reduced costs. The initial run of Saturn V's is followed by a slow and steady, (every other year) production of one or two Saturn V stacks that can be used for whatever AAP project comes up and with that and advanced planning they can actually set some future goals with less political oppositiong as long as it keeps things hopping at the various vote-generation activities.. I mean industrial work sites of course :)

This allows serious examination and study of various means to reduce the cost of access to orbit, (including a shuttle system) while surpressing things like immediatly leaping for Mars, (though I'm of a mind that any 'close' race on the Moon or if the Soviet's get there first the AAP Venus flyby becomes pretty inevitable pretty quickly) or "super-heavy" post-Apollo launchers that were prevelent OTL in favor of using what they have and is a near future option.

The third aspect is the end of the moon race with the joint lunar expedition of '76 (or '77, or however the timing worked out in writing it). The thought of the handshake on the moon as the end of lunar operations for the Soviets and possibly at least a gap of a few years if not a longer break/end for the Americans as well feels so emotionally resonant as a culmination of the timeline. Part of why I wanted to write this summary up when I did was being worried "For All Time" was going to go the same way, and worrying it'd look like I was copying them. Fortunately, it seems they've chosen to go a more adversarial route.

There's been a lot of talk on the first two points, I'm interested about any thoughts on the second or third. :)
That would actually work, having AAP's "joint" mission being a Lunar Landing using the new Apollo system rather than Gemini.

If you do any vignettes like that, I'd love to read them. I do tend to write my TLs as big "arcs" with fuzzy details, and then fill the details back in in the process of writing the full version, but it's also interesting to take details, make scenes, and only then try to stitch them together. I get the feeling that's a bit like how @BowOfOrion writes Ocean of Storms, and that's some of the best written "crazy astronaut stuff" AH we've had on this board in quite a while.
I'll give it a shot sometime in the near future then... Or get distracted with the "Next Big Idea" which is a perennisal problem :)

Randy
 
Heh, heh, heh... Er, I mean that's great, wonderful of you to offer "him" help and all that :)
?

Based on the Soviet parts of other e of pi timelines, I don't think my time would be wasted.

Eh, I can see it especially if someone can convince Brezhnev that it will be a legacy defining moment so he has more personal buy-in which he lacked OTL. The around the moon stunt and subsquent panic may intice him and the Podsadka method can be argued to be 'proven' with such a flight...
Brezhnev, who's guiding principal was to not rock the boat and take things easy? I am dubious. Maybe if Brezhnev got a proposal with a much higher margin of success. But before the guy went senile in the 70s, he was a pretty sharp tack, so I reckon he'd want to know how a free-return swing around the moon would be followed up.

Honestly, the best bet for the Soviets was to compete asymmetrically. Pick something easier that they could claim was better than the US Apollo mission - for example, if the Soviet promises in the 60s to explore the Solar System robotically had come to more. My understanding is that one of the reasons why the Soviets didn't do more with robot probes is because their Luna program had such a high failure rate. Maybe a PoD that gives the Soviets a better electronics industry is the way forward? That would also give the N1 a shot of working. Especially if a greater committment to robot probes meant that the N1 wasn't allowed to grow to such an oversized beast. Even keeping the N1's payload to 80 tonnes into LEO would make the engineering much easier. And a N1 with a throw of 40-60 tonnes to LEO even more easy.

Then again, most failures in the Luna program were launch vehicle failures, and the most important ones for the race - the first rover and the first sample return missions - were both Proton failures. Would better electronics help with those failures? I'm not sure. Maybe in a TL where there were no Proton and the N1 were developed as the Soviet super-ICBM?

And it it reasonable to suppose that a more successful Soviet robot probe program would be enough to get the US feeling that landing men on the moon after the first successful Soviet robot rover and sample return was coming up short. We'd also need some sort of craze for robots I think.

That said, I still have trouble imagining how this might lead to a US manned Mars landing.

I don't know, after all the US has WD40 and Duct-tape and we all know about "American Igenuity" being an almost "Weak-God-Like" power and all that...
I was very disappointed when I went to the US for the first time and got to see real American duct tape. Its qualities were well short of what the Analog letters section had led me to expect...

So, what do you think? A Soviet Mars mission is defiantly a good way to get an American one, but do you think it’s feasible? Personally I think so, especially with a more successful N1 program. Keeping it a secret from the US might be hard, as some of you pointed out, but I don’t think it’s completely impossible. By the way is the 1973 launch window accurate? I picked that because a Mars probe launched then OTL, but I don’t know if it would work on a return trajectory. For the record the Soviet interplanetary ship has around 5 to 6 km/s of Delta-v.
Well, why are the Soviets trying to get to Mars? With all the problems just getting the Soviets interested in going to the moon, where do all the resources for a Soviet Mars program come from? Why don't they spend all these extra resources on Earth?

And the N1 can't operate with the kind of secrecy you propose. The US has spy satellites regularly over-flying Baikonur and the N1 is so powerful each launch can be detected by seismograph.

There's been a lot of talk on the first two points, I'm interested about any thoughts on the second or third. :)
On the second point: The US side of the competition seems solid. The Soviet side... Well, you need better explanations of the "how and why" to suspend my disbelief.

I have trouble seeing why the Soviets would see their actions in this TL as beneficial.

On the third point, I really like this part of the TL, considering the era and the bind both programs are in, this is a great way to go for both of them. It also is a way to end the moon race that could have interesting effects on Earth. Does this encourage a stronger era of detente? Is Afghanistan in this TL resolved by the Soviets and Americans negotiating a deal instead of a Soviet invasion to (as they saw it) stop Afghanistan flipping to the US? And does a handshake on the moon mean that the Americans enter the 80s thinking Soviet technology is better than it is since they've not seen the inside of a Soyuz capsule?

fasquardon
 
Well, why are the Soviets trying to get to Mars? With all the problems just getting the Soviets interested in going to the moon, where do all the resources for a Soviet Mars program come from? Why don't they spend all these extra resources on Earth?

And the N1 can't operate with the kind of secrecy you propose. The US has spy satellites regularly over-flying Baikonur and the N1 is so powerful each launch can be detected by seismograph.
I would imagine that the Soviets would be looking for a high-profile program which they can do very cheaply and bait the Americans into spending billions of dollars on a response for. Keep in mind, the Soviets don’t actually have to go to Mars, they just have to make it look like they are. And if it’s successful, the Americans will have wasted 20 to 60 billion dollars on a pointless program, something that the Soviets need America to do if they want to start caching up economically.

As for the secrecy, yes, there’s no way to hide an N1 launch. But, you can hide what the payload is. In this case, the Mars flyby craft was disguised as ‘Salyut 2’, a large modular space station to conduct Earth-observance missions, similar in shape to a few Skylab docked together. In reality, it was a regular-sized Almaz station with 3 huge propulsion blocks docked to it.

I would like to do more worldbuilding but at this point I need to know for certain when the Mars transfer windows are, I cannot keep guessing. If any of you know, that would be very much appreciated.
 
Based on the Soviet parts of other e of pi timelines, I don't think my time would be wasted.
I'll happily admit that the Soviet side of things in the 60s and 70s is a weakness in my understanding of things, both in terms of their specific hardware alternative plans at various times and their leadership at the national level and internecine programmatic struggles. Moreover, the timelines I've worked on have always been better for the assistance of subject experts and co-writers.

Brezhnev, who's guiding principal was to not rock the boat and take things easy? I am dubious. Maybe if Brezhnev got a proposal with a much higher margin of success. But before the guy went senile in the 70s, he was a pretty sharp tack, so I reckon he'd want to know how a free-return swing around the moon would be followed up....

On the second point: The US side of the competition seems solid. The Soviet side... Well, you need better explanations of the "how and why" to suspend my disbelief.

I have trouble seeing why the Soviets would see their actions in this TL as beneficial.
This is the rough draft of the track I'd want to force them onto to get the US where I want them to be--I'd need to do a lot of research to find out how much possibility there is to make that track look attractive or pressure to apply to push them into it. Part of it is delaying the US heavy lifter, making it look like there's a real chance to beat the US to the moon overall as late as 1967/68, and another bit is buffing the reputation of the interal Soviet programs by having a successful Soyuz 1 and other early Soyuz flights in 1967 and early 1968 to pave the way--if they're proving out rendezvous and docking and showing that it really is whether they can get Proton up successfully that's the concern and that the same will be the main concern for N-1--and a concern the US will also have to face around the same time--then without fore-knowledge of the N-1's struggles, it looks more attractive to go ahead and put crew into a Soyuz (already been done for more than a year) on a Zond profile (with earlier unmanned Zond 5/6-style successes created by reshuffling the order of Proton failures) since the US program is very publicly in trouble with their heavy lifter in the late-67, mid-68 time frame.
 
I would like to do more worldbuilding but at this point I need to know for certain when the Mars transfer windows are, I cannot keep guessing. If any of you know, that would be very much appreciated.
You can use windows from historical probes pretty well for straight shots, or make your own porkchop plots here: http://sdg.aero.upm.es/index.php/online-apps/porkchop-plot. However, for flybys you may need to track down historical studies as many include things like Venus flybys in addition which complicate the mission timing--you can check blogs like David Portree or False Steps, or directly dig into NTRS. Mars launch windows come up basically ever 26 months, though there's some delta-v cost variation by year.

I would imagine that the Soviets would be looking for a high-profile program which they can do very cheaply and bait the Americans into spending billions of dollars on a response for. Keep in mind, the Soviets don’t actually have to go to Mars, they just have to make it look like they are. And if it’s successful, the Americans will have wasted 20 to 60 billion dollars on a pointless program, something that the Soviets need America to do if they want to start caching up economically.
A point someone might make in this timeline, though: who cares if the Soviets get to Mars first? They got to the moon first, and it didn't mean anything--they're not really leading in exploration of the Moon in your outline after getting there first, and that exploration hasn't produced all that much of strategic value. There's propaganda value in being first, but there's value in being second and "best". Trying to declare a "race" against an opponent who's already made their first launch to the final target is silly. Sticking up a Mars flyby or Mars orbiter is mostly going to be a matter of stacking a Skylab on a NERVA or other departure stage, but the US is unlikely to have a lander ready for at least two synods--so no launch in 1975, meaning a first American flight to Mars in 1977--probably not all that much later than they were already likely to be planning.

And, of course, there's the cost of this to the Soviets for even this flyby stunt...
 
? Based on the Soviet parts of other e of pi timelines, I don't think my time would be wasted.
Taking the "you" in a more general sense... :D

e of pi timeline? Oh "time" will be wasted, of that have no doubt :) I ALWAYS leave plenty of time alloted to 'waste' on here and especially when you or e of pi have something to say :)

Randy
 
Brezhnev, who's guiding principal was to not rock the boat and take things easy? I am dubious. Maybe if Brezhnev got a proposal with a much higher margin of success. But before the guy went senile in the 70s, he was a pretty sharp tack, so I reckon he'd want to know how a free-return swing around the moon would be followed up.
Percipitating and organizing what amounts to a 'coup' is a bit 'rockiing-the-boat-ish' I'd say. Granted it was popular but one reason it came as a surpise to Krushchev was he was caught off-guard by Brezhnev, But yes, he's going to balk I'd think at comitting to the Moon Race at that late of a date and what it will cost to 'play' the game.

Honestly, the best bet for the Soviets was to compete asymmetrically. Pick something easier that they could claim was better than the US Apollo mission - for example, if the Soviet promises in the 60s to explore the Solar System robotically had come to more. My understanding is that one of the reasons why the Soviets didn't do more with robot probes is because their Luna program had such a high failure rate. Maybe a PoD that gives the Soviets a better electronics industry is the way forward? That would also give the N1 a shot of working. Especially if a greater committment to robot probes meant that the N1 wasn't allowed to grow to such an oversized beast. Even keeping the N1's payload to 80 tonnes into LEO would make the engineering much easier. And a N1 with a throw of 40-60 tonnes to LEO even more easy.
And I suspect that would have a higher flight rate as well which has follow ons. Experiance with orbital assembly/automatic docking would allow them to build 'worrying' payloads to differenct destinations. Adapt a few RORSAT/TOPAZ reactors to a couple experimental ion drive probes. Maybe have France 'inadvertently' share too much electronics technology which gives the Soviets a leg up so more probes work long and further?

Then again, most failures in the Luna program were launch vehicle failures, and the most important ones for the race - the first rover and the first sample return missions - were both Proton failures. Would better electronics help with those failures? I'm not sure. Maybe in a TL where there were no Proton and the N1 were developed as the Soviet super-ICBM?
Well that was a miltary requirement seeing as they HAD a bomb that big but needed a delivery system. The "other" possibly uses of such a booster were a bonus. And frankly the moment the American's start flying the Saturn 1 the Soviets have to respond with something. And there's space missions that will eventually needs something bigger than the R7. I don't see Chelomie NOT getting a big job, (and he wanted the military booster job) after hiring Krushchev's son so a 'similar' N1 is probably inevitable but I have to wonder if a smaller and easier N1 wouldn't have played better all around.

In a similar vein if the Korolev, being denied a part of the Lunar mission even as a backup, can curb his booster envy and bide his time he can continue to push the R7 through the "Molniya" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molniya_(rocket)) and an N1 more comparable to the UR500/Proton as a backup through Brezhnev that way. It won't be an actual 'Moon Rocket" but he can point out it is less dangerous than the Proton?

And it it reasonable to suppose that a more successful Soviet robot probe program would be enough to get the US feeling that landing men on the moon after the first successful Soviet robot rover and sample return was coming up short.
Robot's won't push the US as it was, (and technically remains) a point that the US considered "manned" both a requirement and far superior to what probes could do. This will fall off over time just like in OTL but it's a point the Soviets could make after something like Apollo 1, and Apollo 13

We'd also need some sort of craze for robots I think.
The Soviets weren't alone in loosing robotic probes in the late 50s through late 60s the US lost a lot too early on. If the Soviets can up thier launcher game and keep their probes working longer a close 'probe' race is possible.

That said, I still have trouble imagining how this might lead to a US manned Mars landing.
Given the costs to go to 'just' the Moon I can't see a plausible reason for either side going for a manned Mars mission any time soon. Now first to land a probe is something else.

I was very disappointed when I went to the US for the first time and got to see real American duct tape. Its qualities were well short of what the Analog letters section had led me to expect...
That lack is why we turned around and invented stuff like Fiberflex:

'cause we were just so disappointed :)

On the second point: The US side of the competition seems solid. The Soviet side... Well, you need better explanations of the "how and why" to suspend my disbelief.

I have trouble seeing why the Soviets would see their actions in this TL as beneficial.
If as suggested the US is delayed in building the Saturn V, (which is one of the 'side-effects' of a Gemini based Lunar program btw) and/or Apollo then the Soviets would see having a REAL shot at either beating or at least staying even with the US on the Moon by utilizing what they do have. It would still be a risk but they would have to consider that even if they are not 'first' in this scenerio they could still be 'better' in some respects with about a co-equal cost/effort.

On the third point, I really like this part of the TL, considering the era and the bind both programs are in, this is a great way to go for both of them. It also is a way to end the moon race that could have interesting effects on Earth. Does this encourage a stronger era of detente? Is Afghanistan in this TL resolved by the Soviets and Americans negotiating a deal instead of a Soviet invasion to (as they saw it) stop Afghanistan flipping to the US? And does a handshake on the moon mean that the Americans enter the 80s thinking Soviet technology is better than it is since they've not seen the inside of a Soyuz capsule?
Good points.

Randy
 
Alright, so a lot of stuff has happened while I was away apparently. I don’t have the time to reply to all of the comments that have appeared in this thread, but trust me I have read them.
What? Don't tell me you're going to be another one of those people who have a "quote" life "un-quote" and such? :)

Anyways, back to worldbuilding:

I’m starting to realise that I have a very big issue: there are a billion different ways to make this timeline work and I need to pick one. So, let’s try to simplify this as much as possible.
Welcome to the 'fun' part :)

The requirements of this timeline are simple: A POD in the early to mid 1960s, A Soviet Lunar landing in the late 1960s, and a Mars landing in the mid 1980s. So, first things first, let’s look at the Americans. The actual American Mars mission will go forward as I laid it out in my earlier post, with a ship similar to the one in NASA’s Waterloo. One of the big issues however is figuring out how much this will cost, and looking back at that post I was way too optimistic.
Cost is going to be difficult to pin down no matter what as there are often ancilliary and 'side' costs that either do or do not get 'counted' depending on who's doing the accounting. "Lots" is always a good default option :)

So, what will convince congress to spend 25 billion dollars on a program like this? A Soviet Lunar landing won’t do much probably, and a Soviet Lunar base will just prompt an American Lunar base. It’s possible that a really big Soviet Lunar presence could prompt the construction of infrastructure like a Lunar transportation system that could one day support a Mars expedition, but not something like the Ares program. I guess at the end of the day, Mars is a very far-off goal, and to most Americans there’s no reason to go there.
This is an issue as getting the US to invest in a Mars mission will take a lot more than just 'outside' incentive but internal incentive as well which it distincty lacking OTL and for most scenerios. And keep in mind that even if the Soviets take a chance at the Moon, going beyond it is going to be a major risk and undertaking in a regime that is getting more, not less, risk averse during the 70s and 80s.

Unless...
I'll address this in the next post as I wanted to point out a few other things first:

I would imagine that the Soviets would be looking for a high-profile program which they can do very cheaply and bait the Americans into spending billions of dollars on a response for. Keep in mind, the Soviets don’t actually have to go to Mars, they just have to make it look like they are. And if it’s successful, the Americans will have wasted 20 to 60 billion dollars on a pointless program, something that the Soviets need America to do if they want to start caching up economically.
Keep in mind that "high-profile" works both ways and you risk likely more if you fail than if you succeed. (One of the main reasons the Soviets tried to erase their lunar program and act like they were never even trying was because they desperatly wanted to cling to the illusion of at least parity with the US in space. As it was they could keep things going by doing things in Earth orbit the US wasn't like building a space station) So you need a Soviet leadership that is more willing to take risks that could go either way and keep in mind that beings that what is happening on Earth is ALWASY going to be more important than what happens in space that leadership will be MORE willing to take "risks" on Earth than in space.

A 'low-hanging fruit' type mission might be a Venus rather than a Mars flyby which will always be both propuslivly and operationally 'easier' than going to Mars. Of course we (and the Russians) were not as aware as we are today of how rough such a mission could be and there is a very high likely-hood that you'd end up with a failed mission and a dead crew instead of a successful flyby. (Solar storm radiation was vastly underestimated till the late 70s) That could end up being a very high expenditure in money and resources for what amounts to a negative impact in both PR and intenational prestige.

Getting the US to 'waste' money would require the USSR to waste a similar amount of money. There's really no way to 'fake' up a goal that the US fall for.

As for the secrecy, yes, there’s no way to hide an N1 launch. But, you can hide what the payload is. In this case, the Mars flyby craft was disguised as ‘Salyut 2’, a large modular space station to conduct Earth-observance missions, similar in shape to a few Skylab docked together. In reality, it was a regular-sized Almaz station with 3 huge propulsion blocks docked to it.
Keep in mind that 'tracking' and survallance was on-going both in orbit and from the ground. The "propulsive blocks" would be spotted immediatly on orbit, if not before they were encapsulated in the fairing. The US, (and just about anyone else with decent ground based telescope) will spot the propulsion blocks the second the fairings come off and have their possible delta-v (and therefore possible destinations of the stack) within hours at most of the launch.

There is no 'stealth' in space and the only way to 'hide' something is massive mis-direction, (which is the basis of one of my concepts where the US allows everyone to think they are incompetent with an inabilty to land a probe on the Moon despite a massive effort. However the fact that all out 'failed' probes are landing in the same area and are rather large has not gone unnoticed by the Soviets)

[qutoe]I would like to do more worldbuilding but at this point I need to know for certain when the Mars transfer windows are, I cannot keep guessing. If any of you know, that would be very much appreciated.[/QUOTE]

I'm going to also suggst "Atomic Rockets of the Space Patrol" site:

Specifically the "Missions" :

Which has orbital transfer information and how to design and execute "pork-chop" diagrams and mission plots for delta-v.

Randy
 
Lets have an initial POD in the early 60s where Korolev convinces the Soviet leadership and the military that a manned Lunar program is worth looking into.
Note that this is what happened OTL in that not only Korolev but Chemolie, Yangel and Glushko were all 'supportive' of a Soviet Lunar program... They just 'disagreed' (rather vehmently one might say) on which method (and organization) should be the way they went to the Moon. The military, meanwhile was less interested in the Moon as they were a possible military "Super-ICBM" that could mount a Tsar Bomb (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_Bomba) and be used for a Southern arc attack on the US.

The problem was the N1 as proposed could barely do the Moon and was not very useful to the military and while the rival UR500, (eventually Proton) wasn't very useful for the Moon it had a much higher utility as a military launch vehicle and possible missile. (And Chemolie HAD hired Kruschev's son after all so bonus there.... Why didn't Korolev do this I wonder?)

They conclude that the development of heavy lift vehicles and a manned deep-space program would be beneficial,
Here's a problem because the two are NOT the same-thing and while the former DOES have a military use the latter isn't so clear though unlike the US the Soviet military DID pursue a manned space program from the begining. This was how they got the Almaz (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almaz) stations and missions after all. The sticking point is the "deep space" portion as the military did not see a very high need for that portion of the mission though there were occasional interest in such missions they were found to be far more expensive than they were (currently) worth. Again there's no 'stealth' in space so anything launched into cis-Lunar space is pretty much observable and trackable by everyone on Earth with moderate effort.

Still I think it can be done with enough effort, my main question is if Korolev has enough charisma and political clout to pull it off.

... but a more unified Soviet Space Program would be needed to effectively compete with the Americans. So in ~1962 they order the various design bureaus to work more closely together, and Glushko agrees to build a high performance engine for Korolev’s N1 (possibly helped by an accident involving hypergolics that kills a bunch of people). Said engine might run off of kerolox, or maybe kerosene/H2O2 if Glushko wants an engine he can also use on ICBMs. The Proton rocket is probably still built, but may run off of kerosene/H2O2 if that’s the case, and it will probably eventually be replaced by the N11. The UR-700 is never considered a viable option due to it using toxic hypergolic propellents, which are seen as extremely dangerous thanks to the accident mentioned earlier, but a version rushing off of kerosene/H2O2 might survive.
Part of the problem of getting to this point is that the underlying assumption (better coordination to better 'compete' with the US space effort) is diametrically opposed to how the Soviet system was set up. The various bureaus were kept in 'competition' to artifically induce inovation or so the theory went. In actuallity various designers and bureaus were falling in and out of favor with little regard to actual capability or merit. The system DID change eventually (late 70s early 80s OTL) so it's possible to see it happening earlier but as fasquadron notes there has to be an incentive for the leadership to do so and that's not easy in the early 60s.
There were in fact several severe acciddents due to the use of storable propellants but the USSR was in a bind as those were the most militay usefeul propellants until they managed to perfect higher power solid propellants in the early 70s.

One of the reasons I suggested Glushko have a 'break-through' on peroxide storage is to allow a more 'duel-use' propellant system that can fill both the military AND space launch role. (Such a thing btw would probably have Yangel's support as he was less than thrilled to work with toxic propellants but was primarily concerned with miilitary utility. As this may answer both questions he's likely to support any switch to keroxide propellants) The thing is Korolev pretty much wanted Kerolox because of it's higher performance and fought tooth-and-nail to not lower his expectations. If we can kludge a plausible requirement for leadership to insist on a more unified program early on and tack on a switch to a keroxide booster then it's less likely that Chelomie gets his 'break' to push into ICBM and spacecraft development that he did OTL so you may not have a "UR500/Proton" at all.

Hmmm, maybe a POD where Glushko and Yangel fall in together, (instead of Chemolie and Glushko) and find the way to store and use keroxide and pitch it to Korolev as a booster stage for his N1 concept? Glushko could probably design an engine that could run on either Keroxide or Kerolox depending on the need which would simplify the design of the larger N1, and while it won't be the N1 we know it will likely be a bit better and more workable. (Bonus points if Korolev hires Krushchev's son and assigns him to a supposed 'make-work' project to improve the performance of the R7 and later N1 upperstages without having to resort to LH2.. and he stumbles across the possibilities of cryogenic propane which blows Korolev away :) )

Without the internal competition between Chemolie-et-al, (he stays with cruise missiles and recoverable spacecraft) there's more of a focus on first getting a 'heavy' lift launch vehicle into operation for the military and then upgrading it to general space launch use. (This means the N1 is more akin to the OTL Proton which was comparable to the US Saturn 1/1B but that should still work) The obvious 'key' factor is there is a military use and therefore sustianed military support for the project which should see a higher priority and assignment of resources. That is 'has' some utility for a Lunar mission is a bonus just like it was for the R7.

Korolev survives until the mid 70s, and the N1 starts flying in late 1967. The first flight is a failure, but following ones are successes.
With Glushko designed engines and the ability to reduce the complexity and componnent account of TTL"s N1 I wouldn't be surprised if you had a better success rate and sooner operational date as well.

By early 1967 the Soyuz spacecraft is ready and Soyuz 1 and 2 fly, rendezvousing in orbit. They are followed by Soyuz 3 and 4 that dock in late 1967.
Soyuz may be a bit more of a problem as it was rushed OTL due to political pressure which isn't likely to be any less TTL under the same circumstances. What's the possibilty of a successful first flight with more cooperation/funding/resources? I"d think a bit better at least. Or Soyuz 1 still has issues but TTL there is the 'backup' of Soyuz 2 available which would help a lot. In addition to the rendzvous and docking Soyuz would need to demonstrate the required endurance, (two weeks) for the crew as well as perform manuvers and other things that the OTL Gemini program did for the US effort.

In addition they will also have to step up their automated program with landers as well as rovers and the attempted OTL sample return missions. They have more reason TTL than they did OTL to do so.

In mid 1967 LK-1 flys, and fails. LK-2 flys a few months later and is partially successful. Then in early 1968 Soyuz 5 and LK-3 rendezvous and dock, and a manned test of the LK is performed.
The second the US spots an LK then they are going to panick just FYI. As it's obvioulsy a Lunar Lander then it means the whether the USSR makes it offical or not there IS now a 'race' to the Moon which means the US will adjust it's program as well. While there's not much they can realisticlly do about the situation, that in no way means they won't try and try hard.

In early 1968 an unmanned Zond spacecraft is sent into Lunar orbit by an N1, and in mid 1968 an unmanned Soyuz 7K-LOK / LK stack is sent to Lunar orbit and back.
Why unmanned? If the Soviet's are going for this then there's a lot less incentive to do any of this unmanned and a large incentive to put people on each mission to grab more headlines and more 'firsts' along the way. This would beat Apollo 8 by a year and in fact would 'beat' the American's back into space, (Apollo 7) by a good margin there's absolutly no reason NOT to put men into it.... Unless you don't trust the vehicles or systems at which point the leadership is going to not trust the program itself for the same and other obvious reasons. No, these both would be manned and in fact the Soyuz-LK mission would be similar to Apollo 10 in that a cosmonaut will EVA and take it down to an altitude above the Lunar surfce and return in a test of THAT system as well. By this point the US will be accellerating Apollo for all it's worth and it would be likely that Apollo 10 would be the new targeted 'landing' mission instead of final test of the LM. Apollo 9 will take the LM to Lunar Orbit for testing instead of Earth orbit, and crews are probably switched around so that Apollo 10 has the 'landing' crew...

Finally, in January of 1969, Alexei Leonov becomes the first man to walk on the Lunar surface.
And in May 1969 two American's land and stay twice as long and return 3 times the surface samples and it just keeps getting longer and better from that point. The USSR get the 'first' but the US does it better in every respect and that's not going to be lost on the Soviet leadership btw.

Meanwhile in the US things are not going so well. The CIA had reported that the Soviets had been fielding a super-heavy lift vehicle since 67, but with the initial flight destroying one of the launch complexes and their spies being adamant that the manned Lunar spacecraft were suffering huge delays, they had assumed it wasn’t going to be an issue. That had changes by 68, with the vehicle successfully flying 4 times, but again their spies insisted no manned missions would take place soon. Apparently they were wrong. What’s worse, it wasn’t a one-off stunt. Again in June an N1 rocket blasted off from Baikonur and landed a man on the Lunar surface. By then Apollo 10 had already performed an American landing, but it was still demoralising.
That's not how it would work. First all the N1 wasn't a 'super-heavy' launcher at it's best it was only a 'heavy' LV and once it's confirmed to be flying at ALL successfully NASA is willing and able to lobby for an accellerated Apollo mission schedule. Once they spot an LK on-orbit, no matter what the 'spies' say it will be assumed that the Russian's are in the race and they will act accordingly. Apollo 10, as I noted, stays longer and does more so even if we're not 'first' we can still claim we did it better and will continue to do so as time goes on. Keep in mind the Soviets can only send two (2) men to the Moon and only one (1) to the surface with the LK system. There is a clear American edge in capability.

The president is given a report in mid 1969 on the current US Space Program, and after much deliberation, Nixon decides to increase funding for Apollo in the hopes of beating the Soviets to the eventual construction of a Lunar base.
I'll point out that there was a technical and specific reason that Armstrong announced "Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed" as the fist words said after landing :) The LK systems 'stay' time was pretty much limited to a maximum of around 12 hours and one or two EVA's at best and with only one cosmonaut even those were going to be highly limited. If needs be, they could have sent a one-way LM on the Apollo 13 mission with extended stay capablity and declared it a 'Lunar Base' with a straight face. And that WITHOUT any 'additional funding' available. A Soviet first man on the Moon likely means that Congress would approve the majority of the APP program be re-funded but no major increase in the NASA budget. The Soviet's meanwhile HAVE to start spending more money or fall further behind. Nixon may back an actual 'Lunar Base' but there's no huge incentive to do so as Skylab is still going to happen and there are other Earth orbital missions that can be done. I wouldn't be surprised to see a thrown together module set, (something like Apollo-X in concept (http://www.astronautix.com/a/apollox.html) done for the Apollo 8 TTL instead of going around the Moon 'second' to the Soviets. The US would declare a 'first Space Station' mission instead.

To do this the Saturn production lines are re-opened, and work on the NERVA program continues in the hopes of building a Saturn IB derivative that can place base elements on the Lunar surface.
More likely it's an 'either/or' decision; Either the Saturn V lines are opened back up or the Saturn-1B production is re-started but not both. NERVA funding is likely dropped and the program cancled because it lacks a Lunar mission by this point. (The nuclear Lunar shuttle would be nice but needs significant Earth orbital infrastructure that's not likely to happen any time soon) The Saturn decision would likely hinge on the future APP direction being either Earth orbital or mixed orbital and Lunar.

Meanwhile LEM shelters and MOLEMs start being developed, and contractors are assigned for the eventual LESA base modules that will be flown in 1976. In 1971 Apollo 16 lands next to a LEM shelter and officially becomes the first Lunar base, while Apollo 17 lands next to a MOLEM a half-dozen months later. By early 1973 the NERVA program is on track to produce a working flight-ready engine within 6 months, Skylab is almost ready for flight, and Apollo 19 has confirmed the existence of ice at the Lunar South Pole. The Clipper Program is also proceeding very well, with the Saturn IB launched mini-Shuttle ready for flights as early as 1979. The Soviets, meanwhile, are still working on building a relatively tiny Lunar program built around their LKs (Lunar craft), LUs (Lunar shelters), and LLs (Lunokhod laboratories).
I'll point out that there's no real 'up-side' for the Soviets continuing an obviously infirior Lunar program through the early 70s, the US is going to be visibly and quite effectvly 'beating' them at this point with no real effort needed. The LM Shelters and MOLEM's would still need Saturn V's or the development of orbital assembly which might be more likely under the cirsumstances. If not then you just used the Apollo 19 and 20 Saturn V's which means those missions don't happen since they'd need new Saturn V's (and assuming the lines are restarted they won't be aviablle till the mid-70s for use) and one is still reserved for Skylab. You'd need another to lift Skylab II unless it's cancled which is likley without a standby Saturn V.
Modifcations of the Saturn 1B should allow higher payloads to LEO which can then be boosted by chemical OTV's to Lunar orbit and the surface. The thing is it would behoove the Soviets to start doing this first since they would benifit more by going this route earlier.
Launch a "Salyut" like module, a landing system and then push the whole stack to Lunar orbit probably soon after their second landing. Then stay a whole Lunar 'day' (two weeks) which will push the American's to do something similar. Which they counter with a single LM shelter (16) and MoLEM (17) as noted above.

Then, in July of 1973, everything changes. Confused radar operators across the US report that Salyut 2 is accelerating, massively. Just a few hours later Brezhnev goes on live TV and addresses the world, saying “the Soviet Union has begun to take its first steps towards the conquest of the planets”. Salyut 2, which was assembled over 11 months requiring 1 Proton and 3 N1 launches, is revealed to be not a huge space station, but an interplanetary spacecraft destined for Mars. It cannot enter orbit, but Brezhnev assures the world that future spacecraft will, and eventually, they shall even land there.
The US would know within hours of the launch of the first 'propulsion' module that it was an interplanetary craft. You can't hide that fact. They also need to demonstate the require endurance (about 24 months minimum) for both equipment and crew, (and considering the problems with the OTL Salyut 1, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salyut_1 that's not likely to happen by 1973) before they can even consider doing something like this.

And I'll point out that while the USSR was just as interested in Mars as the US a Venus flyby is both more practical and has more utility by this point in time. (Good choice of flight time though as the Solar Activity was way down https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle_20)

The president (perhaps Kennedy) is not happy, and immediately orders a review of the Soviets capabilities, and NASA’s ability to respond.
Ted? If you butterfly away Chappaquidick he's maybe got a shot but really Nixon had a solid postion and only screwed up because of his (albeit encouraged by his staffers) paranoia. He's likely still President in TTL's 1973 unless McGovern gets a break, and if Watergate still happens then he's replaced by Ford in late '73 and Ford is not likely to make major changes so soon after taking office.

[quote} The CIA conclude that they have the capability to launch as many as 5 N1s a year, and that they are in fact working on some sort of large-scale development project. Exactly what that is no one can tell, but it’s about the same scale as their Lunar program. NASA engineers brought on to examine the NRO intelligence warns them that the N1 is fully capable of performing a Mars landing mission, if the Soviets really push for it.[/quote]

Eh, no, not even on it's best day. They need multiple launches and lots of orbital assembly but the same could be said of the Saturn 1B. Now the Saturn V COULD do a very minimum Mars mission, similar to the proposed Venus mission, assuming a close launch of a TMI stage on another Saturn V, but such was beyond the N1's capability by a very long margin. The high-energy upper stages of the Saturn V made a huge difference and allowed it to do in three stages what it took four to do with the N1.

NASA meanwhile has no way to immediately respond. Although they have NERVA motors and better lift vehicles, they don’t have habitation modules designed for interplanetary space, and it will take at least a year to design one. As for actually landing, while the LEM could theoretically be quickly and dirtily modified to land on Mars, a dedicated vehicle would be a million times better and they simply cannot build one quickly.
Skylab II could do the job if need be and they could even just use a single Saturn V and do a Venus flyby if given the go-ahead. No, the LM had NO capability of being modified to land on Mars, in theory or otherwise. It COULD land on an asteroid and it was studied for what modifcations would be needed to land on Eros should the money and resources be available to do so but it couldn't do Mars and nothing short of a purpose designed MEM could.

And even if the Soviets DO go for a flyby of Mars or Venus the general American public attidude it going to be less than caring. If Nixon is having the same issues TTL that is FAR more important t the average American that what's happening in space. (In fact I need to point out that if we're still butterflying away Vietnam, Nixon has even less political 'credit' to his name and may actually face removal from office before he can resign)

The president re-tasks NASA to try to solve these issues, and fast. Contracts for a deep-space habitation module are passed out to McDonnell Douglas, contracts for the MEM are passed out to North American, and in September of 1973 the Ares Program is officially launched.
Thre is really no incentive for launching such a program unless it can be clearly shown that the Soviets ARE going for a full up program themselves. In fact by this time it would have made more sense to have a cooperative effort proposed by Nixon and Brezhnev rather than seperate programs. In fact that would make more sense, especially if (as I noted) the US cancled the NERVA program then the Soviets could leverage there still ongoing Nuclear proplusion program as a contribution.

———
So, what do you think? A Soviet Mars mission is defiantly a good way to get an American one, but do you think it’s feasible? Personally I think so, especially with a more successful N1 program. Keeping it a secret from the US might be hard, as some of you pointed out, but I don’t think it’s completely impossible. By the way is the 1973 launch window accurate? I picked that because a Mars probe launched then OTL, but I don’t know if it would work on a return trajectory. For the record the Soviet interplanetary ship has around 5 to 6 km/s of Delta-v.
I understand what you're trying to get to but I think it may be a bit too ambitous for the actual capability involved. I actually think a Soviet Venus flyby would be a better option and though it would be impossible to hide from the American's the actual destination would be in question right up until launch. And the Soviets going to Venus means that you have a higher chance the US would go for Mars. (Not much higher mind you but a bit higher)

I know you want an American Mars mission using a similar plan as "NASA's Waterloo" but it may not be a plausible way to go. As for the Moon even if the Soviets manage to get an LK to the Moon first Apollo will do it better and longer and it will be obvious. I'm not really sure you could push the US into going to Mars without handwaving it, (which is always workable) even with not being the first to the Moon. The whole point of Apollo was in fact to do the Moon 'better' than the Soviets could just in case they managed something. Something I think we need to get clear is that with a successful N1 the Soviets have at best a slightly 'better' Saturn 1B boost capabilty and nowhere near what the US Saturn V offers so a direct head-to-head the USSR is always going to be come up short and need to improvise a lot to keep up. And that's not a strength for them, and they need to play to their strengths.

They can grab a 'first' with the LK system but in order to remain relevant they would need to either cut back to Earth orbital work as per OTL or use Earth Orbital Assembly to outfit a 'better-than-Apollo' Lunar mission. And that would also be the only way they could launch an interplanetary mission whereas the US could do Venus in a single Saturn V launch.

Beating the US to the first landing would see a kick-back in US space spending but no great incentive to go on to Mars or anything. Heck OTL it was pretty obvious that by the mid-70s the Soviets could have done a "better" Lunar landing than the US but they choose not to mostly because the Moon wasn't considered a worthwhile goal by that point. And anything 'more' would have required a massive expenditure of money and resources that were 'obviosly' better spent on Earth. By that point I don't think the USSR was at all interested in 'waking' the American tiger that was looking to fall back asleep again.

Randy
 
You can use windows from historical probes pretty well for straight shots, or make your own porkchop plots here: http://sdg.aero.upm.es/index.php/online-apps/porkchop-plot. However, for flybys you may need to track down historical studies as many include things like Venus flybys in addition which complicate the mission timing--you can check blogs like David Portree or False Steps, or directly dig into NTRS. Mars launch windows come up basically ever 26 months, though there's some delta-v cost variation by year.
Thanks!

Hmmm, maybe a POD where Glushko and Yangel fall in together, (instead of Chemolie and Glushko) and find the way to store and use keroxide and pitch it to Korolev as a booster stage for his N1 concept? Glushko could probably design an engine that could run on either Keroxide or Kerolox depending on the need which would simplify the design of the larger N1, and while it won't be the N1 we know it will likely be a bit better and more workable. (Bonus points if Korolev hires Krushchev's son and assigns him to a supposed 'make-work' project to improve the performance of the R7 and later N1 upperstages without having to resort to LH2.. and he stumbles across the possibilities of cryogenic propane which blows Korolev away :) )

Without the internal competition between Chemolie-et-al, (he stays with cruise missiles and recoverable spacecraft) there's more of a focus on first getting a 'heavy' lift launch vehicle into operation for the military and then upgrading it to general space launch use. (This means the N1 is more akin to the OTL Proton which was comparable to the US Saturn 1/1B but that should still work) The obvious 'key' factor is there is a military use and therefore sustianed military support for the project which should see a higher priority and assignment of resources. That is 'has' some utility for a Lunar mission is a bonus just like it was for the R7.
That could work. I'm trying to keep this as close to OTL as possible, but using kerosene/H2O2 could be a good idea. I'll see what I can do. I'm less inclined to use propane, but I'll have a look at that as well.

Soyuz may be a bit more of a problem as it was rushed OTL due to political pressure which isn't likely to be any less TTL under the same circumstances. What's the possibilty of a successful first flight with more cooperation/funding/resources? I"d think a bit better at least. Or Soyuz 1 still has issues but TTL there is the 'backup' of Soyuz 2 available which would help a lot. In addition to the rendzvous and docking Soyuz would need to demonstrate the required endurance, (two weeks) for the crew as well as perform manuvers and other things that the OTL Gemini program did for the US effort.

In addition they will also have to step up their automated program with landers as well as rovers and the attempted OTL sample return missions. They have more reason TTL than they did OTL to do so.
I would imagine that if Korolev lived, upon seeing the situation Soyuz was in he would want the safety factor dialed up to 11 on the launch. Maybe it would have an ejector seat on the first flight? Presumably, the parachute issues were known at the time, so he might have pushed for them to install one as a backup.

Why unmanned? If the Soviet's are going for this then there's a lot less incentive to do any of this unmanned and a large incentive to put people on each mission to grab more headlines and more 'firsts' along the way. This would beat Apollo 8 by a year and in fact would 'beat' the American's back into space, (Apollo 7) by a good margin there's absolutly no reason NOT to put men into it.... Unless you don't trust the vehicles or systems at which point the leadership is going to not trust the program itself for the same and other obvious reasons. No, these both would be manned and in fact the Soyuz-LK mission would be similar to Apollo 10 in that a cosmonaut will EVA and take it down to an altitude above the Lunar surfce and return in a test of THAT system as well. By this point the US will be accellerating Apollo for all it's worth and it would be likely that Apollo 10 would be the new targeted 'landing' mission instead of final test of the LM. Apollo 9 will take the LM to Lunar Orbit for testing instead of Earth orbit, and crews are probably switched around so that Apollo 10 has the 'landing' crew...
At this point in the program, the vehicles are still largely untested. They didn't put crews on the Zond flights OTL, so presumably, they'd be cautious here too. I agree with the Apollo mission schedules though.

That's not how it would work. First all the N1 wasn't a 'super-heavy' launcher at it's best it was only a 'heavy' LV and once it's confirmed to be flying at ALL successfully NASA is willing and able to lobby for an accellerated Apollo mission schedule. Once they spot an LK on-orbit, no matter what the 'spies' say it will be assumed that the Russian's are in the race and they will act accordingly. Apollo 10, as I noted, stays longer and does more so even if we're not 'first' we can still claim we did it better and will continue to do so as time goes on. Keep in mind the Soviets can only send two (2) men to the Moon and only one (1) to the surface with the LK system. There is a clear American edge in capability.
According to Wikipedia, anything that can put 50 or more tons into orbit is a 'super-heavy launch vehicle'. But I get your point.

I'll point out that there was a technical and specific reason that Armstrong announced "Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed" as the fist words said after landing :) The LK systems 'stay' time was pretty much limited to a maximum of around 12 hours and one or two EVA's at best and with only one cosmonaut even those were going to be highly limited. If needs be, they could have sent a one-way LM on the Apollo 13 mission with extended stay capablity and declared it a 'Lunar Base' with a straight face. And that WITHOUT any 'additional funding' available. A Soviet first man on the Moon likely means that Congress would approve the majority of the APP program be re-funded but no major increase in the NASA budget. The Soviet's meanwhile HAVE to start spending more money or fall further behind. Nixon may back an actual 'Lunar Base' but there's no huge incentive to do so as Skylab is still going to happen and there are other Earth orbital missions that can be done. I wouldn't be surprised to see a thrown together module set, (something like Apollo-X in concept (http://www.astronautix.com/a/apollox.html) done for the Apollo 8 TTL instead of going around the Moon 'second' to the Soviets. The US would declare a 'first Space Station' mission instead.
The key here is going to be getting the Soviet system up to spec with the American one. I would imagine that after the 'mad dash' for the Moon is over, the Soviets would go back to a two-launch strategy to start building Zvezda. If the Americans find out about that, you bet they will start building a base of their own too.

More likely it's an 'either/or' decision; Either the Saturn V lines are opened back up or the Saturn-1B production is re-started but not both. NERVA funding is likely dropped and the program cancled because it lacks a Lunar mission by this point. (The nuclear Lunar shuttle would be nice but needs significant Earth orbital infrastructure that's not likely to happen any time soon) The Saturn decision would likely hinge on the future APP direction being either Earth orbital or mixed orbital and Lunar.
A NERVA-Saturn-I wouldn't be man-rated, at least not for a while. They're going to need the Saturn V to continue Lunar operations, and the NERVA-Saturn-I would just be a cargo vehicle to launch base modules. And also, from what I've read NERVA was very close to being completed by 1970, so I don't think it's that far off.

The US would know within hours of the launch of the first 'propulsion' module that it was an interplanetary craft. You can't hide that fact. They also need to demonstate the require endurance (about 24 months minimum) for both equipment and crew, (and considering the problems with the OTL Salyut 1, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salyut_1 that's not likely to happen by 1973) before they can even consider doing something like this.

And I'll point out that while the USSR was just as interested in Mars as the US a Venus flyby is both more practical and has more utility by this point in time. (Good choice of flight time though as the Solar Activity was way down https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle_20)
I would image the Americans getting there hands on some 'leaked' information saying that it was a Lunar orbital space station and rushing to get Skylab B flying in a wet-workshop configuration to Lunar orbit, while the Soviets laugh as they waste their only remaining habitation module that could be retrofitted for interplanetary flight.

Ted? If you butterfly away Chappaquidick he's maybe got a shot but really Nixon had a solid postion and only screwed up because of his (albeit encouraged by his staffers) paranoia. He's likely still President in TTL's 1973 unless McGovern gets a break, and if Watergate still happens then he's replaced by Ford in late '73 and Ford is not likely to make major changes so soon after taking office.

Eh, no, not even on it's best day. They need multiple launches and lots of orbital assembly but the same could be said of the Saturn 1B. Now the Saturn V COULD do a very minimum Mars mission, similar to the proposed Venus mission, assuming a close launch of a TMI stage on another Saturn V, but such was beyond the N1's capability by a very long margin. The high-energy upper stages of the Saturn V made a huge difference and allowed it to do in three stages what it took four to do with the N1.
I'm not good at politics, so forgive me for that. NASA's Waterloo had Kennedy in office, so I did the same. I'll probably change that.

As for an N1 launched Mars mission, well, I'll get to that in a second.

Skylab II could do the job if need be and they could even just use a single Saturn V and do a Venus flyby if given the go-ahead. No, the LM had NO capability of being modified to land on Mars, in theory or otherwise. It COULD land on an asteroid and it was studied for what modifcations would be needed to land on Eros should the money and resources be available to do so but it couldn't do Mars and nothing short of a purpose designed MEM could.
The LEM could land on Mars if you did some radical (and I mean radical) changes to it. I actually did a technical study on it a year or so ago. Strech the descent stage tanks, add another 4 descent engines, and strap 8 drop tanks to the side. Then replace the ascent stage motor with a more powerful one, enlarge the ascent tanks by 50%, and mount a ballute assembly to the docking collar, with struts going down the sides holding it to the rest of the LEM. Strap a heatshield on it and what you get is a super-minimalist Mars lander which has about a 50/50 chance of killing the crew, with the capability to stay on the Martian surface for less than a day. It'll just about work, but you would have to be insane to fly the thing.

I know there are a lot more points you put forward in your post, but I've just finished writing out the 'version 1' draft of the full TL, and I think that would do a better job of explaining it than the quote-and-reply tactics I've been using so far.

So then, its time for more worldbuilding! And btw, the "no POD before 1966" thing is completely out the window at this point.

Let's start at the beginning.

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In the final months of 1962, the Soviet leadership acknowledged the American Lunar exploration program, known as Apollo, as a great threat to Soviet supremacy in space. In response, they ordered the creation of a more unified space exploration and exploitation agency, comprised of multiple design bureaus that would work together on different components of a project. The heads of the individual bureaus, as well as many independent designers and leaders, would be a part of a controlling agency that the bureaus would report to. In this way, the Soviet space program could be restructured to better compete with the Americans. In addition, the controlling agency would work side-by-side with both the military and scientific communities to allow faster communication between them.

With the creation of the new Soviet space agency, the already existing Soviet space projects and hardware would need to be reformed and streamlined. The first thing to do was to standardize the fleet of rockets. In 1961 Glushko had made a major breakthrough in storing hydrogen peroxide, and the Proton rocket plans were retooled to use the new propellant formulation. He and Yangel informed Korolev of it and after a lot of consideration, he relented and agreed to use it in his N1 super-rocket, so long as Glushko agreed to build the engines. When the controlling agency was created in late 1962, all of the engineers agreed to standardize the upcoming rockets on the propellent, and work on it began. In the meantime, Korolev and Glushko were also ordered to start working on the development of a hydrogen-powered high-energy upper stage for use on the upcoming super-heavy launch vehicle program, much to Glushko's disappointment.

For the Soviet's new super-heavy lift vehicle, the N1 rocket was chosen. In its initial configurations, it would consist of 3 conical stages stacked atop each other, delivering 60 tons of payload to low orbit. Once this was proven, the number of engines on the first stage would be increased and a fourth stage would be added to increase the payload capability to 90 tons. Hydrogen upper stages would eventually also be added, uprating the craft to 110 tons and even 140 tons by 1975. In addition to the N1 super-heavy lifter, the N11 rocket, consisting of just the second and third stages of an N1, was also being pursued in order to replace Proton by 1970.

On the spacecraft side of things, it was decided that manned flights would be carried out by a Soyuz command-service vehicle, and depending on the mission additional craft may be used in conjunction with it. For a Lunar landing mission, a Soyuz would be used in tandem with an LK (lunnyy korabl' or Lunar spacecraft). In preparation for such a flight, the Soyuz would be tested out in low Earth orbit, perhaps even with the eventual development and use of a small space station. For missions further away from Earth, larger dedicated habitation and propulsion modules would be needed.

It was expected that the Soyuz spacecraft would start flying in 1966, with a manned Lunar landing mission occurring in 1967. By the time 1964 came around that had slipped to 1968, but appeared to be holding for the time being. In addition to the development of the Soyuz and LK spacecraft, several more long-term projects were underway. The original plan to use two N1 rockets in an Earth orbit rendezvous configuration had long been dropped, but a variant of it was chosen for follow-up Lunar base missions in the early 1970s. Three new spacecraft were needed: a TLK (tyazhelyy lunnyy korabl', or heavy Lunar spacecraft) for ferrying 3 people from Lunar orbit to the Lunar surface, an LGK (lunnyy gruzovoy korabl' or Lunar cargo spacecraft) for landing Lunar base modules, and a 3 person variant of the Soyuz. The TLK and LGK would be based around a universal descent stage, similar to the American LEM, but 20% larger. A reinforced and uprated version of this stage could also be used on Mars, or the upper atmosphere of Venus. Finally, a small space station was being studied for examining the long term effects of spaceflight, possibly flying as early as 1968.

In addition to these manned spaceflight programs, several unmanned ones were also being worked on. The Lunokhod Moon rover would be used to scout out landing sites ahead of LKs, and the Lunar 8 and 10 probes were slated to return samples back to Earth, to test the Lunar soil before a manned landing.

By 1965 the list of programs being worked on by the Soviet space agency was as the following:

Launch Vehicles:
- N11, capable of placing 20 tons into Earth orbit
- N11Y, capable of placing 60 tons into Earth orbit
- N1A, capable of placing 70 tons into Earth orbit
- N1B, capable of placing 90 tons into Earth orbit
- N1F, capable of placing 95 tons into Earth orbit
- N1Y, capable of placing 250 tons into Earth orbit

Propulsion Systems:
- YRSU (yadernaya raketnaya silovaya ustanovka or nuclear rocket propulsion system), with 900 seconds of SI, expected around 1975
- YESU (yaderno-elektricheskaya silovaya ustanovka or nuclear-electric propulsion system) with 5000 seconds of SI, expected around 1970
- RD-50 series hydrogen propulsion motors, expected around 1968 to 1972

Spacecraft:
- Soyuz, two crew Earth, and Lunar orbital spacecraft
- LK, one crew Lunar landing spacecraft
- TLK, three crew Lunar landing spacecraft
- LGK, uncrewed Lunar cargo spacecraft
- LL (laboratoriya lunatizma or Moonwalking laboratory), two crew pressurized Lunar roving vehicle
- Almaz, two or three crew space stations weighing 15 to 20 tons.

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In late 1966 Soyuz 1 lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and soared into the sky. Soyuz 2 had to be delayed, preventing the planned rendezvous test from being carried out, but the flight continued anyway. Upon reaching orbit, several systems on the spacecraft failed, and the craft had problems maintaining its attitude. After just 4 hours in orbit, the automated control system failed completely and the pilot, Vladimir Komarov, was forced to effect an immediate return to Earth. Just prior to reentry the crafts service module failed to detach, but luckily the heat melted the straps holding the crew and service modules together before they could disintegrate. Finally, as the craft went subsonic the main and reserve parachutes failed to deploy, forcing Komarov to eject. While he survived, the crew module was lost and the Soyuz spacecraft would have to spend another 8 months in development before it would fly again.

The LK meanwhile was also suffering from problems. The first and second uncrewed tests in Earth orbit did not go well, but by the third, it was looking like they had worked out the bugs. In April of 1968 LK-4 gracefully rose into the sky, to be joined by Soyuz 4 a day-and-a-half later. After rendezvousing and docking, cosmonaut Aleksei Yeliseyev transferred to the LK, undocked, and performed a test flight including a simulated Lunar landing. The mock descent burn was performed perfectly, and Yeliseyev hits the engine arm - ignition switch to fire the engine again for a simulated Lunar liftoff. However, as the engine lights up the injector malfunctions, and the entire combustion chamber explodes violently. Superheated shrapnel tears through the LK and rips the craft in half, blowing off the entire back of the cabin. Yeliseyev, who barely has enough time to register whats happened, is just about able to hang onto the control console as the cabin decompresses. The LK's communication systems go dead pretty much instantly, and Boris Volynov in the Soyuz sees a cloud of debris appear on the rendezvous radar. He immediately performs an emergency orbit change and rendezvouses with the LK, which he realizes is spinning to fast for him to dock. Yeliseyev, with no other option, is forced to jump from the LK over to the Soyuz, flying through several dozen meters of open space. Miraculously, he makes it and attaches his tether to the Soyuz, at which point Volynov fires the thrusters to stop the rotation of the combined craft. After Yeliseyev reenters the Soyuz crew module, they detach the tether, perform retrofire, and return to Earth safely. A post-flight accident investigation finds and fixes the flaw in the engine and LK-5's test flight is performed without incident.

In August of 1967 N1 booster 4L was erected at launch complex 110R. Two months later in October, the N1 blasted off the pad for the first time atop a pillar of orange flames and white smoke, majestically flying higher and higher into the sky - for a full 50 seconds before it disintegrated in a massive fireball. A few months later in March Booster 3L flew, and met a similar fate. By June, however, they had gotten it right. Booster 5L lifted off from launch complex 100L and managed to push all the way into orbit. From there, its payload, an uncrewed Soyuz spacecraft, proceded to fly around the Moon and return safely. Then in October once again an N1 made it to orbit, and this time it was also carrying an uncrewed LK lander, which touched down on the Lunar surface a few days later.

Finally, in January, N1 booster 7L lifted off from launch complex 110R and flew into the history books. On the 10th of January 1969, the Zarya 1 spacecraft, piloted by Alexi Leonov touched down on the Moon.

Alexi Leonov said:
Я сейчас у основания лестницы. Я вижу лунную поверхность, кажется, что это какой-то порошок ... ступни спускаемого аппарата вдавлены в него только на несколько сантиметров.

Я вытащил ... да ... это сделано. Камера развернута сейчас. Вы меня видите? Хорошо.

Хорошо, я сойду с LK сейчас ...

Этими первыми шагами человечество сняло узы Земли, чтобы вечно жить среди звезд.

Оборачиваясь ... я вижу горизонт сейчас ... это прекрасно. Пустынный, но невероятно красивый.

Поверхность своего рода серая, но с легкими оттенками синего, оранжевого и фиолетового. Кажется, что это меняется, когда я смотрю на это ... частицы должны быть очень отражающими ...

Хорошо, я постараюсь получить ... да ... Я получил сборку камеры. Я попытаюсь установить это там этим кратером ...

Интересно ... Каждый раз, когда я наступаю, мои ботинки слегка вдавливают поверхность, это почти похоже на очень мелкий песок ... но с твердой поверхностью под ним. Я посмотрю, смогу ли я получить немного в сэмплере ...
Leonov could only spend a few hours on the Lunar surface, but that was more than enough to firmly place the victory of the Moonrace into the Soviet Union's hands. Apollo 10 landed three months later on April 24th, staying for a full 24 hours on the Moon to try and beat the Soviets at a duration record. Then again in May, another N1 blasted off, but this time the landing site was on the Lunar farside. The surface stay lasted over 6 hours, during which time Valeri Bykovsky set up a small radio telescope. In the meanwhile, development on a cargo variant of the LK named the LU (lunnoye ukrytiye or Lunar shelter) was completed, and an LU was slated to launch to the Moon in 4 months.

Sure enough, in September N1 booster 7L is launched from Launch Complex 110R, on the Zarya 3 mission. The LU was remote landed near a crater on the Moon's south pole, while the 7K-LOK/B2 unmanned reconnaissance orbiter spent several weeks mapping the Lunar surface, before returning to Earth. The Zarya 4 mission flys a few months later in December, with Pavel Popovich piloting the LK down to the Zarya 3 LU, landing 730 meters away. After walking to the LU he deploys the small Lunokhod rover attached to its side, as well as the LPEK (lunnyy poverkhnostnyy eksperimental'nyy kompleks or lunar surface experiment complex). He spends a total of 49 hours on the Lunar surface, and drives a total of 2 kilometers, before returning to Earth.

In March of 1970, the LL (laboratoriya lunatizma or Moonwalking laboratory) is ready and launches to the Moon on Zarya 5. However the descent stage fails, and it impacts the Lunar surface at over 1000 m/s. The Zarya 5 mission flys again in July (the previous failed incarnation having 'never happened' despite the Americans being adamant they'd seen it on their radar screens). It carries another Lunokhod Laboratory and lands near the Lunar south pole, this time successfully. Finally, in November Zarya 6 is launched from LC 110L. Sitting atop it are cosmonauts Nikolay Rusavishnikov and Alyona Yakovlev. After landing 417 meters from the Lunokhod Laboratory, Yakovlev transfers over to it and stays on the Lunar surface for 5 days, driving a total of 84 kilometers. During one EVA, she uses rock-climbing equipment to descend into one of the heavily shadowed and deep craters and finds a substantial amount of water ice. This is a major discovery, and the future Zvezda Lunar base is retargeted to land at one of those craters.

At the same time as Zvezda was preparing to launch, however, another project was already in the works.

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In 1963 the Soviet space agency agreed to fund a detailed study into Maksimov's plans for developing a crewed Mars flyby spacecraft, named TMK (tyazhely mezhplanetny korabl' or heavy interplanetary spacecraft), and the project was handed to Korolev's bureau to complete. By 1965 Korolev had come up with a plan. For a while now Chelomei had been working on a small crewed space station primarily for military use, to compete with the American Dynasoar and MOL projects. Korolev intended to retrofit one for use in deep space and use it as the habitation module for the spacecraft. Attached to this would be two rocket stages, propulsion blocks A and B. Propulsion block B and the habitation module would be launched simultaneously, and then block A would be launched to rendezvous with them. The combined craft would then fly up to high Earth orbit and the crew would be launched atop a Proton or N11 rocket to rendezvous with them. The entire stack would then accelerate outwards, breaking free of the Earth's pull, and flying into interplanetary space.

After meeting with the other design bureaus to discuss the plan, he was given the go-ahead to start development on the vehicle in late 1965. The planned launch date of the mission was in 1971, and all of the engineers knew that if that was to happen, they would need to be working on it night and day for years straight. The Lunar landing program was also being run at this point, and that was by far a higher priority. However, Chelomei and Korolev worked together to come up with a plan to increase funding, and in 1966 they proposed the LOS (Lunnaya orbital'naya stantsiya or Lunar orbital station), built out of an Almaz hull, which would act as a command post orbiting the Moon to monitor operations at the upcoming Zvezda base. Development on the LOS was given the go-ahead in 1967 and the increased funding allowed the station's hull to be completed by the end of 1969. Finally, in early 1970, a Proton rocket boosted an Almaz station, uncrewed, into orbit for testing.

That initial orbital flight was a success, and so the next launch of an Almaz station, named Salyut 1, was to be on a manned mission. In August of 1970, Salyut 1 was launched into orbit, and a month later the crew of Soyuz 8 rendezvoused and docked with it. They stayed at the station for a total of 3 months, returning to Earth in December, as the crew of Soyuz 9 replaced them in occupying the station. Salyut 2 was also launched that year, docking to the aft port of Salyut 1 to expand the station. By the time the launch date of the Mars flyby craft came around, the Soviets now had experience with crews staying in space for up to 5 months. Not nearly as long as a flyby would be, but they didn't have any other choice. The launch window was approaching, fast, and delaying it a few years might allow the Americans to catch up - after all, their spies were constantly digging through the Soviet space program for details on upcoming missions, and it was a small miracle that they had been able to keep the TMK secret for this long. The head engineers had to make a decision: launch now and risk the unknown effects of long term spaceflight, or delay to the backup window in 1973, and risk the Americans beating them. After a long discussion lasting several weeks, the decision was made.

On the 17th of January, 1971, N1 booster 13F rose into the skies of Kazakhstan. It was joined by its sister 14F in May, and the TMK-1 spacecraft, christened мореплаватель, was completed. To the Americans, it looked like some sort of space station destined for Lunar orbit, and the Soviets made no attempt to correct them. In June the crew, cosmonauts Georgy Dobrovolsky and Viktor Patsayev, blasted off from Baikonur atop a Proton booster and rendezvoused with the TMK. After transferring over, the Soyuz's service module was jettisoned to save weight: they weren't going to need it anymore anyway. It was time. On June 8th, 1971, Dobrovolsky reached out and hit the master arm - booster ignition switch, and the mission officially started.

In less than 3 seconds, insulating panels were blown off, and the 4 high-performance rocket motors on propulsion block A lit up. The entire stack was subjected to a quarter-of-a-gee as it accelerated outwards. 6 minutes later, the stage was discarded, and block B was fired for another 4 minutes, before shutting down. In the hours after the burn, мореплаватель coasted slowly outwards, and her crew started to settle down and make preparations or the long journey ahead of them. Not 3 days later, the spacecraft had flown beyond the Moon's orbit, and the first expedition to the planets had begun.

While Dobrovolsky and Patsayev were flying outwards to Mars, back home the orbital and Lunar programs were still ongoing. In September an N1 rocket lifted LGK-1 into space and threw it towards the Moon. Upon arrival, it performed a breaking burn and descended towards the Lunar surface. The ground crews got a minor scare when communications dropped out for a full three minutes, but the fault was in the ground tracking systems and the spacecraft continued its descent successfully, landing on the Moon and deploying the first Zvezda base module. Four months later in January of 1972, a TLK was launched into Lunar orbit, and finally in May Zarya 7 lifted off for the Moon, using the TLK to perform a landing near Zvezda base to check out its systems. Now for the first time, two cosmonauts were on the Lunar surface together.

The Soviets continued to launch Zvezda base modules, and by January 1973 Zvezda already had two LGK modules, an LL pressurized rover, and two Zarya missions had visited it. On the second mission to the base, Zarya 8, a cable had been fixed to a small lander, and flown down into the nearby deep and shadowed crater. The other end of the cable was attached to a winch, and soon a cable-car like a system was set up to allow the cosmonauts to search the bottom of the crater for water ice, which they then electrolyzed to make oxygen. This considerably reduced the strain on the new LGK modules that were being launched since they no longer needed to bring more oxygen or drinking water with them. At another crater at the Lunar south pole, about 200 kilometers away, the Americans had set up their own small Lunar outpost, built out of 2 LEM shelters attached together and a MoLEM for long-range excursions.

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Back on Earth, times were changing quickly. The Soviet space agency now had a functional Lunar outpost, and мореплаватель had made a close flyby of Mars back in April of 1972. Now it was on the return leg of the journey, plummeting sunwards as it dove towards Venus. It was scheduled to return in September, and Korolev and Chelomei had already begun working on its successor.

The MEK (Mars ekspeditsionnyy kompleks or Mars expeditionary complex) was designed as a follow-on to the TMK program and would conduct a manned Martian landing sometime in 1980. The giant craft consisted of 3 main sections: The MDK (Mars desantnyy korabl' or Mars landing craft), the OAM (orbital'nyy apparat Mars or Mars orbital craft), and the MD (Marsianskiy dvizhitel' or Martian propulsion system). The OAM would essentially be a copy of the TMK's habitation module and would be built out of an Almaz hull. The MD would use nuclear-electric engines developed from the YESU program to propel the vehicle to Mars and back. Finally, the MDK would consist of a brand-new ascent vehicle, a surface habitat, and a small rover packaged inside a specially designed lifting-body heatshield. The MDK and OAM would be launched first by an N1, and then the MD would be launched by another N1 to dock with it automatically. Once this was complete, the spacecraft would start to accelerate outwards into high Earth orbit. The three crewmembers would then be launched in a Soyuz to dock with the craft, and the entire stack would depart for Mars.

However, while the spacecraft only required 2 launches of an N1, it did require the development of a brand new vehicle for landing on and returning from the Martian surface. Such a vehicle would be extremely costly to develop, and would likely prevent the entire program from going ahead. Luckily, Korolev had foreseen this, and when the LGKs and TLKs had been first designed a few years prior, he had made sure to make the propellant margins a bit bigger and the engines a bit more powerful than they strictly needed to be for a Lunar landing craft. That endeavor was now starting to bear fruit, as the descent stage of the MDK was practically already built. So, when Korolev and Chelomei presented the plan to the Soviet government, they accepted. The deadline was set to 1980, and development on the project officially began in February of 1973. A week later мореплаватель flew past Venus and began climbing starwards, back towards the Earth.

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Meanwhile in America...

Following the launch of TMK-1, NASA had suddenly been kicked back into high gear. The Soviets had, once again, beaten them, and now they needed to respond.

The president had ordered a complete review of both the Soviet's and NASA's capabilities. Their conclusion was that while the Soviets did have a respectable Lunar architecture, they had no capability to continue their Martian exploration efforts. Theoretically, they might be able to get a small craft into Martian orbit and back by 1980, but actually landing on the Red Planet would require a craft massing several thousand tons, something the Soviets had no way of ever hoping to build with their N1s. The Saturn V, on the other hand, could be used to stage a Mars mission. Basically everything that was needed already existed except for the MEM (Mars Excursion Module). Of course, pursuing such an endeavor would be pointless, they'd be wasting billions of dollars on something that had no real value.

But then again... it would feel nice to finally be ahead of the Soviets for once...

And so in November of 1971, the Saturn V production lines were retooled to build the new Saturn MLVs, work began on rebuilding new Skylab habitation modules, and the contact for the MEM was handed out to North American Aviation. After much deliberation, the launch date for the mission was set for the 1980 Mars transfer window, and the Ares program was officially launched.

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1976 was a big year for NASA. After years of development, the LESA Lunar base modules were finally ready for flight. At the start of the year, Jamestown base consisted of 7 LEM shelters, 3 MoLEMs, and could hold 3 people, or 6 when crew rotations were occurring. By the end of the year, Jamestown had 2 additional large modules and a pressurized roving lab, and the crew had been increased to 6 permanently, with as many as 9 during rotations. The LSAM (Lunar surface access module) had also been introduced, which used a traditional LEM frame but had hydrolox engines, allowing it to be refueled on the Lunar surface. This opened up the capability to perform short hops around the Moon and allowed the crew of Jamestown base to effectively explore the entire Lunar surface. In fact, one of the first things they did with this capability was to fly over to the Lunar farside and set up a small observatory to constantly monitor the stars without the Earths radio interference. And on top of all that, Moonlab had come online 3 and a half years earlier, allowing up to 3 people to constantly be in Lunar orbit, studying the long-term effects of spaceflight beyond the magnetosphere, taking high-resolution images of the Moon, and acting as a deep-space observatory.

Back in low orbit, the MEM was making its first spaceflight. Boosted into space by a Saturn V, it was flown for 30 days by the crew of Apollo 43 in a mission similar to that of LK-4 or Apollo 9. The flight was a resounding success, and the MEM was officially qualified for flight. At the same time, PPM (planetary propulsion module) 1X finished its 1-year endurance test, proving that liquid hydrogen could be stored for long amounts of time in space. To conclude the test the NERVA motor on the back of the spacecraft was fired, and the vehicle sent into a heliocentric orbit. Every component of the Martian spacecraft had now been tested, and NASA was ready to launch Ares 1 in 1977. If the flight, which would go into Martian orbit but not land, was successful, then Ares 2 would fly in 1980 and firmly place the US as the winner of the space race.

Meanwhile, the Soviets were still pushing forwards with Zvezda base. By the end of 1976, it had 6 modules, 2 pressurized rovers, and had been visited by 6 Zarya missions. The real accomplishment came in 1977 however. In June an N1 rocket blasted off from Baikonur and sent the MDK-1 spacecraft into Lunar orbit. Three months later the crew of Zarya 19 rendezvoused with it in orbit and flew it down to the Lunar surface, landing near Zvezda. After a relatively normal surface stay, they took off again and rendezvoused with Mir station in Lunar orbit, before transferring over to a Soyuz and returning home. With the mission's completion, the MDK had been proven to be flight-worthy, and as far as NASA was concerned it was merely another version of the TLK.

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The Proton rocket blasted off from Aera 24 of Site 81 at the Baikonur cosmodrome on the 17th of June, 1980, roaring into the Khasakstan sky. If everything went to plan, this would be the last time Fedoseyev Vyacheslavovich, Sidorov Tikhonovich or Selivanova Leonidovna would be on the Earth for almost 2 years. Once they reached high orbit, they rendezvoused and docked with the исследователь, and started to get accustomed to the living conditions there. Then, after spending 2 days checking out the ship's systems, control gave the go-ahead, and they began the slow spiral out of the Earth's gravity well. For 7 days the electrostatic engines accelerated the ship starwards before they shut down and entered standby mode. They wouldn't be reactivated for another 300.

The Americans had, of course, known what исследователь was the moment it had started to spiral outwards into high Earth orbit. That didn't mean they weren't shocked, though. The second исследователь started to accelerate, they were forced to start accelerating their own plans. Ares 2E was mooved up to launch in July instead of August, but the engineers already knew that it would be pointless. The laws of celestial mechanics demanded that исследователь with its ion propulsion system would reach Mars first.

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пионер decelerated through 1-and-a-half kilometers a second as it fell towards the Martian surface. Explosive charges blew of cover panels, and a large ballute unfurled from the top of the craft, slowing it even more. As it passed through 5 kilometers, the backshell was dropped and the 6 descent propulsion motors lit up, blasting tons of superheated gas and plasma towards the surface. The ballute was cut, mirrors popped open beside the craft's windows, and Tikhonovich started scanning the surface. They were coming down almost 20 kilometers off target, and they were getting dangerously close to a steep ravine. He sent the craft into RPU-1 and angled westward, deflecting their trajectory onto a large flat plain near the sides of the valley and slowing his horizontal speed. As they descended below 200 meters, Leonidovna warned him that there were large boulders just north-east of their position, and he tried to bank south to avoid them. By now he could see dust being kicked up outside his window, and Leonidovna could see the crafts shadow beneath them.

Tikhonovich and Leonidovna during terminal descent said:
Спуск через 200, вниз на 50, 40, 30

Хорошо, теперь мы начинаем поднимать пыль ... Я перехожу в режим управления пилотом 0.

70 вниз в 22, скольжение в 27, 25

Смотреть эти валуны!

Какая? 50 вниз 17, скользя на 21

Валуны под углом 40 градусов, теперь я ясно вижу нашу тень ... проверь свою скорость! Мы слишком быстры!

23 скольжения на 11, вниз 19 ... 13 ...

12 метров вниз на 9, скользя на 7, черт возьми, эт---
пионер hit the Martian surface at over 15 meters per second, and contact with control and the orbiting исследователь was lost instantly.

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Endevaour blazed through the skies of Mars, leaving a brightly shining trail of plasma behind it. Soon afterward the ballute was jettisoned, the descent engine ignited, and within a 5 minutes John Young, Clarence Peterson, and Sylvia Collins were down on the Martian surface.

The next day Young clambered out of the airlock attached to the side of Endeavor and climbed down to the Martian surface. He was followed by Collins and Peterson a few minutes later, and together they set up the American flag and started to check the MEM for damage. Once that was done, they collected some surface samples and set up the Mars Surface Experiment Package before returning to the MEM to rest. On day 3 Young and Peterson unpacked the Mars Roving Vehicle from the side of the MEM's storage bay and drove a few kilometers to a nearby crater to collect more samples.

Finally, on day 4, Young and Collins attached the trailer to the MRV and set out south-east. After 4 hours of continuous driving, they reached пионер's crash site. When they got there they found the lander on its side, with one of its landing struts broken off on a nearby boulder. Both the ascent cabin and the surface habitat were broken open and had clearly lost pressure on impact, while the ascent propellant tanks had come loose from their frames and were lying a few meters away. The entire scene was a mess, and half the craft was even buried in the sand.

Collins found some cables and a crude pulley system attached to the top of the lander as if the cosmonauts had tried to pull it upright before realizing the futileness of there efforts and giving up. If the tank-tracks were any indication, after that they must have unfolded the rover and drove off south, towards Valles Marineris.

Young and Collins, after reporting their findings back to Peterson, got back in the MRV and continued driving southwards. After another hour of driving, they finally reached the edge of the valley and the end of the tracks.

Parked next to the edge of the valley was the Soviet rover, and sitting on the ground, facing the valley and with their backs to the rover were the two cosmonauts.

Sidorov Tikhonovich and Selivanova Leonidovna had known that they were never going to return to the Earth the moment their landing strut hit a bolder and the пионер had tipped over. They had survived the crash without any major injuries, although Leonidovna had twisted her ankle.

Upon realizing that the communications systems were no longer functioning and that the cabin was slowly leaking air, they had opened the airlock door and stepped out onto the Martian surface. At first, they tried in vain to pull the lander upright, but realizing it was doomed to failure they gave up, and instead set about deploying the rover. After they had finished, they had taken the Martian flag assembly, the small engraved metal disk commemorating all of the previously fallen cosmonauts and astronauts, and the plaque commemorating the first Martian landing, and they set off driving towards the valley.

When they reached it they had stopped, walked a few dozen meters away, planted the flag in the Martian surface, and placed the plaques at its base. They then walked back over to the rover, sat down beside it, and they watched the Sun set.
 
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Btw, yes, that ending was shamelessly copied from this: https://preview.tinyurl.com/v2s74w6. I'm not sure why, but the version I wrote doesn't seem to convey the same amount of emotions as his. I'll just have to see if I can get better at writing I guess.

Anyways, any thoughts? Did I write something that was semi-realistic, or was it terrible?
 
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American rescue mission plz
I just realized that I forgot to specify this in the original story, but... those cosmonauts have been sitting by their rover for two months. I'm pretty sure there beyond saving at this point.

I did originally consider having the Americans rescue them, but I thought it would be too cliched. If you really want, I can rewrite it to have that happen though.
 
That could work. I'm trying to keep this as close to OTL as possible, but using kerosene/H2O2 could be a good idea. I'll see what I can do. I'm less inclined to use propane, but I'll have a look at that as well.
No biggie, in fact the Soviet's were working hard on LH2 storage and transfer technology since the early 60s... It was just mostly for nuclear rockets as their main engine design groups were having enough issues with kerolox :) Considering they are taking the Lunar program seriously that could be changed to an earlier adoption. Speaking of they actually have a REALLY good excuse too since they can 'sell' it to the military as greatly increasing existing launch vehicles payload capability even if it removes them from direct military use.

Re-reading the various sites and some of my notes it would seem that this was a good turning point for the Soviets. One major sticking point though is there's a valid reason they were more interested in ICBM's than in space launch; There actually WAS a "missile gap" and it was not in their favor. Sputnik did more than spur the US space program it also put the fire under the development of our ICBM program which was something the Soviets had not, (along with the prestige boost) seen coming. The USSR had one (1) "ICBM", the R7, and it was actually pretty useless as a military weapon. Meanwhile the US had by 1960 the Atlas, Titan and Minuteman in development. We also had them ringed-in with shorter range missiles in Europe and Japan which when we added plans to deploy IRBM's to Turkey and Italy percipiated the Cuban Missile deployment and Crisis.
So along with not taking the American's seriously about the Lunar mission, (and IMO there may have been a lot more focus on it being a way to hide more missile development so they didn't pay all that much attention to development that obviously wasn't useful to the military) they were scrambling and putting all the resources into developing a credible ICBM force to counter the American one. Thus the rush to develop more missiles that could be stood-up as soon as possible leading to things like the Nedelin Catastrophe. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nedelin_catastrophe, http://www.astronautix.com/t/thenedelincatastrophe.html)

Something we need to take into account is that there was a very GOOD reason to not 'waste' money on a major Lunar program when you're not even sure the other side is serious yet. I can see butterflying away the Nedelin Catastrophe and maybe getting a few of the ICBM's into operation sooner maybe calming things down but doing so reduces the arguments for NOT using storable propellants since they haven't seen what can go wrong. As of September 1960 in fact storables were still in the running and Glushko's recomendation for the first three stages of the proposed N1. (http://www.astronautix.com/n/n1.html) Note the time-period, Nedelin would happen in October.

As an aside the Astronautix article has the note where I got the idea of having Glushko push H2O2 as he was actually pushing for H202/Pentoborane (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentaborane(9)) for the upper stages of the N1. And it also points out that he had information on storables the US was using or planning to use in it's missiles which also spurred him into going that route. If we have him steered away from Pentoborane, (it's extremly hard to handle, rough on engines, and toxic so despite the 'advantages' nobody ever put it into general use) and compromise on kerosene. From the looks of it the main issue between Korolev and Glushko on propellants was that Glushko was (at the time) unable (or unwilling, or likely both to a degree) to sovle the issues with combustion instabilty in the large single chamber kerolox engines Korolev needed. That plus what Korolev considered 'failures' on Glushko's part to solve those problems leading to a sub-par engine in the GR1 ICBM which was rejected by the military as well as not developing an effective upper stage for the R7 and Korolev's belief that Glushko had gotten him sent to the Gulag all pretty much effectivly ended any chance of cooperatoin between the two.

I would imagine that if Korolev lived, upon seeing the situation Soyuz was in he would want the safety factor dialed up to 11 on the launch. Maybe it would have an ejector seat on the first flight? Presumably, the parachute issues were known at the time, so he might have pushed for them to install one as a backup.
I think you're pretty much right but the issues were that even he would be under greater pressure to get Soyuz flying and as far as anyone could tell Soyuz 1 WAS flight ready when launched. It was only after it got to orbit things started to go wrong and with the failure to launch Soyuz 2 there was now no back up available. They can't put ejector seats in the Soyuz as there was specifically no room for them even if you only had two cosmonauts and the entire point of having three was to ensure that it would still be superior to the planned American two-man Gemini spacecraft and equal to but avaible before the American Apollo. Actually the parachute issue wasn't known and wasn't forseen as it was almost the same setup as Vostock/Voshkod. Getting tangled just wasn't considered an issue. There were significant issues with the first unmanned flight but Mishin concluded, (and with the same data I'm pretty sure Korolev would make the same call) that had a cosmonaut been on-board the flight would have been a success which pushed forward the manned Soyuz 1 flight. Really it would be pretty trivial to have the flight either land safely, (no parachute issues) or only injure the cosmonaut though I'd think actually 'rescuing' him on-orbit with Soyuz 2 would be more dramatic :)

In general what will help is less time pressure and more leadership support, but Korolev is going to have to deliver on those promises which is a pressure all it's own.

At this point in the program, the vehicles are still largely untested. They didn't put crews on the Zond flights OTL, so presumably, they'd be cautious here too. I agree with the Apollo mission schedules though.
They also weren't fully commited to going to the Moon since as long as they were 'unmanned' they could disavow any Lunar program which is what happened OTL. Here they are making no bones about it and going all in so it makes more sense to grab EVERY first and opportunity they can. They KNOW the US will react and can always hope they will react badly and make a poor call to give them more breathing space. It likely won't happen but every little bit helps.

According to Wikipedia, anything that can put 50 or more tons into orbit is a 'super-heavy launch vehicle'. But I get your point.
Ya, now that you pointed it out I noticed that definition, huh. I also notice that the figures for the N1 TLI mass have gone up on most sites as well which is odd. Then again the N1 is a 4/5 stage vehicle whereas the Saturn V was a 3/4. And it's the TLI figures I had earlier that I was going off of btw so it actually comes out a bit more plausible with the current TLI mass. And it appears they were working on eventual hydrolox upper stages but there was never enough incentive OTL to get them deployed on any of their launch vehicles.

The key here is going to be getting the Soviet system up to spec with the American one. I would imagine that after the 'mad dash' for the Moon is over, the Soviets would go back to a two-launch strategy to start building Zvezda. If the Americans find out about that, you bet they will start building a base of their own too.
Very well might happen though both sides are going to be ramping back the effort and trying to find a more affordable means of doing things. Thing is IF they are going to do this it would make sense to simply keep using the Saturn V and N1 on a semi-regular basis rather than a lesser vehicle. You'd probably still have multiple launches for larger payloads but the system works and can be modified and expanded as needed. The key issue is the overall cost and that as of the "end" of Apollo is going to be an issue. Both the Saturn V and N1 are going to be expensive and support hogs so there will likely be efforts on both sides to find ways to reduce costs. The Soviets have a problem with transporation though. Even if they can recover the N1 first stage they have to have an economic means of getting it back to the launch site. (I don't see them getting the upper stages back but it might happen) Now if they can increase the margins enough someone is eventually going to consider that by 'sacrificing' somewhere between 15% and 25% of you 'optimal' payload, (which you can get back with increased performance in your upper stages) you can have enough propellant to do a little something called "boost-back" where the stage reverses course and flies back to the launch site for recovery... This may sound familar to you :)

SpaceX didn't invent it and it was extensivly studied in the US and I'm sure the USSR looked into it as well. The issue, as noted above, is the loss of payload due to reserving propellant and the recovery/landing system which the US didn't feel was warented and the USSR could not likely afford. TTL may be different. I doubt you'd see a propulsive landing, (but DAMN wouldn't that be impressive with something the size of the N1 first stage, then again so would the 'failed' landings so ...) but recovery is possible. The Saturn V had some extensive study done on recovery of the S1 stage as well. EVerything from the flyback F1 to down-range ocean recovery so I'd expect that come about in some form. Or they could both simply focus on making them as cheap as possible, either works.

A NERVA-Saturn-I wouldn't be man-rated, at least not for a while. They're going to need the Saturn V to continue Lunar operations, and the NERVA-Saturn-I would just be a cargo vehicle to launch base modules. And also, from what I've read NERVA was very close to being completed by 1970, so I don't think it's that far off.
"It depends" is a very AH answer to everything :) See, they CAN do Lunar operations with the Saturn-1, they just have to have something like, oh say, an Nuclear Lunar Shuttle in High Earth Orbit that they move crew and cargo to from LEO using a chemical Orbital Transfer Vehicle/Tug. That shuttles the heavy cargo back and forth to Lunar orbit where a dedicated lander goes to and from the surface. So you don't 'need' the Saturn V but if you DO keep the Saturn V then something else has to give, like you nuclear propulsion program :) And yes they had tested a prototype, flight-weight engine in 1969, but OTL due to budget cuts at NASA the Administrator had been raiding the NERVA program for operations funding and it was already loosing it's main Congressional supporter. TTL I expect they have had better luck in funding and support but in the end something has to give and both NASA and Congress were perfectly willing to shelve 'future' programs for getting current needs done.

Something to keep in mind is that while the pre-Lunar goal Apollo was supposed to be a long-term space system as it grew in both cost and complexity it was very much in everyones mind that "Apollo" was not a sustainable or long-term system. Plans were drawn up of course, (APP) but they required re-starting production and re-booting contractor and sub-contractor tooling and systems some of which were no longer around either the companies or the knowledge base. ("Skipping the "Next Logical" step" in "Space Revolution" found here: https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4308/ch9.htm, gives an insight in how much "Apollo" as we know it shifted and changed the progression of spaceflight, and not really in a good way)

I would image the Americans getting there hands on some 'leaked' information saying that it was a Lunar orbital space station and rushing to get Skylab B flying in a wet-workshop configuration to Lunar orbit, while the Soviets laugh as they waste their only remaining habitation module that could be retrofitted for interplanetary flight.
Doesn't work I'm afraid, the Soviets can 'leak' all they want the size and estimated mass, (which you can tell by observing the launch and orbital insertion burns which we and the USSR did and still do VERY closely :) ) how much delta-v they probably have and how much the 'station' masses. Besides which, it would be the US 'laughing' at the Russian's if they even thought that was a serious idea. Ironically enough the US, (and USSR we assume though we can't prove that other than it was 'generally' discussed and dismissed once they had observed US Lunar orbits during Apollo) actually had a planned "Lunar Orbital Space Station" right up until we got into Lunar orbit and discovered the "MassCons" (Mass Concentrations) effect. In effect all low Lunar orbits are unstable and require propulsion to maintain, at least until you have enough survey data to account for them which we have OTL today... After almost 50 years of study on the subject. To paraphrase one "LOSS" planner the unintentional irony of the projects name did NOT escape us :) A much simpler solution is the L1 and L2 points which was well understood by the early 70s. (And why the Gateway/Deep Space Station is planned for the L2 point since if gives access to both the Lunar surface and deep space)

So the only question would be where they are going and which launch window they will use.

I'm not good at politics, so forgive me for that. NASA's Waterloo had Kennedy in office, so I did the same. I'll probably change that.
Don't have to as like in Waterloo you just have someone/thing intervene in the accident. It's tempting of course but Ted wasn't a 'fan' of NASA or Apollo and once he could do so was one of the ones who threw his support, (and the Kennedy name which was probably more important) behind trying to get NASA into line with all the other Federal Agencies. Even without a Vietnam as per OTL there is still going to be issues with the federal budget by the early 70s and depending on the political and domestic situation a lot less "interest" in space and more focus on Earthly matters.

The LEM could land on Mars if you did some radical (and I mean radical) changes to it. I actually did a technical study on it a year or so ago. Strech the descent stage tanks, add another 4 descent engines, and strap 8 drop tanks to the side. Then replace the ascent stage motor with a more powerful one, enlarge the ascent tanks by 50%, and mount a ballute assembly to the docking collar, with struts going down the sides holding it to the rest of the LEM. Strap a heatshield on it and what you get is a super-minimalist Mars lander which has about a 50/50 chance of killing the crew, with the capability to stay on the Martian surface for less than a day. It'll just about work, but you would have to be insane to fly the thing.
And as you say it's not the LEM anymore by a loooong shot :) There's kind of a "good" reason most planning opted back to the NAA MEM even with it's faults. Because designing something to land on a planet with just enough atmosphere to be annoying but more gravity than the Moon is a PITA and frankly we didn't know enough about Mars as it was to make a good call outside a VERY conservative and 'chunky' design like the NAA MEM.

I know there are a lot more points you put forward in your post, but I've just finished writing out the 'version 1' draft of the full TL, and I think that would do a better job of explaining it than the quote-and-reply tactics I've been using so far.
That works

Randy
 
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