Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 11-17-2009, 09:50 AM   #1
thrash
 
thrash's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: traveller
Default [IW] Atomic Space alternate history

I ran across an interesting tidbit in my research:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, April 1958

Space Programs

The Anderson Space Bill. -- The Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy has formed a subcommittee on outer space propulsion headed by Senator Clinton P. Anderson (Dem. N.M.). Hearings by the new group on Anderson's space control bill (S. 3117) began in February. The bill would establish within the AEC a Division of Outer Space Development to accelerate civilian development of outer space propulsion and energy-producing reactors, vehicles, and platforms, using existing laboratories and establishing a new national laboratory for space research. The bill directs the AEC, with guidance from the State Department, to try to negotiate an agreement for an "International Laboratory for Outer Space Propulsion." The AEC already has a nuclear rocket program -- Project Rover -- and there is ample evidence that nuclear energy offers the best hope for outer space propulsion. Representative Holifield, one of the sponsors of the bill, suggested Admiral Rickover for the job of developing a space vehicle.

FAS Recommends U.N. Agency for Space Research. -- The council of the Federation of American Scientists on February 5 urged Congress and the Administration to consider placing further research and development in the field of outer space under civilian control, and that all outer space research by all nations be placed under the aegis of a single U.N. agency. The FAS statement supported the principle embodied in the Anderson bill of giving the AEC the job of nonmilitary space research and urged the establishment of an international space laboratory.
Project Rover was the overall term for the program (begun in 1946) that developed the NERVA nuclear rocket.

What if, instead of creating NASA based around the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, Admiral Rickover had been given control over a US civilian space agency built around the Atomic Energy Commission? Admiral Rickover served on active duty until 1982, longer than any other US naval officer in history, and was widely known for integrity, perfectionism, and sheer bloody-minded determination.

I see an emphasis on deep space platforms over launch vehicles, a long-term coherent program of space exploration, and a landing on Mars in the late 1970's.


(If this somehow figures into the background of Tales of the Solar Patrol, please be gentle: I haven't read it.)
thrash is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2009, 10:08 AM   #2
Captain-Captain
 
Captain-Captain's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Re: [IW] Atomic Space alternate history

No. Solar Patrol deals with the invention of the Tesla Drve circa 1950.

The question is what significant changes occurred from this divergence in the tume stream? What is particularly different about this world that makes it p;ayable?
__________________
...().0...0()
.../..........\
-/......O.....\-
...VVVVVVV
..^^^^^^^

A clock running two hours slow has the correct time zero times a day.
Captain-Captain is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2009, 10:41 AM   #3
malloyd
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Default Re: [IW] Atomic Space alternate history

Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain-Captain View Post
The question is what significant changes occurred from this divergence in the tume stream? What is particularly different about this world that makes it playable?
Other than having a lot of space presence much earlier, and the inevitable higher degree of militarization of space? Presumably the Cold War involves a lot more Space Navy battlestations waiting to kill each other's satellites and orbiting nuclear bomb launchers.

Assuming a global nuclear war doesn't happen, I suspect the big one would be a change in spinoff technologies. A lot of effort is going into designing smallish output lightweight nuclear reactors in this setting, so I'd expect to see more of them on the ground - most ships are probably nuclear powered, so are (the much more common) giant airplanes, and likely some tanks and other military vehicles. Small communities and major factories get their electricity from their own reactors. There's more nuclear waste about, but people presumably have a more realistic view of its (non-)hazards and suitability for weaponization - this probably means at least some dirty bombs have been set off. Radiation protection probably gets a little more money - so cheap radiation monitors, and radioprotective drugs are likely around. Cancer rates may be up a bit worldwide, which might have pushed a little more research budget into that.. Electronics miniaturization being much less of an issue with better engines, the microelectronics industry is probably a bit lagging behind OTL for any given year.
__________________
--
MA Lloyd
malloyd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2009, 11:53 AM   #4
thrash
 
thrash's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: traveller
Default Re: [IW] Atomic Space alternate history

Quote:
Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
Other than having a lot of space presence much earlier, and the inevitable higher degree of militarization of space? Presumably the Cold War involves a lot more Space Navy battlestations waiting to kill each other's satellites and orbiting nuclear bomb launchers.
Note that the inefficiency of launching nuclear weapons against ground targets from orbit (vs. ground-based ICBM's) was known at least as early as 1960, so these bombs would be for orbit-to-orbit use.

I am more interested in the effects of someone with Rickover's personality, drive, and longevity at the helm of a National Atomic and Space Administration. If he applied the same iron-fisted practices to space in that timeline that he used on naval nuclear power in this one, what might he have accomplished?

Given the US government's commitment to a civilian space program, even as early as 1957, I suspect that Rickover's charter would be to maintain that civilian, peaceful (albeit not "non-military") flavor. It would be a much more disciplined agency than in our timeline, though -- no Revolt of the Centers.

Certainly Apollo would have continued to its full 20 missions, with later LEMs using RTG power to extend their surface stays. Saturn third stage rocket eventually replaced with NERVA-derived nuclear version (e.g., Saturn C-5N and Saturn-V25(S)U). Manned space station program carefully designed to validate life support requirements for a Mars mission.

Direct landing profiles were suggested for Apollo and in-situ resource utilization is a clear winner, so I can see a Mars Direct-style approach to landing a mission on Mars. What I don't see is the political will, even with Rickover beating the drum. Perhaps our history needs Sergei Korolev to survive long enough to land cosmonauts on the Moon, continuing the Space Race to Mars.
thrash is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2009, 12:31 PM   #5
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: [IW] Atomic Space alternate history

Quote:
Originally Posted by thrash View Post
Note that the inefficiency of launching nuclear weapons against ground targets from orbit (vs. ground-based ICBM's) was known at least as early as 1960, so these bombs would be for orbit-to-orbit use.

I am more interested in the effects of someone with Rickover's personality, drive, and longevity at the helm of a National Atomic and Space Administration. If he applied the same iron-fisted practices to space in that timeline that he used on naval nuclear power in this one, what might he have accomplished?

Given the US government's commitment to a civilian space program, even as early as 1957, I suspect that Rickover's charter would be to maintain that civilian, peaceful (albeit not "non-military") flavor. It would be a much more disciplined agency than in our timeline, though -- no Revolt of the Centers.

Certainly Apollo would have continued to its full 20 missions, with later LEMs using RTG power to extend their surface stays. Saturn third stage rocket eventually replaced with NERVA-derived nuclear version (e.g., Saturn C-5N and Saturn-V25(S)U). Manned space station program carefully designed to validate life support requirements for a Mars mission.
Don't be so sure. Rickover was indeed a seriously impressive and capable man, but the political forces ranged against him would be very powerful and have a lot inertia. You yourself note the problem of a lack of political will, but that in turn is based on both a lack of economic motive and several sources of active hostility to the entire concept of manned space flight. They'd almost surely still have been there in this alternative time line.

The reason we had the Apollo Project in the real world was, arguably, the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Certainly JFK was not a big enthusiast for space flight for its own sake, and there was a lot of resistance to the whole idea from within his administration, see the infamous (in certain circles) 'Owens Memo'.

Likewise, the social movement and backlash against everything nuclear that rose in the late 60s and 70s was based, in part, on a larger backlash against the entire mindset of the 'G.I. generation'. That would still likely have come, and if nuclear fission ws sufficiently entrenched to be untouchable, space flight probably would not be (other than military use).

Even with effective nuclear propulsion, manned space flight is inherently expensive. That money would look like a temptation to the people in the 70s who really believed that only a lack of funding kept social engineering from fixing everything that was wrong with society.

Absent some strong economic/political motive to do it, Rickover would be fighting a constant uphill battle. In the real world, every attempt to find such a motive has failed. Nuclear propulsion might make a big difference, or it might not.
Johnny1A.2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-19-2009, 11:53 AM   #6
Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2
 
Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: The deep dark haunted woods
Default Re: [IW] Atomic Space alternate history

What about the Outer Space Treaty? That's what put the kibosh on Project Orion. Any "Atomic Space" scenario would have to do something about this rather fundamental piece of international law.

Remember Jon's Law: "Any interesting space drive is a weapon of mass destruction. It only matters how long you want to wait for maximum damage." And the second someone starts putting nuclear drives units in space, someone is going to scream "militarization"! So the Outer Spcae Treaty is either going to have to be never passed or circumvented.

Circumvention ... now there's an idea! The vessels and bases of this "Atomic Space" milieu are pirate operations by small countries and large corporations, put up illegally! And the UN has to fund their own fleet of atomic spaceships to try and bring them to heel! Now this has potential!
__________________
"When you talk about damage radius, even atomic weapons pale before that of an unfettered idiot in a position of power."
- Sam Starfall from the webcomic Freefall
Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-19-2009, 04:59 PM   #7
robkelk
Untitled
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: between keyboard and chair
Default Re: [IW] Atomic Space alternate history

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2 View Post
What about the Outer Space Treaty? That's what put the kibosh on Project Orion.
Not to spoil a perfectly good tangent, but the Outer Space Treaty was signed in 1967. That's after the divergence point.
__________________
Rob Kelk
“Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.”
– Bernard Baruch,
Deming (New Mexico) Headlight, 6 January 1950
No longer reading these forums regularly.
robkelk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-25-2009, 08:52 AM   #8
vitruvian
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Re: [IW] Atomic Space alternate history

I believe the divergence point is actually before the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty as well, allowing for the possibility of Project Orion going forward. Chitty-Chitty-Boom-Boom to the stars... or at least to the outer planets.
vitruvian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-25-2009, 07:04 PM   #9
tshiggins
 
tshiggins's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Denver, Colorado
Default Re: [IW] Atomic Space alternate history

Quote:
Originally Posted by malloyd View Post

(SNIP)

Assuming a global nuclear war doesn't happen, I suspect the big one would be a change in spinoff technologies.

(SNIP)
Woot! Retro-futurism!

http://forums.vwvortex.com/zerothread?id=3897891
http://www.alternatehistory.com/disc...ad.php?t=76196
http://silver-rockets.com/tag/retro-futurism/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googie_architecture

Possible campaign themes:

Cold war in cis-lunar space.

A lot of posturing and space-fleet exercises from the superpowers, but all hot war takes place by proxy. So, the Russians, Europeans, Chinese and Americans never shoot at each other directly. However, the lunar mining colonies operated by Pakistan and India constantly bicker about the borders of their respective claims, and back their arguments with armored lunar rovers manned by hired mercenaries.

Aptly-named Ares

On Mars, the conflicting UK and USSR claims to the better sections of the Noctis Labrynthis results in low-intensity conflict, and rumors are that MI-5 has sent a double-0 agent to express, in an unmistakable (but wholly deniable) way, the dismay her majesty feels at the situation. France, of course, has repeatedly called for calm, reinforced its expanded mining operations, and otherwise avoids any sort of involvement. The United States has sent a team to monitor developments, even though its own bases lie much further east.

Deep in the black

Out in the Belt, Japanese mining stations are constantly monitored (and buzzed) by Chinese PLAN-SF craft, which makes Yojimbo Extraction noticeably reluctant to openly object to the presence of the new PRC base on the opposite side of Vesta from the Japanese base. However, should the PRC installation suffer a tragic accident, Yojimbo Extraction executives won't say too much, then, either.

Saturnian Space Nasties

There are, of course, no facts to support the ridiculous rumors that the joint Argentina-Brazilian Space Program is funded by quiet cabal with access to large amounts of European gold deposited in Swiss banks several decades ago. Moreover, since that quiet cabal doesn't exist, it cannot possibly have influenced the decision by the South Americans to fund a single, large, Orion vessel (instead of several smaller, more practical craft) tasked with creation of a base designed to take control of the hydrocarbons available on Titan. Additionally, only paranoid lunatics claim that the crew of the vessel was largely drawn from the graduates of special schools set up about 30 years in the past. Finally, it's just a pattern of remarkable, and completely unrelated, coincidences that so many inquisitive Argentinian and Brazilian patriots have suffered accidents while looking into those ludicrous lies.
__________________
--
MXLP:9 [JD=1, DK=1, DM-M=1, M(FAW)=1, SS=2, Nym=1 (nose coffee), sj=1 (nose cocoa), Maz=1]
"Some days, I just don't know what to think." -Daryl Dixon.

Last edited by tshiggins; 11-25-2009 at 07:21 PM.
tshiggins is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
infinite worlds

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:56 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.