Stupid Luck and Happenstance, Thread III

Part 107, Chapter 1734
Continued from Thread I; https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/stupid-luck-and-happenstance.405746/ and Thread II; https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/stupid-luck-and-happenstance-thread-ii.452138/#post-17613039

Chapter One Thousand Seven Hundred Thirty-Four



31st July 1966

Cam Ranh, Vietnam

After the success of Taxidiotis I and II over the previous months, everyone was expecting Taxidiotis III to continue that trend. Unfortunately, a spanner had been thrown into the works.

While Albrecht wasn’t prone to fits of anger, there were moments when he felt like shoving his fist through the nearest wall. He was also aware that in most cases, the wall usually won when you played that game.

“This is a goddamned disaster” Wernher von Braun said as reports continued to come in regarding what had happened just hours earlier. For once, Albrecht wasn’t inclined to disagree. Everyone involved with the Space Program expected that when on the cutting edge, sometimes you got cut. There were acceptable losses that they planned for and a certain percentage of those who went into orbit wouldn’t make it back to earth. The dangers were legion; launch accidents, mechanical failure, or any one of dozens of other things were factored in. The Engineers had tried to anticipate every eventuality and plan accordingly.

What had happened though was just a freak accident that had occurred outside of everyone’s thinking. A training flight where a modified military transport was used to simulate a few moments of weightlessness had collided with another airplane while in the pattern to land back in Cam Ranh according to witnesses with the apparent loss of all on board. That include three of those who were scheduled to be aboard Taxidiotis III which was to launch in only a few days and an equal number of alternates. Of the original primary crew, only the Mission Commander and the Science Officer were still alive. They needed to find new First Officer/Pilot, Mission Specialist and Flight Engineer among the surviving alternates. Then they would need to get that crew up to scratch before launch. Captain Brown, the Mission Commander, was optimistic about his ability that regard, but all Albrecht could see was the almost certain hysterical reaction he was expecting when he told the Chancellor that. He also anticipated was a similar reaction if he scrubbed the launch because any delays at this point could push operations into the rainy season, which would effectively pause the entire program for several months at ruinous expense.

“He’s a good sort” Was what Winkle Brown had said about the new First Officer, who was considered a bit young for that role and had been an alternate for a different position until just a few hours earlier. “And I’ve not met a crate that I cannot fly.”

What Brown had left out of that was that in the past he had also discussed his ability to survive crashes at length having survived several of those as a test pilot.



Wunsdorf-Zossen

“I am disappointed” That was all Manfred’s father had said to him when they had spoken about what had happened. He wouldn’t say anything more than that. Aunt Marcella had been a lot more direct about it and had told him that she loved him, but he could be a completely moronic at times. Aunt Kat was silent, something that Manfred found rather ominous.

When Manfred had visited Berlin, he had given a flip answer to Suse about the letter that she had sent and that had triggered a huge row. Something that he had forgotten about Suse was that while she was that her being physically small didn’t mean that she was the least bit afraid to impose herself against Manfred, who was easily twice as big as she was. She had gotten right up in his face and was yelling at him. Now, a few months later they were still not on speaking terms and Manfred was coming to the realization just how much he missed the regular letters that Suse had sent him. His mother had said that he needed to offer a sincere apology, but he had realized that he didn’t have the first clue as how to do that in a way that wouldn’t result in Suse giving him a swift kick to the balls.

Then while things had had been at a low ebb for Manfred personally, it had gotten worse. Just the day before, he had watched on television as the National Side had gotten trounced in the World Cup Final in what many were already referring to as the Wembley Massacre. Manfred had been unable to believe his eyes as what was supposed to be the best team in the world devolved into what looked like a bunch of Primary School students chasing after the ball. The conclusion of the game hadn’t even been close.

It certainly felt as if the whole world was caving in.

Today, he was stewing in the passenger seat of one of the Iltis Utility Vehicles as they concluded the final exercise before a “Special Assignment” that Officialdom had cooked up. Everyone had learned to dread it when those at the top of the heap’s brains farted out something like that, it seldom ended well for those out on the sharp end.

Word had gotten around that Manfred was in a foul mood and that anyone in the Squad who didn’t want to get their ass kicked had best be mindful. The fact that Jost was happy with him for once didn’t make him feel any better about matters. As he banefully watched the landscape roll by, he knew that wasn’t him. He didn’t take anger out on those around him. Still, they had been conditioned to except that shit rolls down hill and were expecting it. Manfred was just having a rotten summer so far.
 
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Kiki is going to go crazy with worry about Ben but prehaps Louis could swing the family or at least her and him for a ‘Royal Inspection/visit‘, giving Kiki and Ben some time before he goes up. I’m sure that Albrecht’s wife could help Kiki with some of that worry.
 
Stupid Luck & Happenstance, aka The Demon Murphy, strikes again. A stupid mid-air collision due to, well, we'll have to leave that up to the investigators. Ben gets bumped up the list to active flight crew, hopefully*, and will be serving with 'Winkle' Brown. Interesting to note that the Taxidiotis Program can orbit a 5 man crew. Is this an indication that the ESA is aiming to construct an orbital space station to use for future research, as well as base/space dock for both manned & unmanned flights to the Moon and, perhaps, Mars?

*Assuming that Ben was not one of the unfortunate alternates.

As for Manfred & Suse... He has certainly managed to figuratively insert both feet into his mouth, along with a grenade or two, AND then fire both barrels of one of his grandfathers shotguns into the aforementioned oral cavity. IF he decides that he has in fact done f@#$^d up AND he grovels to a sufficient degree (possibly for decades) while begging her forgiveness, Suse MAY eventually forgive him. Or not. She may prefer to see him suffer. The Fey can be like that, I understand. In fact, the suffering may already be under way, if the Wembley Massacre is anything to go by (see previous comment re: the Fey). It sounds as if the German side suffered a humiliation similar to the inflicted by OTL Germany against Brazil in 2014.

His unit is understandably wary about his mood as shit does indeed flow down hill. Fortunately for them, it appears that Manfred, while a complete and total male idiot in regards to the female of our species, does not seem to be the sort to blame others for his screw ups. This may confuse Jost, but Manfred's underlings will quickly realise that while he will chew them out for their screw ups, he will not punish them for his. Which may come in handy when the upcoming shit storm that is either the Balkans (again) or Poland/Silesia.
 
Eric "Winkle" Brown, now there was a remarkable pilot and yes he had an angel sitting on his shoulder. If you have not read it, I cannot recommend his autobiography "Wings on my Sleeve" enough. His life really was a true case of "Stupid Luck and Happenstance" salted with a huge dose of natural flying skill.
 
Ben's been put up to the first officer, he was 2nd alternate science officer, and he's one of the ones that survived the crash
 
Mmmmm, still got that new thread smell to it.

As I understand it, Ben's position hasn't changed. The Science Officer wasn't on the training flight, so unless he withdraws or is withdrawn, Ben, as 2nd Alternate, is still 3rd on the list.
 
I think if you are on flight status for the space program you ignore Von Braun, you go to Winkle first as the leader and Albrecht as the head guy.
 
Part 107, Chapter 1375
Chapter One Thousand Seven Hundred Thirty-Five



5th August 1966

Trieste, Austria

“Keep the men busy until you know more” That was what Arend Neumann had to say about situations like the one that Louis Junior had found himself in. Waiting for information about what was going on with the Greeks, Turks, Americans, Martians, or whoever else happened along. Not that there wasn’t plenty of work to do though. Word about him getting promoted to Kapitänleutnant had arrived with the additional boats from Kiel and Wilhelmshaven. Two more SK-Boats, two S-Boats, and three R-Boats. Three Borkum Class Landing Craft rounded out the flotilla. However, when Louis had been put in charge Laninga had let him know that this was MND’s show and they needed someone in his position to keep the boat crews in line. What that meant in practice was that Laninga was the Flotilla Captain and Louis was his XO in addition to commanding the Windhund.

Even so, Louis had taken the time to learn the names, official and unofficial of the additional boats and had tried to get to know their crews. There was SK-15 “Jagdterrier”, SK-16 “Natter”, S-810 “Komet”, S-945 “Blitz”, R-321 “Rose”, R-360 “Zirkel” and R-489 “Galaxis”. None of the LC’s had unofficial names. He was tempted to ask about LB-932, the Landing Craft that he had commanded briefly in Korea but had thought better of it. That old tub was probably still were he had left it in Pusan. The much lower hull numbers suggested that these had spent their careers in the Baltic or the interior waterways of the German Empire.

The S-Boats and R-Boats were left over from the Second World War and were showing their age with considerable wear visible on the boats themselves. This was in addition to the Voith Schneider Propellers that the R-Boats used was also well outside Louis’ personal experience. The maneuverability that gave them lent them almost made up for their relatively slow speed, complexity, and maintenance headaches. The anticipation that they were going to occasionally find themselves operating close to shore remained, so having the R-Boats available made the job a bit easier. Even in open waters, the weight of the R-Boats 20mm and 37mm cannons was a welcome addition to the Flotilla, as were the torpedo tubes on the S-Boats.

Before, Louis was faced with the prospect of taking on whatever was out there with only Greek and Austrian patrol boats backing him. No one doubted that their allies had balls. The problem though was that the patrol boats were all a similar design, mostly of wood/fiberglass construction with stepped hulls. Extremely fast, lightly armed, and lacking when it came to seakeeping. If they ran across something big, they wouldn’t be able to do a whole lot and storms caused them to run for the nearest harbor. While Louis still didn’t know what the odds were, he now felt that they had been substantially improved.



Cam Ranh, Vietnam

Politics.

That was what it came down to even if no one in Mission Control was willing to admit to it. At this very moment, a political conference was taking place in Caroline Islands. Among those attending were delegations from Germany, Vietnam, Japan, and the United Kingdom, all of whom had a stake in this mission going forward.

For Ben Hirsch, his life had been saved by a dodgy bowl of Pho soup. He had been slated to be on that flight, but a group of friends had insisted that he at least come with them into Saigon to sample the cuisine because he hadn’t been interested in the nightlife, a consequence of having a girlfriend whose father had people everywhere. Hours later he had been ill to the extent that the Doctors had removed him from flight status for twenty-four hours because of a mild case of food poisoning. It certainly hadn’t felt minor at the time. Now that was starting to look like it may just have been a temporary reprieve.

When a substantial portion of the Raumfahrer team that had trained for Taxidiotis III had been killed in the plane crash, the Alternates had been closely examined to determine who could fill which slot. Because Ben was an experienced Pilot and had been cross trained to fly the Amicitia III capsule in an emergency in what had been the unlikely event he became the mission’s Science Officer, he had been tapped to be the new First Officer. He didn’t need to tell anyone how insane that was as he had been forced to learn in days what the man who Ben had replaced had spent months learning. It felt like a pop quiz in school in a subject he hadn’t adequately prepared for. Still, he had somehow managed to get everything down.

Now, strapped into the seat staring at the instruments, he hoped the sweat he was drenched in wouldn’t short out the medical monitoring equipment pasted to him. There was also the sinking realization that it would be a week or more before he could take a shower. Captain Brown was in the seat beside him, the others were in their seats below them. Or was it aft? He wasn’t sure. The two narrow compartments were separated by the aluminum crossbeams that their seats were bolted to and a plastic screen. As Ben progressed through the checklist, Brown spoke up.

“Look on the bright side Hauptmann Hirsch, you got to speak to your girl today” Brown said, “If nothing else.”

A phone call had been arranged so that Ben could talk to Kiki for a few minutes. Yes, she was worried about him. But wasn’t this what he had been working towards for years? While it was unfortunate and tragic how it had happened, he was living his dream. This instant, he was wondering how Brown could be so calm.

As the countdown continued, Ben could hear Mission Control running through the launch status check. Fly to the moon, orbit it a few times, take pictures, fly back, Ben thought to himself. They weren’t even going to be landing on it, that would be someone else’s problem. No sooner than the thought had formed in his mind than the rocket ignited. Launch was a go.
 
Chapter One Thousand Seven Hundred Thirty-Five



5th August 1966

Trieste, Austria

“Keep the men busy until you know more” That was what Arend Neumann had to say about situations like the one that Louis Junior had found himself in. Waiting for information about what was going on with the Greeks, Turks, Americans, Martians, or whoever else happened along. Not that there wasn’t plenty of work to do though. Word about him getting promoted to Kapitänleutnant had arrived with the additional boats from Kiel and Wilhelmshaven. Two more SK-Boats, two S-Boats, and three R-Boats. Three Borkum Class Landing Craft rounded out the flotilla. However, when Louis had been put in charge Laninga had let him know that this was MND’s show and they needed someone in his position to keep the boat crews in line. What that meant in practice was that Laninga was the Flotilla Captain and Louis was his XO in addition to commanding the Windhund.

Even so, Louis had taken the time to learn the names, official and unofficial of the additional boats and had tried to get to know their crews. There was SK-15 “Jagdterrier”, SK-16 “Natter”, S-810 “Komet”, S-945 “Blitz”, R-321 “Rose”, R-360 “Zirkel” and R-489 “Galaxis”. None of the LC’s had unofficial names. He was tempted to ask about LB-932, the Landing Craft that he had commanded briefly in Korea but had thought better of it. That old tub was probably still were he had left it in Pusan. The much lower hull numbers suggested that these had spent their careers in the Baltic or the interior waterways of the German Empire.

The S-Boats and R-Boats were left over from the Second World War and were showing their age with considerable wear visible on the boats themselves. This was in addition to the Voith Schneider Propellers that the R-Boats used was also well outside Louis’ personal experience. The maneuverability that gave them lent them almost made up for their relatively slow speed, complexity, and maintenance headaches. The anticipation that they were going to occasionally find themselves operating close to shore remained, so having the R-Boats available made the job a bit easier. Even in open waters, the weight of the R-Boats 20mm and 37mm cannons was a welcome addition to the Flotilla, as were the torpedo tubes on the S-Boats.

Before, Louis was faced with the prospect of taking on whatever was out there with only Greek and Austrian patrol boats backing him. No one doubted that their allies had balls. The problem though was that the patrol boats were all a similar design, mostly of wood/fiberglass construction with stepped hulls. Extremely fast, lightly armed, and lacking when it came to seakeeping. If they ran across something big, they wouldn’t be able to do a whole lot and storms caused them to run for the nearest harbor. While Louis still didn’t know what the odds were, he now felt that they had been substantially improved.



Cam Ranh, Vietnam

Politics.

That was what it came down to even if no one in Mission Control was willing to admit to it. At this very moment, a political conference was taking place in Caroline Islands. Among those attending were delegations from Germany, Vietnam, Japan, and the United Kingdom, all of whom had a stake in this mission going forward.

For Ben Hirsch, his life had been saved by a dodgy bowl of Pho soup. He had been slated to be on that flight, but a group of friends had insisted that he at least come with them into Saigon to sample the cuisine because he hadn’t been interested in the nightlife, a consequence of having a girlfriend whose father had people everywhere. Hours later he had been ill to the extent that the Doctors had removed him from flight status for twenty-four hours because of a mild case of food poisoning. It certainly hadn’t felt minor at the time. Now that was starting to look like it may just have been a temporary reprieve.

When a substantial portion of the Raumfahrer team that had trained for Taxidiotis III had been killed in the plane crash, the Alternates had been closely examined to determine who could fill which slot. Because Ben was an experienced Pilot and had been cross trained to fly the Amicitia III capsule in an emergency in what had been the unlikely event he became the mission’s Science Officer, he had been tapped to be the new First Officer. He didn’t need to tell anyone how insane that was as he had been forced to learn in days what the man who Ben had replaced had spent months learning. It felt like a pop quiz in school in a subject he hadn’t adequately prepared for. Still, he had somehow managed to get everything down.

Now, strapped into the seat staring at the instruments, he hoped the sweat he was drenched in wouldn’t short out the medical monitoring equipment pasted to him. There was also the sinking realization that it would be a week or more before he could take a shower. Captain Brown was in the seat beside him, the others were in their seats below them. Or was it aft? He wasn’t sure. The two narrow compartments were separated by the aluminum crossbeams that their seats were bolted to and a plastic screen. As Ben progressed through the checklist, Brown spoke up.

“Look on the bright side Hauptmann Hirsch, you got to speak to your girl today” Brown said, “If nothing else.”

A phone call had been arranged so that Ben could talk to Kiki for a few minutes. Yes, she was worried about him. But wasn’t this what he had been working towards for years? While it was unfortunate and tragic how it had happened, he was living his dream. This instant, he was wondering how Brown could be so calm.

As the countdown continued, Ben could hear Mission Control running through the launch status check. Fly to the moon, orbit it a few times, take pictures, fly back, Ben thought to himself. They weren’t even going to be landing on it, that would be someone else’s problem. No sooner than the thought had formed in his mind than the rocket ignited. Launch was a go.
"Take pictures" Earthrise!
 
If things in this story didn't take unexpected twists, I'd say that Ben just jinxed himself.
Yeah, it's not like there aren't more stages they have to go through before the lunar lander part.

Probably another lunar orbiting mission to test systems, and tweaks to systems used on this mission, then operating the lunar lander itself in a dry run practice mission.

They're doing the TTL version of Apollo 8 right now. Bormann didn't go back after that IOTL, Lovell was on Apollo 13, and Anders was the backup command module pilot on Apollo 11. Very easy Hirsch gets the go order for the first moon landing, should he do this mission with flying colors.
 
Shades of lovell and anders in how Ben's been made to switch roles on a flight and go... Just noticed its been ninjad
 
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