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Project Astra: America's Next Small Step (CHAPTER 4)


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Project Astra: America's Next Small Step

   Project Astra is the United States' attempt at continuing the Apollo program and achieving greater goals, but with new and stronger rivals. This story starts in 1973, towards the end of the recently extended Project Apollo

Table of Contents

Preface (This post)

Official Mod list

Chapter 1: Apollo Wraps Up

Chapter 2: A New Space Race

Chapter 3: Competition Reignited

Chapter 4: Reach for the Stars

Preface

Following America's crushing defeat in the Vietnam War in 1970, Congress passes the Apollo Bill of 1971, adding $4.2 Billion to NASA's yearly budget to finish Project Apollo and maintain America's lead against the Soviets.

NASA announces plans to launch Apollo 18-21 as part of an Apollo subprogram called "Apollo Future Technologies Exploration Program" or AFTEP. Apollo 18-21 will conduct what NASA calls "the first small step to a sustainable future on the Moon". The primary objectives of each mission were released by NASA at a press conference on February 4, 1973.

Apollo 18
Apollo 18's crew of James McDivitt, David Scott and Thomas Stafford will launch to the Moon and land in the Sea of
Tranquility to scout possible landing sites for the Apollo 19-20 missions, as well as for the Apollo 21 mission.
Apollo 19
Apollo 19 will be the first unmanned Apollo mission since Apollo 6, and will launch a modified CSM (outfitted for extended Lunar Orbit stay)
and an unmanned LSRV (Lunar Surface Resupply Vehicle) to the Moon. The modified CSM, which can hold 1-2 persons for up to 5 months,
will remain in Lunar orbit while the LSRV will descend to the Sea of Tranquility to establish Phase 1 of AFTEP's Future Feasibility Project.
Apollo 20
Apollo 20's crew of Walter Cunningham, James Lovell and William Anders will launch to the Moon, and while in Low Moon Orbit, James
Lovell and William Anders will descend in the LM to the Sea of Tranquility, where it will land next to the Apollo 19 LSRV. As of
now, the exact mission of Apollo 20 will remain classified.
Apollo 21
Apollo 21's crew and main objectives remain classified.

During the press conference, NASA also announces the approval of a successor to Project Apollo, which NASA claims will oversee the operations on the Moon for Apollo 19-21. NASA announces the new name of NASA's Project which will "oversee our next steps into a future on the Moon and Mars": Project Astra. NASA forms the Astra Project Office to administrate the new programs, and the handover of the remaining Apollo missions to the Astra Project Office is planned soon. 

A few days after the press conference, NASA announces that the Apollo 18-21 missions will keep their Apollo names to "conserve the Program's legacy as long as possible"

Much further later, in Autumn 1973, the Astra Project Office releases a Request for Proposal memorandum to major aerospace companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc. for a "new medium Lunar Orbit crew spacecraft" and a "Heavy lift Lunar payload vehicle" to supplement the upcoming Astra missions which require "heavy lift vehicles to lift payloads to the Moon, as well as cheap crewed spacecraft to deliver our men and women to the Moon" by 1980.

As the year wraps up, NASA announces that the Space Shuttle program will be transferred to Project Astra for them to administrate. Many people around the world are hoping that what comes next will be fruitful.

Edited by AeroSky
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Juicy, definetly going to follow this thread and looking forward to this storyline. Can't wait to see how it turns out for the crew. I'd have to say that stress and psychological breakdowns will be common there however. They have a long trip home if something goes bad, and an even lower chance of survival...

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Hello everyone!

Because of the long wait, I am willing to release a "mini-chapter" which will fill in the gap between the end of the Preface and Chapter 1. This "mini-chapter" will be mixed with photos and story, and will most likely cover the training of Apollo 18-21 and possibly some better details on the future plans of the Astra Project Office? Duna missions? I don't know. If you want the mini-chapter, please tell me below. I can have it out within 48 hours.

Thanks!

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Hello, everyone!

It seems that we have a change of plans. I am now able to release Chapter 1 by next weekend (Nov. 27-29). You can expect the mini-chapter in a few hours. 

14 hours ago, Hatattack said:

Are you planning on using mods or are you going full stock ?

I will be using Bluedog Design Bureau, mostly. However, I may use some stock parts to "diversify" the photos.

Thanks for all the wonderful support!

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Mini-Chapter 01: Go for Training!

NOTE: This Mini-Chapter will focus on the training of Apollo 18 for its mission to the Moon.

NASA announces the plans to publicize the training and, of course, the main mission of Apollo 18 in an effort to gain media traction after Americans had lost interest in manned lunar landings. By the time of this announcement, in November 1973, the Apollo 18 crew of James McDivitt, David Scott and Thomas Stafford had been training for months for their mission that is planned to kick off the Apollo Future Technologies Exploration Program (AFTEP).

On November 19, 1973, Astronauts McDivitt and Scott went out to the pad to practice LM egress and ingress procedures on the pad, as well as communications tests and controls testing. The actual LM was already integrated into the Saturn V, and a mock one was used in this training procedure.

47jv8KT.png

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On November 21, 1973, The Saturn Mobile Launch Platform was rolled out from the VAB to conduct a regular cleaning of the tower, as well as MLP related countdown rehearsals. McDivitt, Scott and Stafford visited the MLP to rehearse in the White Room.

hyWNsn9.png

 The Mobile Launch Platform stayed on LC-39A until November 26, when it was rolled back to the VAB for integration with the Saturn V, which by then was all ready for final integration and checking.

IZ0wVeI.png

On December 1, 1973, the MLP was fully integrated with the Saturn V and was rolled out for launch to take place on December 20. Once the vehicle arrived at the pad, the Apollo 18 crew conducted final dress rehearsals, White Room tests, countdown tests, time synchronization (making sure the Mission Control time and the onboard computer time is the same) and other final procedures. 

5uorbWU.png

With all elements of Apollo 18 ready, NASA gives the go for launch.

Edited by AeroSky
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5 hours ago, AeroSky said:

CHAPTER 1: Apollo Wraps Up will release somewhere between November 28-30, 2020. If someone can please show me a way to embed pictures using Imgur in 2020, that'll be awesome!

It's like this:

1. Upload the pictures to the album

2. Right click the image, and click "copy image address"


3. Paste the the resulting link in the post, it'll automatically embed.

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13 hours ago, Hatattack said:

Where did you get your information about the plans?

I assume you are referring to the procedures like the cleaning of the launch tower, and all the other Mobile Launch Platform preparations?

For that, I got the part about cleaning from a NASA article about their rollout of the SLS tower to the pad for cleaning. Otherwise, I just thought of it.

Just now, Misguided Kerbal said:

No problem at all! Those photos look great! I do have a suggestion though.

The LC 39A and B are great!

Good idea! I'll download that through CKAN if possible, and get some nice photos for Chapter 1!

Thanks!

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As a little status update, here's a Mini-Chapter 2 to hold all of you until Chapter 1!

Mini-Chapter 02: Astra is go for launch!

With Apollo 18's launch getting closer and closer, NASA calls a press conference on December 5, 1973 to discuss the agency's future plans. The NASA officials at the press conference are Arthur Tombaugh (Project Administrator, Project Astra), James Fletcher (NASA Administrator) and Apollo 18 commander James McDivitt. During the conference, multiple things are announced:

1. A mission patch for Apollo 18

e8jCr1m.png

2. Main contractors for Project Astra's Neptune family of launch vehicles:

Boeing Aerospace
Lockheed Martin
Northrup Grumman

3. The name of Project Astra's workhorse launch vehicles: Neptune. The main launch vehicles are the Neptune I, for 1.5 ton payloads to LKO, Neptune IB, for carrying crew to LKO in a for now classified capsule, Neptune V, for heavy lift launches, and the Neptune Heavy, for very heavy lift launches. Only the Neptune I has specific payload specifications for now.

Following the conference, NASA announces invites for media personnel to the Apollo 18 launch on December 20, 1973. 

Edited by AeroSky
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Wow! Sounds great. Curious? Are the Neptune rockets just Saturn rockets renamed or are you creating your own set of rockets? :o (Would be cool to see your take on a more developed launch vehicle for the project!) 

Lovely work and can't wait for Chapter one!

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On 11/23/2020 at 11:48 PM, Hatattack said:

Are the Neptune rockets just Saturn rockets renamed or are you creating your own set of rockets? :o

Yes, I am planning to create my own using Procedural Parts, Avionics, etc. if possible. Some Saturn engines may also be used.

Quick Update:

NASA's administrator James Fletcher announces on December 12, 1973 that the Skylab space station program is being transferred to the administration of the Astra Project Office. As of now, NASA is go for Apollo 18 launch.

Work on Astra's new crew capsule, name unknown for now, is rumored to have begun already with Boeing being the main contractor. The capsule is said to hold up to 5-7 people and sustain 5 for up to 60 days in space. (On rations)

Edited by AeroSky
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12 hours ago, Misguided Kerbal said:

Basically, put a cover photo, and put the whole thing in a spoiler.

Alright, thanks!

By the way, for the cover photo of Chapter 1 in that story of yours, is there some sort of filter on that? It looks sort of grainy. I may just be seeing things, though.

Drafting for Chapter 1 is underway and photo shooting will begin over the weekend! Expect some cliffhangers and a rather interesting ending.....

P.S. Chapter 1 will cover Apollo 18-21 and maybe some more stuff!

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Hello again!

Drafting of Chapter 1 is well underway, and I hope to release it by Saturday evening at the earliest. Just asking, how much do you want me to cover?

1. Apollo 18, 19, 20, 21
2. Apollo 18, 19, 20, 21 and some things about Skylab
3. Number 2 but with other launch news such as satellites, probes, etc.
4. Everything I have thought of so far (Which only goes a little past number three in the timeline)

Thank you!

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