Space Cat

Alternate paths American space program could have taken.

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Rp-0 is pretty cool, but I am concerned that it could become to linear. What are some alternate ways that the space race could have gone to get to the moon and further? I vaguely remember reading that a heavily modified Gemini could have been used as a moon lander if NASA invested money in it, instead of using what they did.

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Use of Gemini for lunar landing wasn't seriously considered at NASA, Gemini had only ever been intended as a bridge between Mercury and Apollo. The lunar Gemini studies are works by McDonnell Douglas (who built Gemini), not NASA.

Something like that might have happened if crewed spaceflight was handed to the military instead of merged with NACA, as the military had been a good bit more receptive to growth Gemini concepts; even in our timeline they came very close to launching a crewed recon sat with Gemini as the return vehicle.

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The biggest point in our space programs history where things could have turned out way differently was post-Apollo. From Mercury to Apollo, the path forward was almost always set in stone, and really not much would have changed if certain things would have gone differently. Much of what would have changed would largely have to do with the Astronauts themselves. What if Shepherd never got his ear condition? Slayton his heart issues? Apollo 1? Etc.  Hell, if Shepherd wasn't grounded up until the middle of Apollo, he potentially would have died on two different occasions. If he was cleared for flight status earlier, he might have ended up on Apollo 13, and who knows how his crew could have handled that situation.

Post-Apollo, however, we had Nixon making a decision on a follow up to Apollo, the choices being continuing Apollo, a Mars landing, space stations, or the space shuttle concept. Continuing Apollo essentially was everything you've ever heard of coming out of Apollo Applications. A Mars landing was just that. What a space station decision could have evolved into is heavily explored in Eyes Turned Skyward (Which is a fantastic read btw), and the original Space Shuttle concept was quite awesome actually. Non-military involvement in the shuttle could have resulted in a very different post-Apollo space program, provided NASA could still get enough funding.

Another turning point to consider is the Challenger disaster, when the military pulled out of the shuttle program. We could have potentially still been using the Shuttle right now had they not dropped support, as the shuttle would then have likely been used for everything it was designed for, and the program ultimately wouldn't have cost so much to run, as the costs would be shared with the military (who had a much, much bigger budget for these things than NASA did). 

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God how I used to just bathe my brain in this stuff as a kid in the 70s...  It all felt so possible... :(

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On Tuesday, May 03, 2016 at 11:06 AM, G'th said:

The biggest point in our space programs history where things could have turned out way differently was post-Apollo. From Mercury to Apollo, the path forward was almost always set in stone, and really not much would have changed if certain things would have gone differently. Much of what would have changed would largely have to do with the Astronauts themselves. What if Shepherd never got his ear condition? Slayton his heart issues? Apollo 1? Etc.  Hell, if Shepherd wasn't grounded up until the middle of Apollo, he potentially would have died on two different occasions. If he was cleared for flight status earlier, he might have ended up on Apollo 13, and who knows how his crew could have handled that situation.

Post-Apollo, however, we had Nixon making a decision on a follow up to Apollo, the choices being continuing Apollo, a Mars landing, space stations, or the space shuttle concept. Continuing Apollo essentially was everything you've ever heard of coming out of Apollo Applications. A Mars landing was just that. What a space station decision could have evolved into is heavily explored in Eyes Turned Skyward (Which is a fantastic read btw), and the original Space Shuttle concept was quite awesome actually. Non-military involvement in the shuttle could have resulted in a very different post-Apollo space program, provided NASA could still get enough funding.

Another turning point to consider is the Challenger disaster, when the military pulled out of the shuttle program. We could have potentially still been using the Shuttle right now had they not dropped support, as the shuttle would then have likely been used for everything it was designed for, and the program ultimately wouldn't have cost so much to run, as the costs would be shared with the military (who had a much, much bigger budget for these things than NASA did). 

I disagree, pretty and during Apollo, there were plenty of interesting alternate paths. What if the DOD finished MOL? Granted, they eventually would have ended it eventually. What if AAP was implemented (AAP was originally intended to begin during the moon landings). What if Apollo was never made, and Gemini was used to go to the Moon ASAP?

What if Apollo 1 never happened? What if the space race never happened? What if the transistor was delayed 2 decades? That would have allowed for a large enough demand to make large scale space use a reality.

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On 2016-05-03 at 9:57 AM, Space Cat said:

Rp-0 is pretty cool,

BTW, what's RP-0?

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35 minutes ago, fredinno said:

BTW, what's RP-0?

mod that makes ksp more realistic, adds parts based on real craft, and set in the sol system

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I think the biggest change would be if JFK wasn't assasinated. No Space Race. No Apollo and Soyuz. No need for ASTP. Imagining what would happen is quite hard...

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You know, in my opinion, if automation had been implemented just a bit later than it was actually done, we'd potentially have had an entire industry in space.

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24 minutes ago, YNM said:

I think the biggest change would be if JFK wasn't assasinated. No Space Race. No Apollo and Soyuz. No need for ASTP. Imagining what would happen is quite hard...

The Russians were doing pretty well, and JFK was having discussions with the Soviet premier on the subject of a joint lunar mission.

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2 hours ago, Bill Phil said:

The Russians were doing pretty well, and JFK was having discussions with the Soviet premier on the subject of a joint lunar mission.

I'd have to wonder if the Soviets had any reason to expect that they would lose the race to the moon after several earlier victories.  In 1964 I'm reasonably certain they were still ahead, but I have no idea how much longer that would be.  Don't forget that the USSR changed from Khrushchev to Brezhnev roughly at that time, so presumably the non-historical Kennedy would be negotiating with a different USSR than the one history records him dealing with.

While such an agreement would certainly avoid the post-Apollo spending cuts that were such a disaster for NASA, it certainly isn't quite clear that a cooperative venture with the Soviets would get sufficient funding (from either side) to actually go to the moon.  Certainly the negotiations for such a project would certainly end any plans of doing such before January 1, 1970, and delaying the build up of such things could doom the NASA budget especially in the face of the Viet Nam war (would Kennedy spend on "guns, butter, *and* spaceships"?).

Also remember that we are talking about 1964.  In those days ICBMs weren't exactly a "solved problem" (even for the superpowers) and much of the parts and even the capabilities were top secret.  Even in the 1980s, US citizens (well, myself as a young space enthusiast) tended to believe that "the Russians" didn't have the extremely accurate guidance systems such as the Apollo missions had and made it up with really powerful H-bombs (close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons).  Both nations were willing to do Apollo-Soyuz in 1975, I doubt they would have agreed in 1965.

Finally, count me in as one who is underwhelmed by Kennedy.  He may have talked up a great story, but I can't see that much that he got done.  Johnson seems to have been the one who "walked the walk" (for good and ill) that Kennedy talked about.  Without Johnson, I'm not sure the money would have been spent nor would any American had set foot on the moon.

PS.  Consider Buzz Aldrin's endless whine about not being first on the Moon.  Would we need two hatches so both sides could have their men exit (and touch down) at the same time?  Would we need men of both nations circling the moon in the command module?  Would the plan include the N1 engines?  Avoiding the 70's budget cuts seems the only advantage to working with the Russians (we had done so with Apollo-Soyuz even closer to when Reagan announced "Congress had outlawed Russia and he was bombing immediately").  All the other aspects seem to increase the danger that we would simply never get there.

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6 hours ago, wumpus said:

I'd have to wonder if the Soviets had any reason to expect that they would lose the race to the moon after several earlier victories.  In 1964 I'm reasonably certain they were still ahead, but I have no idea how much longer that would be.  Don't forget that the USSR changed from Khrushchev to Brezhnev roughly at that time, so presumably the non-historical Kennedy would be negotiating with a different USSR than the one history records him dealing with.

Actually, thanks to Gemini, the USA had a pretty significant advantage in terms of man-hours, and plus, the USSR would've had several problems *COUGH LARGEST NON-NUCLEAR COUGH EXPLOSION IN HISTORY COUGH* with their moon rocket regardless of what the US did. They would get there first, but likely only by default.

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6 hours ago, wumpus said:

I'd have to wonder if the Soviets had any reason to expect that they would lose the race to the moon after several earlier victories.  In 1964 I'm reasonably certain they were still ahead, but I have no idea how much longer that would be.  Don't forget that the USSR changed from Khrushchev to Brezhnev roughly at that time, so presumably the non-historical Kennedy would be negotiating with a different USSR than the one history records him dealing with.

Actually, thanks to Gemini, the USA had a pretty significant advantage in terms of man-hours, and plus, the USSR would've had several problems *COUGH LARGEST NON-NUCLEAR COUGH EXPLOSION IN HISTORY COUGH* with their moon rocket regardless of what the US did. They would get there first, but likely only by default.

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1 hour ago, RocketSquid said:

Actually, thanks to Gemini, the USA had a pretty significant advantage in terms of man-hours, and plus, the USSR would've had several problems *COUGH LARGEST NON-NUCLEAR COUGH EXPLOSION IN HISTORY COUGH* with their moon rocket regardless of what the US did. They would get there first, but likely only by default.

My point wasn't so much where we were, but were the guys who made the decisions thought they were (although the problems they had doing things similar to Gemini must have been blindingly obvious).  The explosion you mentioned also didn't happen until 1969, well after the go/no-go date for any negotiations on a joint trip to the moon.  I'd imagine that the US would have been equally underwhelmed by a suggestion that the US and Russians jointly work on an artificial satellite in 1956.

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1 hour ago, RocketSquid said:

Actually, thanks to Gemini, the USA had a pretty significant advantage in terms of man-hours, and plus, the USSR would've had several problems *COUGH LARGEST NON-NUCLEAR COUGH EXPLOSION IN HISTORY COUGH* with their moon rocket regardless of what the US did. They would get there first, but likely only by default.

No. The actual largest non nuclear explosion, while it did happen in Russia, didn't have much to do with rockets.

Gemini was pretty important. Yeah, the Soviets had the first EVA, but the Americans learned the hard way that floating in a space suit =\= working in a space suit. Later on they perfected methods of effectively working in space. It's a forgotten accomplishment, but nonetheless, it's pretty important.

Edited by Bill Phil

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2 hours ago, Bill Phil said:

No. The actual largest non nuclear explosion, while it did happen in Russia, didn't have much to do with rockets.

Gemini was pretty important. Yeah, the Soviets had the first EVA, but the Americans learned the hard way that floating in a space suit =\= working in a space suit. Later on they perfected methods of effectively working in space. It's a forgotten accomplishment, but nonetheless, it's pretty important.

Pretty sure the largest non-nuclear explosion in history was where the CIA let the Russians steal some tech for their gas pipeline, an after it was activated it blew the pipeline to smithereens.

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On 6 May 2016 at 7:26 AM, insert_name said:

Pretty sure the largest non-nuclear explosion in history was where the CIA let the Russians steal some tech for their gas pipeline, an after it was activated it blew the pipeline to smithereens.

I don't think so. It was a a ship laden with hazardous chemicals exploding at port if my memory serves me right.

On 6 May 2016 at 9:00 AM, Burning For New Frontiers said:

I don't think so. It was a a ship laden with hazardous chemicals exploding at port if my memory serves me right.

My bad. It was the Russian N1 Rocket undergoing a RUD on the launch pad on its first test flight.

The N1 was definitely designed in the Kerbal way of building a rocket - MOAR BOOSTERS! , MOAR USELESS PARTS! , GIGANTIC EXPLOSION ON TAKE OFF!

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On 2016-05-05 at 9:30 PM, insert_name said:

mod that makes ksp more realistic, adds parts based on real craft, and set in the sol system

I though it was a precursor to RP-1 :P

16 hours ago, YNM said:

I think the biggest change would be if JFK wasn't assasinated. No Space Race. No Apollo and Soyuz. No need for ASTP. Imagining what would happen is quite hard...

ASTP might still have happened, but off Gemini or Mercury, since that was Nixon's thing, not Kennedy/Johnson's thing.

We would never have gotten the Shuttle though, since that was a direct result of NASA expecting way to much for the future.

The future would have likely been in Gemini, with a back docking port to dock with a space station, and launched on a Titan IIIA.

16 hours ago, Bill Phil said:

The Russians were doing pretty well, and JFK was having discussions with the Soviet premier on the subject of a joint lunar mission.

But would we ever have gotten to the moon in that case? We only went to the moon largely to finish Kennedy's dream, and to beat the "commies".

I just don't see a joint lunar landing happening.

5 hours ago, Bill Phil said:

No. The actual largest non nuclear explosion, while it did happen in Russia, didn't have much to do with rockets.

Gemini was pretty important. Yeah, the Soviets had the first EVA, but the Americans learned the hard way that floating in a space suit =\= working in a space suit. Later on they perfected methods of effectively working in space. It's a forgotten accomplishment, but nonetheless, it's pretty important.

No, it was the N-1 launch explosion-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Largest_artificial_non-nuclear_explosions#Rank_order_of_largest_conventional_explosions.2Fdetonations_by_magnitude

Nothing else even came close.

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Actually, a few tests have come close, at least the same order of magnitude.

But the actual amount of energy released is likely much less. That amount was gathered from energy per kilogram of kerosene. But not all of the kerosene actually went off, a good amount would've been vaporized.

Anyhow, I'm referring to size, not energy released.

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Check how USSR was spending on its space program, and how much to spend USA, and barely barely caught up with the Soviets. How can you be so stupid, if the Soviet Union have the means for a long time people would be on Mars ...
Just do not forget that WW2 significantly affected the USSR, but the USA is almost imperceptible this war, and 20 years later launched a Russian R7,and rich America ?. In theory it was a marvel that the Russian could break through first into space. All of you are not ashamed to discuss competition between the two countries, where one flourished and earned in the war while becoming a superpower, and the other after the war and the loss of more than 20 million of its citizens do not really recovering  and send a man into space? What a disgrace...

You should be grateful to the Soviet geniuses of the time that the race has begun ...

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