"Apollo 11 Rocket Explodes after
Launch" by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present the twenty-fifth story from Jeff
Provine's excellent blog
This Day in
Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this post
do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
On July 16th 1969,
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
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.
A new story by Jeff ProvineWhile 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.
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
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.
says 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.
To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the
Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In
History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on
Facebook, Myspace and
Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit
differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items
explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist
superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy
Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting