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The year is 1965. After a successful streak of dominance throughout the Space Race, the Soviet Union kept upping the ante. And when, in 1963, the US challenged them with a race to the Moon, they happily obliged. At the time, the only crew vehicle they had, Vostok, was barely capable of keeping one man in orbit for a few days. However, a trip to the Moon and back would require a larger, more capable vehicle, able to carry two men safely to Earth’s closest neighbour and back and sustain them throughout the trip. Hence, Sergei Korolev and his design bureau, OKB-1, set out to design one of the most advanced crew vehicles there ever was. What they got was Soyuz. Capable of carrying 3 men to Earth orbit and 2 men to lunar orbit, it was created from the beginning to be a workhorse craft, capable of fulfilling every need. However, the spacecraft was a radical redesign from the small, tight-fitting capsules that had came before. It sported 3 sections, an orbital module that gave extra room and facilities for the crew, the descent module to bring them safely down to the surface again, and an instrument module to supply power and resources to the rest of Soyuz. To test fly the Soyuz on it’s first flight, the bravest and brightest cosmonauts were selected. However, only one would get to perform the mission, and that cosmonaut was Vladimir Komarov. Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov was a Soviet test pilot, aerospace engineer, and cosmonaut. At the age of fifteen in 1942, Komarov entered the "1st Moscow Special Air Force School" to pursue his dream of becoming an aviator. After many years of hard work, he was selected to be a cosmonaut, and in October 1964, he commanded Voskhod 1, the first spaceflight to carry more than one crew member. Now, only a mere few months later, he was ready to pilot his second mission to orbit. As the bus drew closer and closer to the pad, he could smell the distinct smell of kerosene. This kerosene was being pumped right into the rocket that would carry him heavenward, the R-7 Soyuz. Derived from the old R-7 ballistic missiles, this had set many world’s firsts, with Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin, and himself flying on this rocket before. Ground crews helped Komarov clamber down through the spacecraft, into the descent module, and as he strapped in, time ticked closer to launch. Finally, after years of designing and planning, the USSR were ready to fly a man into space in a new vehicle for the third time. As the gantry arms lowered down to prepare for launch, Komarov constantly monitored the various instruments in front of him, making sure nothing was malfunctioning. And luckily, nothing was. With all the arms retracted, the rocket slowly brought itself to life. The RD-107 and 108s rumbled to life, making the rocket creak and groan under the force. And finally, the Soyuz freed itself from its shackles, and started towards the stars. Just before the boosters separated, the escape tower jettisoned, flying off away from the rocket, no longer needed. Then, just seconds later, the boosters flew off, in a formation known to many as the “Korolev Cross” The fairing peeled away, fully exposing the Soyuz 7K-OK to the vacuum of space. Seconds before the core stage cut off, the upper stage fired up it’s engines, ready to carry on the rest of the trip to orbit. And finally, after minutes of burning, the rocket went silent, finally reaching its destination. A loud thud came from behind Komarov, as he and his spacecraft floated away from the rocket that had carried them into orbit. The mission was a success, but now came the hard part. After waiting in orbit for a while, Komarov flicked a myriad of switches, and fired the instrument module motor to raise his orbit. Then, after finally completing his orbit raising maneuvers, Komarov lay in wait for the next part he had to play. Meanwhile, in Baikonur… (forgot to mention in the post, but big thanks to @raptor-m for getting me into this. he’s running his own american version of this on the alt history forum, so go check that out!)
http://spacenews.com/google-lunar-x-prize-to-end-without-winner/ The X-Prize foundation has declared that, as previously announced, the schedule will not be extended again. And since none of the five remaining competitors are on track to launch in time to meet the existing March 31st deadline, Google's sponsorship will end and the prize pool will remain unclaimed. Quick summary: - Israel's SpaceIL is still trying to raise US $30 million to pay for its launch, with no clear indication of whether or not they can get it, and if so, when they could get a launch slot. - India's TeamIndus is in the exact same boat: still trying to raise US $35 million to pay for its launch, of which there is no information about if and when it might happen. - Japan's Team Hakuto was slated to fly with TeamIndus, and is 100% dependent on what they do. - US-based Moon Express technically still had the best shot at winning, as their launch is already paid for, and the vehicle (Rocket Lab's Electron) has entered commercial service in time to provide said launch before the deadline. But Moon Express has apparently stated that they don't really care that much anymore, they'd rather focus on their actual business case. Which still involves launching to the Moon on Electron, but later in the year. Think of that what you will, I guess? - International team Synergy Moon decided to bet on Interorbital System's Neptune N36 rocket for their ride to space. In fact, the team went as far as merging with Interorbital Systems. But this rocket has never flown to date. In fact, it has never even been tested. They had planned to test a single-core version, the Neptune N1, in Q4 2017, but missed that date. And it's quite a ways to scale from one core to thirty-six. If this team ever launches at all, it will probably be no earlier than 2019-2020. The X-Prize foundation said that they're considering keeping the competition alive in spirit - by no longer having a prize pool but still potentially awarding winner's honors. They are also open to other sponsors stepping in to replace Google and providing a new prize pool. But this is not a concrete plan, just speculation about possibilities.