Space race in an Eisenhower third term timeline.

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by lounge60, Sep 5, 2013.

  1. lounge60 Member

    Mar 29, 2006
    In another timeline in which twenty-second Amendment set to three terms the limit for the election to USA President office,and in which the health of Dwight D.Eisenhower is strong and his heart healthy,Ike is elected in 1960 President of United States for a third and final term.

    Now,the Ike's opinions about manned space flight are (in our as in this timeline) these:

    Which is the future of American manned space flight in a timeline like this?
    We have still a race for the moon,or at most a limited program in earth orbit (maybe militar with Dyna Soar)?
  2. TxCoatl1970 Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2009
    Much as I think Ike was an OK President, you've got a train-wreck of POD's to sort through.
    Ike was in lousy health and widely expected to die in office during his FIRST term in office. The second term happened b/c the Dems nommed Adlai Stevenson again in a suicide run.

    Let's say Nixon wins in 1960 which almost happened IOTL.
    E of pi, Michel Van, or truthislife will tie me to a hypergolic for getting major details wrong, but here goes:

    • More unmanned probes, esp Ranger to the moon and other bodies. They're cheap, they get a lot done, and give folks reasons to miniaturize sensors and computers.
    • MOL actually gets built and launched piecemeal from Titan launch vehicles. Whether it's strictly surveillance or a way station to refuel and assemble spacecraft is whole different kettle of fish. American astronauts start off with a big lead in orbital endurance records b/c of MOL ITTL.
    • Since McNamara isn't on hand to screw up DOD, DynaSoar and X-20 at least see flight trials by 1967 or so.
    • Chances are by the end of the decade the nuclear space tug and a permanent Moonbase by 1975 might not be crazy Napkinwaffe but policy under a more gradual approach. America's not going up there as a publicity stunt- we're there to stay, baby!
    YMMDV but that's my POV
  3. Archibald space jockey !

    Jan 22, 2008
  4. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    no, i not gona tie you on a Titan II, TxCoatl1970 :D
    you quite right on list except one detail MOL, it was the successor of DynaSoar aka X-20 by McNamara.
    here in Eisenhower second term, the USAF sell Dyna Soar (X-20) as hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft launch by rocket booster.
    except it fly higher and faster as any aircraft, after U-2 incident i think Eisenhower will put X-20 program on fast tracks to completion :rolleyes:
    what will let to new booster to launch Dyna Soar (there were a dozen of proposals for it)

    while NASA US ARMY and US Navy will focus on unmanned probes to Moon and even deeper in space
    there are efforts to put a man in orbit with Program Mercury, but it was not a priority program.
    Until the Soviet will give USA a hell of a surprise with the first men in orbit: Yuri Gagarin.

    Here Eisenhower is forced to surpass the Soviet efforts, while US make preposterous suborbital hop, were almost a astronaut was killed after landing.
    He will have same option like Kennedy but will he take it ?
    the chance is high he declare in 1961:

  5. TxCoatl1970 Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2009
    @ Michel Van

    I know this sounds off the beaten path, but WI Explorer I beat Sputnik into space?

    Would the US get complacent and not try to make NASA clearinghouse of all US space efforts to kludge high-profile projects to "beat" the Soviets.

    One of the PODs floated for space exploration getting adequate funding is having it under USAF control, Blue Gemini and so forth.

    Nixon IOTL was fine with expanding US reach and capabilities, but considered Apollo a JFK-inspired boondoggle.
    Considering a less shoot-for-the-moon Republican streak in the 1960's what would US space policy be like?
  6. Garrison Well-Known Member

    Feb 24, 2012
    Milton Keynes UK
    I think you can only dial back the Lunar program if Shepard beats Gagarin into orbit. It was the political pressure from Gargarin's flight combined with the Bay of Pigs that pushed Kennedy towards making his bold move.
  7. Garrison Well-Known Member

    Feb 24, 2012
    Milton Keynes UK
    But that was before the Soviets demonstrated their apparent superiority by launching Gagarin; I suspect he would have been pressured to change his mind though he probably wouldn't have set such an ambitious timetable.
  8. Archibald space jockey !

    Jan 22, 2008
    Fair point. There are a lot of variables however.
    I can't see Ike allowing for the Bay of Pigs disaster to happens, so part of the humiliation factor that led to the Apollo decision goes away.
    Then it boils down to the following question
    Is Gagarine flight by himself enough of an humiliation to force Ike into Apollo ? :D
    Well, there's a precedent: Sputnik ! Eisenhower attitude was "we were not first maybe, but our satellites are useful and not mere propaganda" bolstered by Explorer 1 discovery of the van Allen belts.
    The public opinion however completely disagreed.
    Ike was telling his opinion "A space race ? what space race ?"
    The opinion feeling was "there's no question there is an ongoing space race, and we are losing it."

    As someone said earlier( Michel ?) I think Ike would have settled for a much more modest goal.
    A lunar flyby as suggested doesn't need a huge Saturn V, large F-1 engines and a Lunar Module.
    Yeah, the way I see it, Ike would have gone for a manned lunar flyby as a straight development of an Earth orbit space station. No big budget boost for NASA.
    It wouldn't be too complicated to send a 15-ton, two men Apollo flyby-ing the Moon. Just send it to a space station first, then have a Saturn IB loft a 18 tons Centaur upper stage to the same orbit.
    Pluck Apollo nose into the Centaur, fire the RL-10s, and turn a loop around the Moon.
    The Centaur had a worrisome, troubled development process
    but astronauts would fly separately from the stage, they would just meet in orbit.
  9. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    Not only was Sputnik 1 first, but Sputnik 2&3 were huge, compared to the tiny US satellites of the era. Even if the us had orbitted a grapefruit sized satellite, a 1 tonne satellite with a dog in it would still be a huge shock.

    Why on earh, or rather off it, would Eisenhower, or anyone, want to send a man around the moon? That would be pretty meaningless, imo, and such an announcement would be greeted with a lot of head scratching.

    No, a lunar landing is something. A space station is something. A lunar circumnavigation? Yawn. So what?
  10. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    it could beat sputnik, but it happened not thanks to Eisenhower!

    so far the story is tell, Von Braun had during test launch of his Rockets, two state officials in his back.
    Who make sure that Von Braum not accidentally launch a satellite into orbit.

    Next to that was the Battle "how launch the first US satellite ?" between US Army (von Braun) US Navy, NACA (need a rocket) and USAF (not interest to launch one)
    In end the US Navy won, with untested Vanguard rocket and made Kaputnik on live US Television...

    by the Way
    Vanguard 1 satellite mass was 1.47 kg ! it was nicknamed "Grapefruit"
    on the either hand Sputnik 3 mass was 1327 kg
  11. Polish Eagle Resident Martian

    Apr 11, 2009
    Where the skies are so blue
    Ike had his political reasons to support Vanguard--mostly related to recon sats. The US was developing plans for those since 1954, and the CIA in particular was eager to get them flying.

    The issue was the question of the legality of flying satellites over Soviet territory. They shot U-2s down for airspace violation--what's to say a recon sat would soon find itself flying through a cloud of ball bearings if they tried a similar stunt with that?

    The US needed a way to set legal precedent for satellite overflights of foreign territory--if the Soviets didn't shoot down an American satellite when it first goes up, then the US can claim an internationally recognized legal "Freedom of Space" similar to Freedom of the Seas. But a satellite operated by the US Army and designed by the chief missile designer for the US Army? That's got 'military' written all over it, and the Soviets would have been, in theory, well in their rights to shoot it down without international outcry.

    Shooting down a 'civilian' science satellite like Vanguard is much harder to justify.

    So, Vanguard got favor. When it went overbudget, the CIA even funneled millions of dollars into it. If the US could set a legal precedent for overflights of the USSR, then the CIA would be rolling in classified images.

    The Soviets and Sputnik went and made that a moot point (overflying the US without getting shot down), so Explorer got the go-ahead soon enough after.

    So, how does the Eisenhower Administration (presumably retaining a lot of key officials in the relevant positions, like Richard Bissell of the CIA) follow through in the 1960s?

    It's clear that Ike's main goal was to put up reconnaissance satellites--all else was secondary. Here, the X-20 program has a certain place--before electronic transmission of images matured in the 1970s, the only way to get immediate images from the Soviets would have been to fly a Dyna-Soar and return the film after a single orbit. This was, according to The Space Shuttle Decision, actually still considered a desirable mission for the Shuttle during the Nixon Administration, and led to that vehicle getting the large delta wings and high cross-range it had IOTL. Dyna-Soar would then stand a good chance of getting administration support in the 1960s, perhaps with some sort of MOL-like accessory program (a station with an even bigger telescope, which uses Dyna-Soars to return film canisters).

    The Soviets would have their own counterpart programs (something like Almaz) as the decade goes on.

    But how does this go on in the presumably Democratic administration of 1965-1969 (or 1973)? I suspect that the social upheavals of the latter part of the 1960s, and the economic stagnation of that period, would soon rear their ugly heads--nothing like OTL Apollo could get through a congress that might have even more Mondales and Proxmires than it suffered IOTL. And given that the technology for electronic transmission of reconnaissance images would mature by that time, the military reason for Dyna-Soar and *MOL would evaporate. I also suspect that their job-creation capacity would be lower than Apollo's was (given Eisenhower's rather cheapskate nature--thermonuclear weapons were emphasized for, among other reasons, their low cost during his administration). But before the unpleasantness of the end of the decade happens, a Democratic president, almost certainly running on an image of youth and vigor compared to the ancient Eisenhower, might see an opportunity to associate himself with high-technology wonders. Perhaps a reusable space launcher, to reduce the cost of launching the CIA's satellites...

    But overall, the US manned space program will be much lower profile, and so have much less political clout (not that it has much IOTL). In the 1970s, with economic stagnation, and without the political base built up during Apollo, it will face much opposition from Congress.

    That's how I see it, anyway.
  12. lounge60 Member

    Mar 29, 2006
    Well,obviously this depends by Vietnam.
    If Ike,in 1960-64,and a possible Republican successor (Nixon,or Rockfeller) in 65
    not cause a escalation in the Vietnam conflict is improbable that we have social upheavals and economic stagniation in late 60s-early 70s.
    On the other hand is very probable that after Eisenhower three terms the election in 1964 is win by a democratic,JFK or Hubert Humphrey,and is not probable that the new administration begin with a direct US intervention in Vietnam.
  13. Archibald space jockey !

    Jan 22, 2008
    The way I see it, Eisenhower would pick the space station thing as the main goal (boring but useful) with some circumlunar flights late in the decade to add some glamour and shut the russians.
    See Zonds and Apollo 8 - going around the Moon without landing would already be a major PR hit.
    A pair of Saturn IBs could send a lighter Apollo into a circumlunar flight. Well, that kind of mission would be enough for Ike.
    - this plan perfectly match what NASA planned as of 1959
    - no need for a war effort Eisenhower didn't wanted.
    Indeed this program wouldn't need a Saturn V, Gemini, a lunar module, and the massive F-1 rocket engine.
    Gemini role would be taken by the block I Apollo, the block II being the circumlunar ship, although probaly smaller and lighter than the OTL ship - no LM and no LM pilot.

    NASA would find itself in a strange quandary - they could very well have routine circumlunar missions flying out of the Earth orbit space station, but the next step - a lander, a landing ! - might be very hard to get.
    - boosting a lander to the Moon would either take two more Saturn IB or a much larger rocket, both expensives
    - the lander itself would be expensive to develop (yes, even the LM was expensive)

    You think that's a bizarre situation ? watch the ongoing SLS / Orion debacle. On paper NASA has been giving the rocket and the manned ship to perform circumlunar missions... but no further budget is coming for the lander.
    Merde, it is today's situation except for four decades earlier - 1973 instead of 2013 ! It boggles the mind.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
  14. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    my thought on Archibald post

    the Saturn IB had enough reserve by three stage to put a lightweight capsule around the Moon
    or put a small space station into orbit MORL

    the question is what Apollo fly into orbit ?
    already planned as 3 man capsule, before project Mercury (one men soonest in space)
    under Kennedy it transform into a Lunar space craft.
    but under Eisenhower, who gonna win the NASA solicitation, NAA like OTL ?
    or will NASA take another contractor better suiting for Eisenhower vision
    and Apollo that can be used as small laboratory in orbit ?
    in that case Apollo look like this

    General Electric Apollo D-2

    Convair Apollo M-2 concept

    Martin Apollo concept
  15. Archibald space jockey !

    Jan 22, 2008
    It is a well known that the General Electric D-2 looked like a carbon copy of Soyuz - except that Soyuz didn't existed yet !

    an interesting aspect of Soyuz is that the thing is light enough (15 000 to 20 000 pounds) it can be send through TLI by a rocket of a very reasonable size.

    Soyuz is light because it stages, like a rocket - three separable modules makes your ship pretty light and nimble. Reusability takes a hit, however.
  16. lounge60 Member

    Mar 29, 2006
    Is also possible that X-20 Dyna Soar evolves in some small spaceplane in early 70s.
    X-20 was a USAF program,but maybe the next generation could be shared with NASA.
    A program of space laboratories saturn IB derived served from a winged space ferry.
    So we could have:
    Step-1: Mercury program (1961-1964)
    Step-2:Apollo program (orbital,1965-1970)-at the same time Dyna Soar missions (1965-1971)
    Step-3:First space station saturn 1B derived (from 1968)
    Step-4: Winged ferry (X-20 evolution?) for the stations (from 1971)
  17. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    I would agree - this is likely the most that Eisenhower would sign off on. Even the circumlunar flight would be a push.

    Or at least, so it would seem...

    The difficulty here is a political one. A manned landing and return is a definite goalpost that can't be missed, or beaten. If NASA makes clear that its goal is merely to whip a couple astronauts around the Moon and back, with no immediate plans for a landing...Korolev will not have much difficulty, I think, persuading Khrushchev that this is an opportunity score a major propaganda coup over the Yankees. Just because the U.S. decides to forego a landing doesn't mean the Soviets will. In fact, it might be an extra spur.

    Once this becomes apparent to the U.S. by tail end of this hypothetical third Ike term, pressure will mount to empower NASA to beat to the Russkies to the lunar surface. And even if Ike resists, his successor in 1965 (which might well be Kennedy, after all) might not. Of course, by this point, NASA has lost a few years of development over what happened in our timeline.
  18. Archibald space jockey !

    Jan 22, 2008
    Lounge 60

    Without McNamara DynaSoar life might be easier. NASA could adopt the program as a X-15 successor. This DynaSoar would be suborbital after a launch by a Titan II, the rocket that OTL launched... Gemini.
    This would be in preparation of an orbital Dynasoar to support Ike space station adopted in 1961 instead of the lunar goal.
    In 1970 or so the orbital DynaSoar would replace the block 1 Apollo as the space station ferry.
    Unfortunately this would make Apollo Block II lunar flights more expensive or marginal since the Block I would have been retired. . Unless of course they are replaced by a true lunar landing program, but that one would be hard to fund.

    So the Soviets catch a kind of "victory disease" per Ike lack of reaction ?
    Excellent !
    Congrats Athelstane, you just reversed OTL. By starting in 1965, NASA put itself in the Soviet OTL very uncomfortable position.
  19. Archibald space jockey !

    Jan 22, 2008
    A very interesting point. In fact OTL the tipping point was 1965. AFTER that point the Soviets adopted a passive / defensive strategy.

    BEFORE that date, as you wisely note, this attitude doesn't exists.
    The peculiar Korolev / Khrushchev relationship is a kind of powerful bulldozer that manage to level all the (huge) obstacles that might hamper the soviet space effort - from bureaucracy to designers infighting.
    Of course OTL all this fell apart within two years - Mister K was out in 1964, while Korolev went to the grave in 1966.
    I would say that the Mishin / Brezhnev duo that replaced them was a disaster in motion.

    Crap, I think we are up to something here, with or without Ike (let's say Nixon replace him, it doesn't matter, what matters is NO lunar landing decision in 1961).

    - a different US president in 60'
    - no lunar landing decision
    - only a lunar flyby as a space station spinoff
    - Korolev / Khrushchev jump that bandwagon
    - they catch victory disease
    - they decide to continue their successfull policy of outmatching an American success with "something bigger"
    - "something bigger" than the lunar flyby is obviously a lunar landing
  20. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    I still dont get what a circumlunar flight would do for you.

    Otl, Apollo 8 was significant, true. But 1) it was largely as a stepping stone to the planned landing, and 2) some of the power of the imagery of the 'blue dot' wasnt foreseen.

    So, i suspect that a manned circumlunar flight as its own end goal wouldnt even be considered.