Cosmonautics Day Blogfest

12th April
Cosmonautics Day is a holiday in Russia and some other former USSR countries to celebrate the first manned space flight made on April 12, 1961 by the 27-year-old Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Since this is an International Blogfest, we have taken the small liberty of also including "sailors of the Universe" from other countries. And of course Laika the dog, why not.

"Let's ride!" during the launch of Vostok 1 (12th April 1961).

The first human being to journey into outer space, he stepped outside the narrow thinking of the Cold War era with the famous words "Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!"

Born in the village of Klushino (renamed Gagarin in 1968 after his death) his family lived a mud hut during the occupation. He served as an apprenticeship as a foundryman at the Lyubertsy Steel Plant near Moscow, before entering technical school. Transferred to the Soviet Air Forces, he was promoted to Lieutenant and later Senior Lieutenant.
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin 1934-68
In 1960, after much searching and a selection process, Yuri Gagarin was chosen with 19 other pilots for the Soviet space program. He was the stand-out choice of both the evaluators and also his peers.

In his post-flight report, Gagarin recalled his experience of spaceflight, having been the first human in space: "The feeling of weightlessness was somewhat unfamiliar compared with Earth conditions. Here, you feel as if you were hanging in a horizontal position in straps. You feel as if you are suspended."

He later became a worldwide celebrity and Hero of the Soviet Union, appointed deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow, which was later named after him. Gagarin died in 1968 when the MiG 15 training jet he was piloting crashed.

Space Age and Dog Years

"Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it... We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog" (Oleg Georgovitch Gazenko, one of the Soviet animals in space programme, 1998)
When “Sputnik 2” left Earth on November 3rd in 1957, the Soviet spacecraft was the first vessel designed by humans carrying a living being into the universe. Aboard was the dog Laika, out there to test, if a complex organism would actually be able to survive in zero gravity for a longer period.

An article from Dirk Puehl Laika allegedly died after a few hours in, not from the state of weightlessness but of stress and noise and heat in the capsule. Since “Sputnik 2” burned up during the re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the actual fate of Laika remained officially unclear.

Three years later the Soviet Union started the next attempt to bring something living into space… and back again. The two dogs Belka and Strelka were sent out in “Sputnik 5” and everything seemed to work as expected, from the start of the craft in the Baikonur Cosmodrome until Sputnik V’s first orbit. Then the life signs of the two dogs suddenly disappeared from Baikonur’s measuring devices – from normal to “simply gone” in an instant.

Even though “Sputnik 5” managed a soft landing, necessary for the planned manned space flights, the craft’s hatch was open and everything inside destroyed. No clue about the two dogs could be found. Next year’s plan to send a man into space had to be postponed for an indefinite time. The next unmanned flights, Soviet as well as those launched by the US, experienced serious setbacks, once they penetrated Earth’s atmosphere. In 1961, Shepard reported three comet-like apparitions, accompanying him on his suborbital flight, a failure of his instruments after roughly 5 minutes and the apparitions following him until a height of roughly 30.000 feet.

The phenomenon continued to be visible, on clear nights even with bare eyes, while almost every attempt, Soviet, US, European, Japanese, Chinese and Indian, to launch something into space either inexplicably failed as soon as the object left Earth’s atmosphere or downright exploded. The reporting of seeing the three comets ceased in 1985, as sudden as it began in 1960 and international space programmes slowly began to ramp up in the early 1990s again.

To the Red Planet

On December 2nd the United States landed a man on Mars, right on schedule.

The NASA space program had moved from triumph to triumph since the moon landings in the late sixties and early seventies, and the building of a working space station in 1973 had laid the groundwork for travel to other worlds within the solar system.

An alternate history by Robbie A. Taylor Gary Davis, the first man on Mars, had been a teenager during the moon landings, and remembered vividly the sight of Jim Lovell walking on the moon during the successful Apollo 13 mission; it had inspired him to become an astronaut himself in America's thriving astronaut corps.


Walter Cronkite greeted the returning crew of Ares I, the manned mission to Mars launched Nov. 12, 1981. The Ares mission had followed the profile of Wernher von Braun's 1969 mission proposal to President Richard Nixon. Nixon, seeking to cut federal spending, which had sharply escalated due to the Vietnam War, had been wavering between Ares and the proposed Space Shuttle, which was being promoted as a way to make space flight much cheaper by dispensing with expendable boosters and capsules in favor of what was intended as a fully reusable spacecraft.

The President was won over by von Braun in a personal meeting at which the canny German expatriate scientist pointed out that under his proposal most components of the spacecraft (pictured) would be reusable and then went on to say, "Mr. President, your predecessor John Kennedy won praise for the moon program because it was seen as moving the nation forward. If you choose to go to Mars, you can win similar praise, except from those on the left who are against you anyway.

But if instead, now that we have reached the moon, you choose the Shuttle, you will be seen as taking a step backward, perhaps even as being timid in this matter". Almost anyone else might have been subjected to one of Nixon's rages at that point, but the President had known the scientist since Eisenhower's administration and respected him personally.

An alternate history by Eric B. LippsAs von Braun had predicted, the Ares program was popular with many Americans, though liberals tended to oppose it. Among the loudest voices raised in opposition were that of Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire, who had earlier blasted Apollo as a "Moondoggle", and Minnesota's Sen. Walter Mondale. But the popular imagination was caught by the plan, to the point where, even after Nixon's resignation in the wake of Watergate, his successors found it expedient to continue support. Indeed, Mondale's opposition would cost him the vice-presidential slot on the Democratic ticket in 1976; Jimmy Carter, already facing an uphill struggle, decided he did not need the added burden of someone vocally against a highly popular program. Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, one of Carter's strongest rivals in that year's Democratic primaries, would get the nod instead.

By the time Ares I left Earth orbit on its way to the Red Planet, Ronald Reagan had been elected president. Reagan, who had promised to simultaneously build up the military, cut taxes and balance the federal budget, was eyeing a number of agencies, including NASA, for major funding cuts. Once again, however, von Braun had come to the rescue, forging a personal bond with Reagan by appealing to the latter's visionary optimism. As a result, Reagan agreed to maintain NASA's funding, allowing the Ares mission to go forward.

Kennedy Proposes His Joint Moon Mission

In an address to the United Nations on 20th September, US President John F. Kennedy presented the idea of a joint mission between the United States and the Soviet Union saying,

“Finally, in a field where the United States and the Soviet Union have a special capacity - in the field of space - there is room for new cooperation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space.
I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon. Space offers no problems of sovereignty; by resolution of this Assembly, the members of the United Nations have foresworn any claim to territorial rights in outer space or on celestial bodies, and declared that international law and the United Nations Charter will apply. Why, therefore, should man's first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition?”

After the speech, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko said that the notion was a “good sign” and presented it to USSR Premier Krushchev. He had backed the Russian space program in its early days, beating out the United States by launching the first satellite, putting the first man in space, and being the first to orbit Earth. Krushchev saw no need for a joint mission; it was merely the American capitalists seeing the expense of going to the moon and looking to place the burden upon the working class.

An alternate history by Professor Jeff Provine The political climate soon changed dramatically. Kennedy was killed only months later in Dallas, Texas, while Krushchev was muscled out of office and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev worked to increase Soviet influence, especially by expanding the Soviet military, and the new US president Lyndon Johnson redoubled his predecessor's efforts on the space race. The worst days of the Vietnam War came in 1968 just as an aide, while looking for documents pertaining to the Civil Rights Movement, came across Kennedy's outline for a political dealing with Russia for a joint mission. LBJ set upon it as a solution to the war.

Presented in a combination of backroom and public deals, the Soviet Union would act as mediator between the North Vietnamese / Chinese and South Vietnamese / American forces, separating Vietnam as they had Korea. By February, peace talks had begun as well as cooperative training programs between NASA and the Soviet space program. The war was proclaimed ended by September of 1968, giving plenty of time for LBJ to shift praise toward his vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, who would ride the success to beat Republican Richard Nixon in the November election.

The next year, Apollo 11 carried astronaut Neil Armstrong and cosmonaut Alexei Leonov to the moon. Reportedly, the two flipped had a coin to see who would be the first to set foot on the extraterrestrial surface, and Armstrong won. The two planted their respective nations' flags beside one another along with a flag for the United Nations. Eight lunar missions would follow.

Through the 1970s, increasing international cooperation would improve the effectiveness of study in space as the International Space Station (also known as Alpha, Eden, and Mir) grew in orbit. The Space Shuttle program revolutionized launch in the 1980s, but, by the late 1990s, space programs had become stagnant. The Russian Federation remained an important part of space, but domestic and economic issues weakened its position. In 2001, the decommissioned Alpha, pockmarked with micrometeors and burdened with ancient technology, would be de-orbited and burn up over the Pacific.

The new space station, Beta (with nicknames such as Eagle and Freedom), began construction with increasing Chinese influence as the world's most populous nation came into the forefront of international politics. By 2010, suggestions that humanity returns to the moon have been embraced, perhaps using it as a stepping-stone for a mission to Mars. Projections place a potential landing in 2027, though each year they are modified to match budgetary issues.

In reality, Kennedy's proposal for a cooperative moon-landing was met with, at best, skepticism. The Space Race was the champion of American progressive ideals, finally beating the Soviet Union to the moon in 1969. International cooperation would gradually blossom with the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, connecting spacecraft hatches in orbit. The International Space Station would begin construction in 1998.

Red Sky at Night

On this day a chance discovery in Soviet era archive records revealed that treachery in the Nazi High Command was the key to the USSR beating the United States in the race to the moon.

Reichführer Heinrich Himmler had long suspected that the technical director of the German rocket program Wernher von Braun was more preoccupied with space travel than the development of the offensive weaponry which might have save the Third Reich. Placed under surveillance in October 1943, a young female dentist who was an SS spy reported comments made at an engineer's house in Peenemünde.

His colleagues Riedel and Gröttrup had said that they were working on a spaceship1 and that they felt the war was not going well; this was considered a "defeatist" attitude leading to Von Braun's detention in a Gestapo cell in Stettin (now the town of Szczecin in Poland). An alternate history by Scott Palter Deputy Führer Martin Bormann suspected that Himmler was planning to use von Braun's research as a bargaining chip with the Americans. Of course Himmler's mistake was to detain von Braun near the Eastern Front. Because both Bormann and the chief of the Gestapo Heinrich Mueller were Soviet agents who saw a similar opportunity - but with the Russians. They arranged for von Braun to be sprung from Stettin, and supplied with the secret codes that allowed him to pass through Soviet lines as a "Free German". Codes that they themselves would use with twelve months to save their own necks.

One can speculate as to the alternative possibility of a defection to the West. Such an outcome must be considered less desirable to Von Braun given his well documented use of slave labour at Peenemünde and also his ruthlessness in accepting a command position as a Sturmbannführer in the SS. Aiming for the stars, he was prepared to see his rockets used to hit London2, and therefore the possibility of him standing trial as a war criminal at Nuremberg cannot be completely dismissed. Of course within two decades, and supplied with the unrestricted resources that only an undemocratic society could provide, von Braun had completed his space port at Baikonur. In 1966 the embarrassing spectacle of Germany losing the Soccer World Cup Final to England was soon displaced by the image of a much greater German triumph, Prussian Rocketry powering Yuri Gargarin to the surface of the moon.

Even though they were never destined to meet again, by coincidence Bormann and Von Braun died within a month of each other in 1977. Far from home Bormann died in his retirement apartment in Moscow, and von Braun in Kazakhstan, overlooking the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Both having the ultimate satisfaction of knowing that the development of the Soviet mission to Mars was ahead of its schedule for a landing on the Red planet in 19803.

In reality, the comment (1) was they were NOT working on a space craft. (2) comment from satirist Mort Sahl (3) This prediction was made by Vice President Rockefeller in 1969 with reference to the Apollo Mission.

Launch Pad to the 21st Century

November 12th, on this day Vice President Xi Jinping was elected to the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission by the Party Central Committee.

As leader, he committed to land a man on the Moon before the changeover to the sixth generation of leaders in 2022. Of course the purpose of this bold announcement was to justify world leadership through maturity.

Because the thousand of years of continuous civilization was surely a more representative context than the short-lived history of the communist nation since 1948. An alternate history Undoubtedly, there was a challenge implicit in his words. Because America had developed its own space program, but having beat the Russians into orbit, had called it quits while there were still ahead of their Coldwar Rival. And although China started much later, it was generally considered highly unlikely that America could restart their own programme and still win this new race.
Alexey Leonov, first man on the moon

It was also a blow to American pride, and just over a month later John F. Kennedy announce an ambitious program to restore that pride: The US would put a man on the moon within a decade.

When Yuri Gagarin left earth’s atmosphere on 12 April 1961 it was the pinnacle of human achievement, a mortal man had entered a realm hitherto beholden to the gods. For several years it seemed that it would be a one horse race. However behind the scenes Sergei Korolyov, the Soviet Union’s mysterious “Chief Designer”, had already started work on designs for manned flights to other planets.
By the time the Soviet Union officially announced plans in 1964 the OKB-1 design bureau headed by Korolyov had already created a heavy rocket capable of reaching beyond the low Earth orbit used by the Vostok program.

The impetuous Khrushchev had actually instituted two programmes, one for moon orbits and one for the actual moon landing, each headed by it’s own designer. After Brezhnev had taken over power the moon program was streamlined and Korolyov made head of the entire program. And although two separate tracks were maintained for the orbits and the landing Korolyov’s leadership unified the efforts. An alternate history by Marko 'Lev' Bosscher

In early 1967 when both the Americans and Soviets were gearing up for the actual moonflights disaster struck in both camps. In january a simulated launch sequence for the American Apollo project went disastrously wrong and a fire broke out killing the astronauts. And in April the parachute failed to open on a Soyuz vehicle as it returned to earth. The crash killed the cosmonauts, which included Vladimir Komarov who commanded one of the two teams selected for the moon landing.

The unmanned orbit of the moon in May of that year went ahead as scheduled, but the manned orbit was delayed until August of that year as the teams were restructured and the Soyuz crash investigated. The success of the manned orbit, and the earlier success of landing a Luna-9 capsule on the moon’s surface gave the Soviets the confidence to push on with their effort. The Soviets also, erroneously, believed that the US would attempt a landing in 1968 so it would be vital to maintain the intended schedule.

After several unmanned flights of the Soyuz-7 vehicle the first manned launch was performed in April 1968. And in June the two-man crew launched an unmanned landing vehicle from lunar orbit. The moon landing was given the go-ahead and crews were prepared for the mission, the first crew would be cosmonauts Leonov Makarov and a reserve crew of Popovich and Voronov would be on standby.

It was a tense time for all involved, especially for Korolyov who was aware that an Apollo launch was scheduled for October. If all went according to plan the Soyuz-7 would be in lunar orbit in september, narrowly beating out the Americans (in fact the Apollo launch was a test flight, the Americans would not attempt a landing on the moon until the next year).

The September launch did go ahead and on the 25th the landing module separated from the Soyuz7 command module and headed for the moon.

After a seemingly interminable period of radio silence a message finally came through “Cosmonaut Leonov reporting from the surface of the moon...”. Words that would immediately be spread across the globe. Leonov dedicated his mission to Yuri Gagarin the space pioneer who had died earlier that year. In reality: Korolyov died in surgery in 1966 which was a serious setback for the moon program, which also fell out of political favor. The N1 rocket that was supposed to take the cosmonauts to the moon would also prove a failure, never even making it out of earth orbit.

Khrushchev Offer


November 15th. In a move that many who knew him considered shockingly uncharacteristic (and believed to have been caused by advisers warning against words antagonizing opponents as had caused massive uprising in Hungary), Russian First Secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev said during an interview with an American reporter that he would be willing to share missile technology with the United States, who clearly did not have the same ICBM capabilities as the Soviets. "If she had, she would have launched her own Sputnik," Khrushchev noted, recalling the Russian success of being the first people to put an artificial satellite into orbit some six weeks before on October 4. Later in the interview, given as part of the commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the October Revolution, he discussed East-West relations and noted that neither side wanted war, but that the Soviets would win if one began.

The interview came just days after the Soviets had hurriedly launched Sputnik 2, which brought the first living creature into orbit, a dog named Laika. She proved that living creatures could survive weightlessness and opened the door for human scientific exploration of space.
It also came after the humbling Gaither Report was leaked to the press. Assembled by the Security Resources Panel of the President's Science Advisory Committee, the report showed that the United States was far behind the Soviets on missile technology. After a decade of not working toward that end, the US had as its only defense the system of bomb shelters that were hardly effective if a large-scale war erupted.

The American populace continued to reel from the shocking news of Soviet superiority. Only a decade ago, the USA had been unquestionably the most powerful nation in the world with the A-bomb born out of the Manhattan Project. At the end of the war in 1945, Operation Paperclip sent OSS agents throughout Germany picking up Nazi scientists such as Werner von Braun and capturing what technology they could. Many of these scientists came to work for the Americans (some even illegally imprisoned at places such as P.O. Box 1142), and an inter-continental ballistic missile project was begun in 1946 by Consolidated-Vultee with its MX-774. The program was shut down a couple of years later as conservative feelings overtook post-war America, and it would not be until after the shocking launch of Sputnik that the Americans would reawaken.

An alternate history by Professor Jeff Provine Embarrassed and shocked by the Russians, Project Vanguard was quickly put into place by the Eisenhower administration to lift the Explorer Program, picking up proposals from the US Navy and Army that had been shelved due to lack of interest and funding. With the disastrous launch attempt of the Vanguard TV3 on December 6, 1957, where the three-stage rocket rose four feet before losing thrust, collapsing, and exploding, American public turned back to Khrushchev's offer. Many took it as if he were an older brother offering help with homework, while others thought he was twisting the diplomatic knife with a pandering, impossible offer. The world was in the midst of the International Geophysical Year sharing science on geomagnetism, oceanography, etc, and leaders internationally began to criticize the Americans for not taking up Khrushchev's offer to take up an American satellite on a Russian rocket. Much of the hooplah was settled with the launch of Explorer 1 on January 31, 1958, and then rocketry settled to a calmer scientific route with military espionage riding closely, secretly behind.

International relations improved somewhat between the USA and USSR, later resulting in the Nuclear Limitation Treaty in 1962 avoiding a massive stockpile of weapons beyond the point of Mutually Assured Destruction. Despite Khrushchev's constant assurances that communism would bury capitalism and colonialism, the Soviet Union would eventually fall in 1992, but not until after the success of the Buran shuttle system, launched in 1988 on the anniversary of Khrushchev's speech that began a time of peaceful coexistence in orbital space above the simmering Cold War. With an international space station being pieced together by Russian rockets with American engineered segments, long term space habitation is gradually being explored. Scientists hope to eventually put a man on the moon, where probes and flyby satellites have already taken a great deal of data, but cost and lack of public incentive have kept humans home.

In reality, Khruschev challenged America with, "Let's have a peaceful rocket contest just like a rifle-shooting match, and they'll see for themselves." The words would help begin the Space Race in which the Americans would work to catch up with and surpass the Soviets, culminating with the American Moon landing on July 20, 1969. Due to cost and recent catastrophic N1 rocket failures, Khrushchev determined that the Soviets would not make further plans to attempt a manned moon landing, and even the Russian shuttle program, which emulated the Americans from a decade before, would never launch more than an unmanned test mission.

Farewell to the Magicians

November 19th. On this day Adolf Hitler and the Infamous Lava Man were both killed after a Schauberger "Repulsine" engine failure caused their sabotaged Haunebu-type Nazi saucer craft to crash land on approach to the secret base in New Swabia, Antarctica.

Cornered like a rat in Berlin, the Fuehrer had made a number of fantastically exaggerated claims for the secret technology with which he bought his escape from the Third Reich.

And having issued upwards of a thousand emergency passports to German Scientists, the United States soon discovered that the UFO technology had been oversold, in fact like many American consumers they found the units exhibited many of the hallmarks of German products themselves, being over-featured, mostly safe but ultimately unsatisfying. An alternate history Despite his fast-talking, spittle-flying claims the Haunebu model had not transported Nazi Astronauts to the moon in 1942, rather the Repulsine engine lifted the craft just a few feet off the ground, permitting Hitler and Goering to engage in a somewhat childish if not futuristic game of bumper cars. Enraged by the double-cross, American agents had fixed the Fuehrer by sabotaging his lousy toy craft.

Despite well publicised failures at Roswell and Kecksberg, both the United States and Canada nevertheless persisted with the programme well into the 1970s, believing that the levational concept was fundamentally sound, just requiring the injection of a super fuel to accelerate flight to supersonic speeds. Finally, a suitable quantity of Element 115 was secured from aliens. Rushed to Area 51 for testing, the infinitely valuable fuel was then stolen by the pyrotechnic freak Bob Lazar who exploded the material at one of his annual Desert Storm Parties before becoming the victim of a mysterious hit and run shooting on a Las Vegas Highway.

Communism proved its scientific superiority when Comrade Alan Shephard became the first man in space. Comrade President Rosenberg had accelerated the space program to beat the European monarchies in the space race and prove that true innovation could not be found within their reactionary borders.

"Ratman" Robert A. Taylor
Robbie's #tweetfromalternatehistory now available on Twitter and his latest e-book "The Tree Of Knowledge (The Chelsea Perkins Trilogy)" on Amazon.

The British Parliament enacted the Overton Statute, named after the English lord who negotiated it, granting all colonies representation in Parliament. This was followed by quick repeal of many of the more odious laws such as the Townshend Act, and a new era of enlightenment propelled the British Empire forward; grumblings from the colonies became a thing of the past.

Alfred Cummings arrives in Utah to take control of the territory as its first non-Mormon governor. The Mormons had been flouting U.S. law and threatening secession since arriving, and they felt that the appointment of a “gentile” as their governor was the last straw. They erupted in violence, declaring their independence from America.

President Roosevelt suffers a massive stroke, disabling him for several months. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Vice President Harry Truman cover up the illness in order to keep the nation’s morale high; once the war is won, though, they announce Roosevelt’s resignation and Truman becomes president.

A selection of alternate histories by Robbie Taylor 1963
International sensation Pete Best releases his huge hit Between Us, which jumps to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. He starts planning his first world tour.

British leader Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s longest-serving Prime Minister, dies of a heart attack. Leading the fight against the American Constitutionalists and South Africa’s National Front had strained her immeasurably, and she had neglected her health while directing the war against the Fulcrum powers.

The success of the Save Earth missions to destroy the centers where the Claws transform themselves into human appearance makes it impossible for the alien race to maintain its presence on earth. There is a vast withdrawal, and many prominent people disappear overnight. U.S. Representative Carl Worthington calls a press conference and announces, “The earth is now safe from alien influence.”

Apollo 11 Rocket Explodes after Launch

The Space Race held as the hottest direct contest between the USA and the USSR in the Cold War. After Russia had won the first two legs with the first artificial satellite Sputnik in 1957 and the first man in space Yuri Gagarin in 1961, America had finally gotten ahead with their 1968 flyby of the Moon. Russian leadership had begun to doubt their Luna program with its unmanned probes, but the political climate changed completely as tragedy struck over Florida.

Just after launch, the Apollo 11 exploded, instantly killing its crew of Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr.
While none can be certain of the cause of the disaster, many theories have arisen after much of the wreckage was salvaged. Most agree that it was a hydrogen “hiccup”, a less dense bubble that caused imbalance in the rocket, jarring it viciously and tearing the craft apart until the explosives fell out of control.

While the United States mourned, the Soviets threw their resources into making up lost time. Automated docking of capsules had already been successful in 1968, and the manned Soyuz 4 and 5 missions had tested successfully the human elements involved. The Soviets planned to launch its cosmonaut to the surface of the Moon by September. Bad luck and mechanical problems slowed the launch until mid-October.

Meanwhile, the United States refused to sit idly. While many began to call for an end to the apparently suicidal space program and memories of Apollo 1’s fire still in the public mind, NASA had already secured its funding for the year and needed a success to guarantee that the program would not be shelved altogether. Apollo 12 would be their final chance. Hearing word of the Russian attempt, astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr, Richard Gordon, Jr, and Alan Bean would be put ahead of their November launch schedule to match the Russian deadline.

An alternate history by Professor Jeff Provine The rockets launched within hours of one another, and scientists on both ends worked frantically to streamline the process of travel in action, but mission clocks were ticking without much room to spare. On October 16, 1969, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov touched down on the surface of the Moon. Only an hour later, Conrad and Bean would follow. Despite the potential dangers, NASA had adjusted the flight path to put them down near Leonov’s capsule.

Conrad would venture out of the American module and be followed out fifteen minutes later by Bean, after which Leonov would greet them having “walked” (bounced in the low gravity) from his half-mile distant capsule. His decision had been applauded and rejected by Russian mission control, but the effect was incredible upon public sentiment. The image of a cosmonaut and an astronaut shaking hands on the surface of the moon would be recorded by probe cameras and transmitted to televisions and newspapers the world over.

President Nixon (who also made mention of the success of President Kennedy’s promise to arrive on the moon before the end of the decade) would capitalize on the image and, in 1971, meet with Nikolai Podgorny of the Soviet Union in Moscow. The historic meeting would bring new balance to the Cold War, and gradually disarmament would begin. Without the terrors of foreign powers and even the invasion of Czechoslovakia recalled, the Russian people would have enough of their Stalinist past and recreate their government with the 1977 Constitution returning much of the power into the hands of people. While still economically planned, democracy grew in Russia. Meanwhile, trade with the USSR began to seduce the US into greater socialism, such as Carter’s reversal of Nixon’s privatized health insurance into a public, universal system.

Now something as half-breeds of one another, the two head of the world continue to dance around one another for power. Technology has torn down walls (much like the fall of Berlin’s wall in 1989), while the growth of populations in developing countries such as China and India look to change the world balance altogether.

The new space station, Beta (with nicknames such as Eagle and Freedom), began construction with increasing Chinese influence as the world's most populous nation came into the forefront of international politics. By 2010, suggestions that humanity returns to the moon have been embraced, perhaps using it as a stepping-stone for a mission to Mars. Projections place a potential landing in 2027, though each year they are modified to match budgetary issues.

In reality, Apollo 11 launched successfully and achieved orbit 12 minutes after takeoff. Neil Armstrong would be the first human to walk the moon’s surface, and their mission would plant an American flag, showing America’s success. Beaten, the Soviet space program would turn to orbital habitation and soon install Salyut 1, the first space station in 1971. The USSR would eventually fall in 1992, while the USA would continue with capitalism into the turbulent economic decades of 2000 and 2010.

Robbie Taylor, Creator of Today in Alternate History Scott Palter, guest writer on Today in Alternate History Dirk Puehl, Editor of #Onthisday Professor Jeff Provine, Editor of This Day in Alternate History
Eric Lipps, guest writer on Today in Alternate History Marko Bosscher, tours Natural History museums at Eruditorum. Alternate Historian, Editor of Today in Alternate History Andrew Beane, Editor of Voice of the Christian Worker

Today's six-way post includes contributions from Dirk Puehl, Marko Bosscher, Reverend Robbie A. Taylor, Eric Lipps, Professor Jeff Provine and the Editor.

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