22 January 2018

Dreaming a Different Apollo 1.0

Lunar Truck. Image credit: Grumman
As long-time readers of this blog know, occasionally I get creative and change history. Not in my history posts, if I can help it, but through alternate history posts I group under the general title "Dreaming a Different Apollo." Some are silly, some not, and some (most?) are brazen exercises in wishful thinking. All, however, are entertaining to a greater or lesser degree (or so my readers seem to think) and maybe even a bit instructive, since I try to make them as realistic as possible.

Below is a list of all the "Dreaming a Different Apollo" posts so far, with a brief description hinting at what each is about. Have fun.

Dreaming a Different Apollo, Part One: Shameless Wishful Thinking (Apollo/Saturn continues indefinitely, much as has Soyuz in our timeline, but with more capabilities.)

Dreaming a Different Apollo, Part Two: Jimmy Carter's Space Shuttle (President Jimmy Carter looked carefully at the Space Shuttle he inherited from Nixon and Ford and said, "Holy crap, this thing is dangerous!")

Dreaming a Different Apollo, Part Three: Circumnavigation (The Mercury-Atlas 10 mission ended in tears, discouraging President Kennedy and emboldening the Soviets. The U.S. lost the moon race - but soon opened a new chapter in lunar exploration.)

Dreaming a Different Apollo, Part Four: Naming Names (Fleshing out Dreaming a Different Apollo, Part One.)

Dreaming a Different Apollo, Part Five: Victory Lap (A fully reusable Space Shuttle was phased in during the 1980s. A vignette about a hero returning to Earth.)

Dreaming a Different Apollo, Part Six: Star Trek as an Exemplar of Space Age Popular Culture (An excerpt from my Master's Thesis in an alternate timeline.)


  1. Ahh Alternate History, Playing with What If ?
    This Blog post show some nice concepts.

    I write my self AH stories, Mostly space flights related, on Alternatehistory.com
    biggest problem in scenarios is how to keep program alive or initiate it thru Politic
    That's really tricky part in Story how get Politic do it's job right.

    One Solution is keeping the competition in SpaceRace on
    Like manned lunar landing the Soviets (or other evil Nation you like)
    And force President Nixon (or the one you like) into action

    Another Idea is different decision
    Like NASA abandon the Shuttle program, after Capitol Hill refusal to finance it.
    so NASA use the Apollo CSM on modified Saturn I-B rocket
    and launch modular Space station with it in orbit.

  2. Michel:

    I'm glad that you like these. They aren't strictly in keeping with the subject of this blog, though some historians would argue that alternate history can be instructive. The thing I learned in trying to do plausible spaceflight AH with a plausible positive outcome is that it's damned hard!


  3. I do a fair amount of alternate history about space, mostly in my Lanakhidzist Revolution/Gus on the Moon timeline. Right now my works are scattered all over the place: some at Liberty Island Magazine, some in various anthologies, and some independently published for the Kindle. In the next few months I want to completely remodel the Gus on the Moon website to make it a sort of hub for all things related to that timeline: stories, essays, etc.

    1. Tattercoats:

      Sorry for the delay in replying - I thought I'd responded to your comment! Can you say more about your "Gus on the Moon" timeline?


  4. I realize I've mentioned it before, but former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has said that for the money spent on the Space Shuttle, each year we could have had two Saturn V flights to the moon, four Saturn Ib flights to a Skylab-class space station, a new Skylab-class space station every few years, and some money left over for research and development. Some R&D suggestions I'd suggest include making the lunar hardware more robust, an automated cargo vehicle similar in concept to the Russian Progress, or the MODAP spacecraft. In one of the incarnations of your blog, someone said that if it had been developed, the MODAP might still be in use today. I agree.


  5. Hi, Phil:

    I think that's an easy case to make. Let me embroider this a little - the Skylab-type stations, each a little more advanced and with more players involved than the last, are crucial. Let's say a lunar Saturn V exploded on the pad, destroying a crew, a mission, and major infrastructure. Pressure might grow to end lunar flights, just as it did in our timeline. If lunar missions were all we had, that would end human spaceflight (at least until we took the time to do something else with humans in space). But by having a crew in orbit all the time, it's harder to pull the plug. We see that situation with ISS. Even with no piloted spacecraft flying to ISS from US soil, it keeps alive our piloted program.

    Shuttle was like that, too. A permanent reusable civil service feed trough, I once said during an especially uncharitable moment, before I became a Federal civil servant (for USGS, but wholly funded by NASA).

    I think people would still ask, "Why do we keep going to the moon?" NASA and its supporters would need to do a much better job of explaining the need for moon missions. NASA would need to make them all seem different, new, and important. Fly a European to the moon, fly a woman, fly more scientists, revisit a past site to do engineering analysis of hardware after a decade in lunar conditions as a prelude to permanent facilities on the moon, extend missions to two weeks, add an automated rover for picking up samples between Apollo landing sites, etc., etc. Perhaps most crucial, I think, get out of the Apollo zone. At least get to near-equatorial Farside sites. Heck, visit the moon during a lunar eclipse like the one due later today.



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