Thoughts about Stephen Baxters Novels "Voyage" and "Titan"

I came to thinking about the Books Voyage and Titan, both written by Stephen Baxter as part of the "Nasa-Trilogy", because of this 3-year-old thread: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/stephen-baxter’s-“voyage”-thoughts-on-the-aftermath.468023/#post-23208730 (Again: sorry for pulling it out of it´s grave instead of opening a new discussion in the first place). While the original discussion was meant primarily for the earlier novel i think that Baxter should have made a real connection between those novels, not only naming those stand-alone-books as part of the NASA-Trilogy. Personally i will not include "Moonseed" into my thought out of multple reasons: 1st: There was no Apollo 18 in Voyage, 2nd i didn´t read that novel in full and knowing it´s basic story isn´t enough to go into a discussion about it and 3rd: Destroying a whole Planet or two by somekind of nanites feels to far off the scale of events we see in the first two novels (excluding the end of Titan). The following text will be largely a rewrite of my comment on the older thread. And: I am not a native speaker so i like to apologize for possible large mistakes.

Voyage wasn´t such a bad novel in the first place if you ask me, but Stephen Baxter presented (in my eyes) some pretty bad habbits that still existed in novels written decades later: Describing technology and science in a very basic way... especially when you work with Apollo- / post-Apollo technology you really should describe what you are using, just because there were so many ideas, concepts and actual build hardware in existence back then. But still he established a pretty powerfull NASA that never lost it´s Superheavy-Lifters. He really should have presented at least some guidance for the future after the Ares-flight.... programs that would follow on or even surprise funding for another mission to mars. Landing some people on the red planet should give a huge PR-Boost for the program. Yes: The Apollos and the Shuttle became "boring routine" for the public pretty fast until desaster struck, but there were no landings on another planet. I really think this should have been played out in a better way. And i really like the idea to use the MEM-family as a replacement for Apollo (As used by @Ronpur in his https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/beyond-ares-a-sequel-to-baxters-voyage.407337/). I like Apollo, especially how it was upgraded in Eyes Turned Skywards, but let´s be serious: When you go interplanetary it´s not a bad thing to have a lot more Volume for your crew.. and possibly a larger crew anyways. In Short: Something in the size of Starliner (Just the size, not that exact flawed capsule) or Orion.

And i really think that Stephen Baxter should have used this Universe he build there for his later novel. I read and heard a lot of times since i read Titan that it would be the worst Novel by Baxter to this day.... and i have to agree. That thing was a shitshow (sorry for that language) that could have been prevented if he would have used the NASA he build in Voyage. Instead he wrote a "Nasa-Trilogy" that´s not a trilogy and i am not interested in buying and reading the third book, just because the second was so bad. He even used the Saturn V in Titan... the original ones that layed rusting in the rain for over 30 years when the new program came online. What did he think? I am no engineer but to me that pretty much looks like one of the worst possible ideas you could have regarding to spaceflight. I know they fired up some F-1 and J-2 engines when the Constellation-Project and the transition towards SLS were a thing, but if i am recalling it correctly those were a) engines that were stored in a much better way then the Saturn V´s and b) that they were completely overhauled before firing. When they designed the "Minor Upgrade" to the "21st Century J-2X" they ended up with something closer to a clean sheet design than the original engine. That leads me to asking: It it even possible to rebuilt those old systems? Especially the electronics would have to be replaced by a completely new design if there isn´t a miracle and the originals are still fixeable.

Using the "Voyage-NASA / V-NASA" he could have taken Saturn VB´s or a much safer version with LRB´s to propel a more or less purpose build deep space vehicle to orbit. And he could have given the NERVA a second (or in the case of the Voyage-Novel even third) chance, at least for a heavy cargo mission that brings a base and/ or enough fuel towards Titan for the return trip of the crew. And if there is a need to keep with the attempted killing of the Titan-Spacecraft-Crew while they ride to orbit i would just swap out that modified X-15 with a hypersonic missile or a uncrewed test vehicle.

Someone could ask: What´up with reusable technology? In Voyage the Shuttle was ( In my eyes rightfully) dumped based on to many unproven novel technologys. So they evolved the Saturns, okay: That´s exactly what should have been done in my eyes for the next 20-30 years after Apollo. The discussion about a Shuttle or Shuttle-like System should have come back into full swing by the time the Ares Crew was on it´s way... technology doesn´t stops and many things that were a bad idea earlier could become great ones with the knowledge we have 20 years later. And even when there is a Shuttle, the need for balistic capsules doesn´t have to get lost that way, they still remain a good choice for traveling beyond low earth orbit. In my eyes getting somekind of a fully reusable shuttle or reusable first stages for the Saturn´s / a partly reusable Saturn-replacement would be the right thing to go forward after the known and reliably technology used in Saturn VB has done it´s service to bring the first humans to mars. The F-1 engine would likely have to go away or at least would have to be aided by smaller, less powerfull engines when it goes towards building a flyback-booster that lands "SpaceX- or DC-X-style". Falcon 9 uses just 1 of it´s 9 engines and even then there has to be a suicide burn because the throttled down engine still has to much power to just come down in a slow and soft way without getting up again. So it needs either an additional set of landing engines or a replacement of the F-1´s with a larger number of much less powerfull engines.

And regarding to the soviets: I agree with some saying in the original discussion that they need further descriptions and further missions, finally leading to a much greater involvement into the Titan-Project than basically just selling some Topaz-reactors. I like that he included them in the way he did in Voyage, but i am not a fan of the fact that they were left alone sometime in the novel. The N1, N11 and the whole project should have been used in a better way. And i really think a follow on should have included further cooperations, perhaps a Ares 2-mission that includes a Cosmonaut and somekind of a pre-delivered science plattform launched by the UDSSR or Russian Federation to the surface of the planet. A really small base if you like to name it as one. Space travel is something that needs cooperation if you like to go further then to LEO in a sustainable way and it can connect different nationalitys in giving them a common goal: Building a space program that keeps your own space travelers and the ones of your partners alive and get a lot more knowledge out of their missions than you could do by doing everything alone. In short: You have to learn to work together and you can use spacetravel as a highly usefull diplomatic tool.

I really think that Ares should have been made into an ongoing project instead of this expensive one-and-done thing Baxter delivered to us. It was right to do that in the first place, but not to keep with that... and this brings me to another final bad habbit of him as a writer:
He likes to cut storys in a way that you feel like a guillautine fell off the roof and killed a living story that still has a few more pages incomming. There was no "First human on another planet´s surface"-speech, no description of their surface activities, no safe return, no parades... just NOTHING. That wasn´t even a good cliffhanger, that´s just unfinished business. He did much better regarding to that in Titan then he did in Voyage.

So what do you think about this and how would you evolve NASA, politics etc. build in Voyage to use inplace of the many crazy ideas presented in Titan? How should we bring characters out of both novels together and which one should just be gone? (In my eyes the president in Titan was one of the many things going to much over the top of the wildness-scale so he should be rewritten. Forcing 21st century society back into the middle age (in the way it was) while keeping at least some parts of a space program just doesn´t goes together in my mind).

This is NOT meant to become a copy of Ronpurs story (https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/beyond-ares-a-sequel-to-baxters-voyage.407337/), it includes things i couldn´t imagine to do in a largely different way if i would write a timeline connecting and rewriting both novels, especially the evolution of the Saturn´s.... despite that i would like to replace his Saturn IC with the one from the Eyes Turned Skywards-timeline (I am not a fan of putting a human onto a solid rocket motor if it´s preventable in any way).

Finally: What do you think about my thoughts and how would you go along when you could rewrite both books into a "real" consistent book-series?
 
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So i thought a bit about the Saturn´s and how to go forward with it:

At first i will get to the Saturn IB, as it was done in Eyes Turned Skywards and as it would probably have been done if Von Braun would have gotten the Greenlight to do it: This tanks Cluster and the 8 engines just have to go away and be replaced with a single F-1, so we basically would get the ETS Saturn IC as a Core. I say Core because i would use that thing in conjuction with options to use up to 4 Booster which could either be 1205´s or some H-1 driven Liquid fueled boosters (Basically shortened Delta I tankage with one or two H-1 deirvatives, i don´t use the RS-27 because it seems to be unclear if there was a Delta II-family in Voyage. But this possible H-1E would basically be the RS-27). This would give some flexibility and it would lessen the need of Saturn VB´s or Ronpurs VA (his variant without the SRB´s) and it would give an option to launcher really heavy crewed vehicles into orbit without SRB-usage right away. (And it get´s the same J-2S Block II i will describe later)

Next comes the Saturn V-family represented by the "official" VB and Ronpurs VA. Both of the would be upgraded to something of a Block II-standard that does the following things:
-Refresh the electronics to get better performance, loose even more weight and bring in better energy efficiency to lessen the need for cooling systems and to bring down costs with COTS components where possible.
-Introduce weight reduction by the usage of aluminium-lithium alloys where possible (mostly into the MS-II and MS-IVB stages)
-Give the J-2S a Block II upgrade that´s meant to reduce part count further and introduce new alloys and refresh the production process.
-Design something like an "Voyage F-1B" that get´s the same simplyfications regarding to part count, and a simpler combustion chamber, and it will use the then standard knowledge in material sciences. Don´t forget: The basic F-1 design is over 20 years old when the Ares-Crew lands on the Martian Surface). This project should go better then OTL F-1B has because of two reasons: The knowledge about the original design is still fresh and in use instead of beeing out of use for more then 30 years and there just isn´t something like the RS-25 laying around that could be used instead... together with a completely different first stage that isn´t even able to launch itself from the pad... yes i am talking about you SLS.

Even when this Voyage-F-1B looses some performance while getting MUCH cheaper to be built, the performance of the refreshed vehicle overall should stay basically the same because of the weight reductions. The solids should stay the same as on the Block I version, just because they seemed to work out after the first VB´s RUD (which wasn´t an SRB-failure but a design flaw in the launch sequencing). When it goes to solids i say: Never change a running system unless you really really need to.

And later on i would go with basically the Saturn-Shuttle proposal: Using a somewhat smaller Buran-Style Shuttle without Ascent-Engines on it and hanging it Buran-Style onto a reworked and stretched Saturn VB Block II first stage. This Saturn VS would have only 4 of the new F-1B´s and this ones would be moved off the center axis of the first stage to stay under the center of mass for the whole stack and there would be just an aerodynamic cone housing the electronic brains of the launcher.

Later the VS would get it´s own Block II upgrade to become a flyback booster but i haven´t really thought about that yet.
 
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