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

Also, does anyone know how much building a few new Saturn V-class launch complexes and crawler transporters at the cape would cost?
Appendix B of Moonport has the data you're looking for. (Moonport:, direct link to appendix B: Total cost was something like $186m in then-year dollars. However, I'd question how many new complexes you'd need. Two crawlers is enough to support two or even three or four pads (it only takes about 8 hours to make the trip from the VAB to the pad fully loaded), and a Saturn V only spends a week or so on the pad for a launch. Consider that Apollo 9, 10, and 11 saw a Saturn V launched every two months IOTL without particularly stressing available resources--the Cape could launch them almost faster than the suppliers could build them. At full speed, I'd be unsurprised if each VAB cell/pad set could support a launch a month, offering the awesome (and almost wholly unnecessary) prospect of 24 Saturn Vs per year from existing facilities. The main bottleneck that might be worth fixing would be a second mobile servicing structure, which would allow simultaneous preparation of two Saturn V launches, one each on 39A and 39B. for two-launch missions.

The Soyuz 7K-LOK needed only about one km/s to break out of Lunar orbit, the LK needs twice that, even without the crasher stage. Plus, doing two burns at once with spacecraft practically right next to each other is all but asking for them to collide. Then again, having good footage of it would be awesome.

Ya, I keep forgetting Apollo was overbuilt and overpowered in comparision. But yes in the main you want to keep the vehicles in visual range for most of the testing so you can get good film records of the manuevers and performance. Where te LK would 'move' away would be for the landing abort test where it retroburns for a specific amount and then switches to 'landing abort' mode, dropping the surface package and 'climbing' away as if going back to orbit all in one burn. This is the point I'd assume the engine explodes since it goes from 'landing throttled down' to "full blast abort mode" while switching tank sets. Either way the 'support' vehicle will be an orbital Soyuz rather than an LOK simply to provide that backup should it be required so it'll have the delta v to rendezvous with the stricken LK.

In the original TL for this thread, I had the N1-LK-LOK refuel in Earth orbit, with Leonov attaching a transfer line to a refueling stage launched by a Proton. They did ullage burns simultaneously to settle the propellents for the transfer. But, I would imagine in real life they would wait until they had more capable landers like the TLK.

Practice makes perfect :) Though again anyone seeing any part of the orbital operations will know what it's for given an idea of the vehicles involved. They would also dock 'nose-to-nose' with the tanker to transfer rather than using a line. You then set the assembly spining, (end-over-end) which settles the propellant at the nominal end of the tank with the line intakes and pumps.

It would be, but that would make the chances of continuing the race to Mars all but disappear. Of course, they might do a joint Mars mission...

Decide on a joint Mars mission and in the 80s relations sour as per OTL and each side decides to go it alone maybe?

Ok, so no water ice early on then. I guess Zvezda will have to make do with baking the water out of the soil.

It's very much a 'safety' thing, one person on the surface is dangerous enough. Especially given the Soviet surface suit is actually less flexible than the Apollo suits. The very real fear is that if one falls they won't be able to get back up again. A surface experiment into which they feed the regolith and see what they can extract is going to yeild some interesting results so yea, I can see it.

6 females applied to Astronaut Group 5 in 1966, so if we have one of them get in, maybe as a political stunt or something, the Soviets would probably respond. So basically the exact opposite of what happened in For All Mankind.

Unfortunately, I cannot find the names of the women who applied, so if I ever mention them it will have to be using a random name generator.

Thirteen 'applied' for the Mercury program and by design they were denied a chance since Eisenhower specificaclly ONLY wanted male test pilots for astronauts. NASA ran with this and it wasn't till Group 8 in the late-70s where females were allowed in. (And much to just about everyones disgust a serious question at the pre-flight news breif was if one of her duties would be to make the coffee for the crew... :O ) Essentially NASA isn't going to do it as long as we're 'behind' the Soviets. The USSR 'might' but it won't be on a major mission and it won't be alone. Unfortunate but it's the attitude of the time. I've always wondered what would have happened if the Mercury 13 had reached out to Pat Nixon instead of butting heads with Eisnehower. She and Richard had a pretty equal relation and if SHE brought it to him in a rational manner he might have been able to budge Ike.

How would they know how much of the spacecraft is fuel or structure? And even if they could, reaching Lunar orbit takes 3950 m/s, while getting to mars takes about 4270 m/s. The excess propellant could be to compensate for the mascons.

There are people who's JOB it is to figure those things out and frankly you can get a very accurate 'read' on a ships solid versus liquid mass during a burn to orbit. By this point it will be well understood that a Lunar orbit station would not be very effective or cost efficent. The could be boosting for an "L" point, (L1-5) but you wouldn't do that as a manned first flight and getting back would require even more propellant so it's not likely. It's not a 'space station' and it has an engine and propellant tanks. The highest and most likely possibility is they are going for an interplanetary flyby.

I will admit that the US could just strap 50 boosters to their ship and call it a day, but I dought in reality they would actually do that. Then again they are Americans, they don't exactly know the meaning of overkill.

As an American I resent that statement... "OVERkill" is obviosly when you get some on your shoes and have to clean it off... Just because we take along enough boosters to slightly move Mars in it's orbit... Don't worry we had some guy named Von Kerman or some such check the math...

Interesting, I didn't know that. Thanks.

Oh there are ALL sorts of 'options' when the race is active and close. Ever heard of "TRITON?" (TRI-modal capable, Thrust Optimized Nuclear propulsion system) A NERVA with a 'high-thrust' mode using LOX injection and a high power generation capability for 'other' uses in standby mode. ( If you can't have Orion it's about the next best thing :)

Yes, it is. In fact, I did consider many alternatives to the way I wrote it in that draft. For instance;

- The US and Soviet landers land next to each other safely and do Apollo-Soyuz but on Mars
- The Soviets crash and use an emergency ascent vehicle to get back into orbit (aka some fuel tanks and engines strapped together with duct tape)
- The Soviets crash and the Americans rescue them
- The Soviets half-crash and the Americans help with the repairs

I might change it in the next version of the story, whenever I get around to writing it.

I'd probably vote to avoid the "Happy Ending" on this one unless you want the American's to get there somehow and help. Nice idea but this way you still show that space travel isn't always going to be safe nor easy. A 'just-in-time' rescue would still work as would some other options to, maybe not 'rescue' but extend their capability until they can be rescued might make a good story as well. As is it's depressing but something that fully could happen in a space race.

I would also like to write some sort of sequence where they find life. I'm not entirely sure if that counts as ASB though...

Might be more cliche rather than ASB since I've seen in a half dozen times in 'realistic' Mars landing shows. (And no, that's not counting ANY of the ones where it then procedes to eat the astronauts faces off. Only ones where one or more astronauts 'die' for some reason and manage to find life while doing to to make it 'worth' the price. I don't buy that though)

KSP is honestly one of the best things I ever found out about. I managed to get realism overhaul working, and now I can rapidly prototype out systems like never before!

I really need to learn how to do that as my 'attempts' to build 'stock' modifications usually end in a very ... Kerbal fashion shall we say? :)

Here's something I've been working on:

Hmm, that last lander doesn't look right though:
MZ2 Lander.jpg

(Moon Zero Two reference :) )

How did the interpersonal relationships work with Chelomei? Would removing him cause a problem? If not, I'll see if I can do that.

While Chelomei 'pushed' Korolev OTL he was seen by most as an 'upstart' and egotistical person who had come over from cruise missile design and was simply using Khruschev's son as influance over the rocket program. But Glushko embraced him due to his use of storeable propellants and big rockets and some of his concepts were pretty inovative such as the kosmoplane where a fully functional 'aircraft' would be carried into space and used for landing, (don't laugh the US had a similar idea with the "Stage Reentry" vehicle, and TKS and Almaz systems were much more geared towards military space utility, but he didn't seem all that interested in the whole 'space program' as much as catering towards military goals. I don't know that removing him would cause problems but I'm in no way an expert in the situation...

A cosmodrome in Cuba would certainly be interesting... I'll see what I can do. As I said earlier, I don't know how politics works, so if I get something wrong please correct me.

"Interesting" in the "Chinese" sense of the word I'm sure :) And we'll keep you on your toes no worries.

Now, that's the sort of thing I came to these forums to see! :)

Glad I could be of service :)

And then a few hours later

"Neil Armstrong, Russel Rogers, you by now are probably aware of the developing situation in orbit. So I will be brief"

"At 0330 hours today, the president was contacted via a direct phone line by Leonid Brezhnev. Approximately 7 hours earlier, a soviet nuclear-armed orbital weapons platform malfunctioned, and for some unknown reason, a launch command was issued. At 2330 hours today, or in about 4 and a quarter hours, those nuclear weapons will detonate near several major population centers, with the estimated casualties in the millions. Unfortunately, they have no capability to stop the attack themselves"

"As such, your mission is to pilot the Blue-Gemini 3 spacecraft to rendezvous and neutralize the Soviet nuclear weapons platform. The target will have radar-deflecting systems installed, so your approach will have to be using optical guidance"

"A full mission and target briefing will be given to you on your ride out to the Ascension Island Launch Complex. The launch will be about an hour and a half from now. Good luck, and Godspeed"

I was actually aiming for it happening more towards the current time, (the actual Soviet "Deadhand" system has been in the new the last few years) this was simply a bigger and more elaborate but essentially outdated space based system but unfortunatly even with the 'upgrades' and modernization of the Russian ICBM force the 'triggers' were left in place and no one noted that the new and old architecture locked each other out. Hence when 'Deadhand' broadcasts in 24 hours only 'some' of the weapons will launch but that would be bad enough. Even worse the system defense and detection systems are active which means any attack on the satellite will initiate the signal so the only way to approach the satellite is in a spacecraft it 'might' recognize as freindly and try and disable the system manually. There's a Soyuz still docked at the ISS but the only people available are those on-board the space station and time is ticking away... YMMV :)

So Apollo 9 lands in February 1969? Maybe even Apollo 8 in November 1968?

Really? Probably not though both get accellerated or moved around. You're big driver OTL was the LEM and it wasn't ready till late 1968. One possible, but unlikely due to the risk and effort, route is to try for a direct flight landing which is what the Apollo SM had originally been designed to do. In other words add landing legs and some additional propellant to the Apollo CSM stack and try and land it directly on the Moon to be first. Most likely Apollo 9 does the LM test in Lunar instead of Earth orbit and they aim for moving Apollo 10 to the first landing slot and move up the launch date. And they double down on preperation work both for the public and political aspects in case they still lose. They point out that despite the Russians landing A man on the Moon they land two and carry out twice the science and data collection work. LIkely several of the more marginal missions that got dropped OTL, (such as a farside landing) come back up and the idea of a Lunar base will be floated but really there's a lot of groundwork to be done before either side could consider either mission seriously.

Well, given how dominant the Titan was for so much of its history, I've always been rather curious what the US programs would look like without it.

The 'neat' thing about the SLS-1960 plan, (as Astronautix points out) is that for once the thinking was far ahead of it's time in that had they deployed the hyrdolox core, boosted by SRB's the US would have had a family of high utility LV's that would probably still be in use today with little need of replacement.

Variations of the "A" would be the main LEO launchers with the "B" combined with the "A" for upper stages for GEO and beyond. I'm not sure the "C" series would have been built considering what a monster it was, (almost twice as long as the "B" and needing either twelve J2's or two M1 engines) but as they planned the initial versions to use the already proven LR-87(H) using hyrdrolox as propellants then the J2 as it became available the initial planning seems pretty solid. Of course the "C" was supposed to be the basis of the Air Force "LUNEX" project just like the Saturn was for the Army's "Horizion" lunar project, but going with direct ascent instead of EOR or any "R" for that matter :)

But I suppose to justify it they would likely need to be given the Lunar mission but if NOT the SLS still makes a lot of sense for the general launch mission envisioned by SLV-4, which due to budget issues and a general lack of political interest, (since the Air Force was pushing SLS more as a LUNAR than a launch vehicle program by heavily tying to LUNEX) was instead met OTL by the near-term expediant of adding SRBs to the Titan II. Hence that progression.

I also think about what a MORE dominant Titan would have been like. At some point I may write a TL about that... I was thinking of calling it something like "Titans all the way down".

"Titan's and Barbarian's and Arcturus, Oh my!" :)

And that's before you get into all the OTHER varients and modifications that were even passingly considered:

Ya, "Titans All The Way Down" or "No Titan's Allowed" would be awsome :)

Shows that in 1964 Martin was considering a program to try and recover Titan III first stages :)

It's interesting for sure. Especially what they say about why re-useability wasn't pursued. And that there were Titan stages just floating around in the water after launches!

It's interesting for sure. Especially what they say about why re-useability wasn't pursued. And that there were Titan stages just floating around in the water after launches!


One of the more 'interesting' aspects, (technically anyway, actual 'applicability' in the midst of a Nuclear War? Not so much but 'interesting') was that as an in-service ICBM everyone was assured that there was 'no danger' of the Titan I/II first stage landing intact down range and therefore the Air Force didn't need to 'purchase/set-aside' a "crash-landing" area like the Army did with its booster stages for the Nike series of missiles. Both MM and the Air Force testified and wrote in depositions that the first stage boosters in ALL cases disinitgrated and the danger of debris was non-existant... (Note this was mostly predicated on the fact that the Titan I/II both 'hot-staged' and the exhaust of the second stage was assumed to destroy the first during firing) And yet, there's this among other examples of surviving first stage boosters :)

Now granted this is the Titan IIIB which was not an ICBM but a space LV which meant a bit more lofted trajectory but still.

In general though this calls into question the 'standard' answer I'd always heard about the actual possiblity of turning the Titan into a reusable vehicle, though to be honest the actual performance hit is likely pretty dang high. And of course the Air Force was never 'keen' about implementing such a program because of that performance hit no matter the economics. (That's one of those 'issues' with military spending because they don't tend to consider changing unless something 'outside' forces them to, which can be 'unfortunate' more often than not :( ) It as the same reason really they rejected the reusable Atlas booster concept.

Is one month too long for a thread? My apologies, this is literally my first post on someone else's thread if that's the case.

2 cents:
- Without a POD before 1966, I would think that it would be almost impossible (I mean, Korolev dies in 1966 and it all goes down the drain after that)
- It would certainly require the Soviets to get rid of their Fuhrerprinzip-style dog-eat-dog system and for Korolev to seize control well before 1966, preferrably collecting all the available resources into OKB-1 (Starting with maybe Yangel dying in Nedelin?)
- Even with Korolev in 100% control, drumming up interest and fixing the flaws in the N1 in time before he dies from overwork would be a huge challenge

As it happens I started my first thread on this topic without realising discussions had happened over this, but I will present my meagre efforts below (the title is a bit of a non-sequitur but it gets there eventually): LINK
for Korolev to seize control well before 1966, preferrably collecting all the available resources into OKB-1

And What about Korolev died in 1961 ?
His health was already very bad and had heart trouble in that time
Let assume he died of Hearth attack

Under Khrushchev would rises Chelomey to main leader of Soviet Space flight,
After the putsch by Brezhnev in 1963, they have to keep Chelomey in place (OTL he fell deep)
But this scenario would let to UR-700 rocket and LK-700 Moon lander...