WI: US focuses on Space after Moon Landings.

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Lord Rokland, Jun 12, 2019.

  1. Lord Rokland Well-Known Member

    Sep 9, 2017
    The Idea is the US space race doesn't end but instead ramps up after the Apollo missions. Nasa gets funding about the size as a military branch and has the goals of building a moon research base, a Mars landing by the late 80s, and moving some heavy waste industry off world by the 2010s.

    How would such a timeline go? How would the USSR react to this? Would the US claim the Moon as a Territory of the US once bases are built? How would THAT go over?
  2. thekingsguard Founder of Korsgaardianism

    Mar 28, 2010
    Virginia - near the USA-CSSA Border
    Honestly, moonbases make way more sense that space stations that putter around for a bit before burning up in the atmosphere. Pitch it as Moonlab instead of Skylab, and I think this can sell.
  3. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

    Aug 3, 2009
    Yes and no. The main thing moonbases get over space stations is that they can do lunar geology. Which is not nothing, but you do end up having to spend more per astronaut to actually run a moonbase, and you lose all of the opportunities for microgravity research that a space station offers, not to mention that a space station, unlike a moonbase, can (theoretically) operate as a "port of call" in low Earth orbit for assembling and fueling vehicles to go to other places. Skylab, in any case, was a left over part of AAP done as a test bed, and would not likely be displaced by a moonbase program that would necessarily come after it was done, if for no other reason than it was well along by the time any such program could start.

    Anyway, the scenario as posited by OP is extremely implausible, short of literally ASB interventions such as finding alien ruins on the Moon or aliens showing up out of nowhere, or nearly ASB interventions like a major but not world-ending asteroid strike in the 1960s. At best, if the Soviets get to the Moon first you might get a moon base or Mars program, but even that's something of a stretch, and won't lead to anything like the funding or activity level being called for. The fundamental issue with all timelines that posit significantly greater resources going into NASA is that neither the public nor Congress wanted that in the late 1960s--in polling most people said that they wanted to hold the space budget steady or cut it, and there was only just barely majority support for the Apollo program, and then really only right after Apollo 11 touched down. Meanwhile, a large portion of Congress, including important Senators like William Proxmire and Walter Mondale, wanted to slash NASA's budget and redirect that funding into other areas, and more or less deliberately sabotaged NASA efforts to parlay Apollo into an expansive post-Apollo program with the kinds of goals you're discussing. The Integrated Program Plan was immediately pared back to Shuttle and Station because Congress fundamentally did not want to pay for a Mars program, or even a Moonbase program.

    Of course, you could posit a PoD that greatly increases public support for the space program, but it's extremely hard to see what that could possibly be in the 1950s and 1960s. The fundamental issue is that a highly active human space exploration program, while scientifically productive, is also extremely costly, with few practical benefits until decades and decades pass at best. While people might think it's neat, people think a lot of things are neat that they're not willing or able to pay for, and it's very easy to imagine how that level of funding could, for example, fund school lunches or free clinics or other things that have more immediate, practical--one might say down-to-Earth--benefits for people. In fact, when you look at what people think about the space program, what's astonishing isn't how little funding it gets, it's how much. The main problem with the space program is just that for various reasons it wastes a lot of the resources it has, not that it doesn't get enough.

    At most, I think, you can make the post-Apollo decline a little less harsh, or rearrange matters so that NASA focuses on something other than OTL Shuttle (as, of course, in Eyes Turned Skywards or Right Side Up). Starting from any point in the 1950s or 1960s I don't think you can get something like the world you want with any kind of reasonable non-ASB PoD. You can just handwave it, of course, and, sure, such a world would be fun, but it's not realistic, so it's hard to evaluate what would realistically happen.
    stevej713 and e of pi like this.
  4. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    In order to work a Post Apollo program you need a Space Race, had Soviets manage manned moon landing, it had push Nixon on continue the Space Race either to more moon mission or manned Mars missions
    GTStinger likes this.
  5. racevedo88 Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2010
    Suggest you read children of Apollo, one of my favorites alt space history books
  6. Simon Thread Killer Extraordinaire

    Sep 20, 2009
    Using Wikipedia as a quick and dirty source from 1974 after the post-Apoll run down NASA's share of the Federal budget looks to have averaged roughly 0.75%. Best case scenario I think you could maybe nudge that up to 1%, provides a decent boost to funding over our timeline and as a nice round number is easier to sell.
  7. kernals12 Well-Known Member

    Oct 20, 2017
    Contrary to popular belief, the Apollo program was very controversial with the public, and most Americans were opposed to the enormous cost. There's no way Congress will allow NASA to have the budget for it.
  8. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Liege Belgium Europe
    There was combine effort proposal that gave both option A Lunar Orbital Station and Lunar base camp
    North America Aviation Apollo "LM Adapter Surface Station" aka "LASSO configuration" from 1968.
    The Idea: use LM descent stage with shelter build in form of Saturn Launch Adapter, on it's top a Apollo SM upside down (nozzle up)
    Behind this assembly is small Lunar orbital station
    A uprated Saturn V launch the LASSO unmanned to Moon, there bring the SM into Lunar Orbit
    Here the small Lunar orbital station detach and deploy it's solar cell.
    then deorbit the SM the Lunar Shelter and is jettison
    the LM descent stage lands the Shelter automatic on target side

    Then a Manned Saturn V launch Apollo/LM Taxi with 4 men to Moon
    There CSM and LM Taxi separates, while the CSM docks with Lunar orbital station, lands LM Taxi near Shelter
    The mission were design up to 100 days or multi usage of Lunar Orbital Station and Lunar Shelter with shorter stay.

    it's not perfect, but would be a nice compromise to give both microgravity research and Lunar geology study in one Mission architecture.