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Sunday, February 16, 2014


The USA is the only dominant nation today, but, what if Japan had occupied Hawaii after the attack on Pearl Harbor (Red Sun), Hitler had won World War II, or the USSR had prevailed in the space race?  Alternate history is a genre of fiction that can reveal how close we were to cataclysmic disaster.

One of the primary reasons why the USSR collapsed was their inability to win the Space Race.  But they were oh so close.

How many of you are familiar with Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, the leader of the Soviet space program?  

Korolev was from a broken home, bullied in his youth, sent to a gulag camp for suspicious reasons, where he never really physically recovered, and messed up his married life.  Yet, he became the founder and unquestioned Soviet space authority, being responsible for: 
  • Sputnik (1957), which took only one month of planning, shocking America.
  • Laika (1957), first mammal in space (she was a Moscow stray dog and there was no return involved, so she died up there).
  • Luna 2 (1959), which crashed on the Moon, and Luna 3, which photographed the back side.
  • Beginning design projects to land man on the Moon and Mars (1959).
  • Sending Yuri Gagarin as first man in orbit (1961).
  • Developing the Soyuz craft (1961), which is now the only link to the International Space Station.
In 1960, at the age of 54, Korolev suffered his first heart attack, and the convalescence was complicated by a kidney disorder from his detention in prison.  

It was on 11September1962 that President John F. Kennedy announced his goal to go to the Moon in this decade.  Korolev worked harder, but was never the same, and passed away in 1966.  No one knew about him, for his role was kept secret, purportedly to protect him from foreign agents.  On 20July1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the Moon.

What if he was never sent to toil at a Gulag?  What if Korolev remained healthy?  He beat us with Sputnik, succeeded in sending the first man into orbit and developed the spacecraft that today is functioning as our (NASA abandoned their effort to continue the Space Shuttle) way to and back from the International Space Station.  Russia only recently announced their plan to send Cosmonauts to the Moon by 2030.

Streets are now named after him, and even a town.  A Moon crater on the far side is named Korolev, as is another on Mars, and an asteroid.  Soviet cinema in 1972 produced Taming of the Fire about him.  The BBC made a documentary on Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev entitled Space Race.

So what if the USA had lost the space race to the USSR?  Glad we didn't.


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