Say you have a rival, one you compare yourself to, strive to be better than. Everytime that rival achieves something good that one-ups you, you feel the natural human urge to one-up them. Now take that situation and extend it to two global superpowers ideologically at odds! People will do crazy things… this crazy thing eventually morphed into the space race! Each achievement the Soviets made worried the American public and push their government to invest in the technology to shoot more people into the vacuums of space! This race culminated in 1969, when the United States sent Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon surface in the Apollo 11 mission achieving JFK’s dream of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade. Yet, what if in an alternate timeline the Americans didn’t land on the Moon first? What if the U.S.S.R. did? Cosmonauts becoming the first men to walk on another surface, Communist Space Bears! A reality which could have taken place without the Space Bears regrettably… looking at historical evidence I’ll piece together an alternate timeline exploring the consequences of what could have occurred. In the 1950s the Red Scare was all the rage, the battle between East and West was new it was the lovely start of a relationship between two nuclear-armed powers! Other than just nukes one thing both powers had in common too was the German technology they gained after defeating the Nazis just a few years earlier! German Scientist and War Tech were invested to make new missiles, better at carrying certain Payloads if certain situations applied… Then, in 1957, the American public was put into a frenzy, as the Soviets successfully launched the first artificial satellite into orbit: Sputnik One. The Soviets were perceived as backwards and poor people who built crude technology, Sputnik was pretty much a slap in the face to this illusion, and the American public was confused how such a reality could be but it was the kick in the butt necessary to make the Americans begin investing in the technology and science to compete with the Soviets, the government emphasized more education and science and math, missile technology was invested in and the American Space Program was born. So thank you Sputnik, you gave us Nasa! With the launch of Yuri Gagarin, Kennedy was convinced that the U.S.A. had to do a bold action which would overshadow the soviet achievements. He planned for the Moon, calling for the United States to put a man on the moon before the decade was out. After disasters for both in years of scientific advancement that I can’t cover due to time, the United States landed two men on the moon in 1969 and sent them home. To the American public this achievement was one that outmatched all the others, and the sting of the Soviet accomplishments were forgotten. Yet sadly, after a few years, the apollo program lost its luster and a democratic society public support is needed to keep programs going, an interest in landing people on the freaking Moon, was apparently falling. And so in a final end to the decades-long competition between the two the Americans and Soviets conducted a joint mission together in orbit: Soyuz and Apollo, officially ending the space race and beginning a new chapter of space cooperation. So what would happen in this alternate timeline if the soviets landed on the Moon first? In this alternate timeline three basic things would need to be changed: 1) there is no unity among the Soviet scientists who in our timeline competed against one another instead of working for a common goal. 2) the Americans would need to have less progress of their own perhaps significant delays after the Apollo 1 disaster. 3) the soviets would need stronger rockets, the Saturn 5 was the only reason the Americans got to the Moon. So great, all these changes occurred with a dollop of pixie dust, because this is pretty unlikely, we have ourselves a functional Soviet Moon Mission. As I mentioned before to get to the moon you need a big rocket. The Americans developed the Saturn 5, which was practically a flying Statue of Liberty right out of Earth’s orbit and successfully carried men out to the Moon. In this alternate timeline the Soviets successfully developed their own rocket, the N1, which in our timeline could never get off the ground, literally and metaphorically. Orbiting the Moon surface would be the Soyuz 7 K-LOK. So, skipping over a bunch of complex science in this alternate timeline, the mission is here! It’s the early 70s, the Americans have been too slow in their own Moon program, and failed to meet Kennedy’s challenge. And this demoralized state, the soviets are now ready to take yet another accomplishment. The N1 rocket takes off carrying two cosmonauts, one of which is Alexei Leonov, the first man ever to conduct a spacewalk. In our timeline Leonov was the most likely candidate to be the first Soviet on the moon. The mission is pretty similar to the Apollo program of our timeline: one man would stay in the mothership while Leonov would descend down to the moon surface in the tiny LK Spacecraft. He would plant the soviet banner, conduct the mission and then shoot back to rendezvous with the mothership! Even if the soviets got to the Moon first this doesn’t mean the mission would be a success. If the mission was a success however, the soviets would immediately boast about the accomplishment. To America the disappointment is far worse than that felt during the Sputnik crisis, the Americans tried and failed against the Soviet Union. The Soviet landing becomes one of the greatest national embarrassments for the United States, tied into just another string of events that happened during the late 60s and early 70s. For the first few years after the soviet achievement, debate reigns over what to do with Nasa. In our timeline once the rush of the space race was over Nasa focuses efforts on space travel that was cheaper and reusable; the space shuttle was created, spacecraft which only ever stayed in low orbit. In this alternate timeline the United States is not content with the situation. The Space Race has been extended to the 1970s, the government and most of the public supports another operation to one-up the soviets. Nasa’s budget is never cut by Nixon and so the space shuttle is never created. I can’t predict what missions would take place, however I can predict that the political atmosphere the Space Race would not disappear until America successfully conducts a larger achievement or simply concedes defeat and deals with larger issues. Education and science are tied into the political ideology of defeating communism, perhaps even eventually mixed into the conservative revolution of Reagan, at least until the USSR collapses in the late 80s. But within this time frame, in the 1970s and 80s the embarrassment of the soviet victory could spur more investment in the sciences in engineering, creating far more benefits even if a manned mars or venus mission never happened. The budget for Nasa would continue to be invested in and seen as a part of the struggle against communism. I’m sure Americans would have visited the Moon at some point in this alternate timeline, but at a slower pace. What do you think would have happened if the Soviets landed on the Moon before the Americans? Say in the comments! We’ll never truly know a hundred percent how things could have gone differently but it’s always fun to theorize! Every billion years that the sun burns hydrogen its luminosity or brightness increases about 10%, so within the next billion years or so, this 10% increase will cause the Earth’s temperatures to rise high enough that the water will begin to evaporate, turning your planet into a dry, barren wasteland… But I should be okay, right? Because I live on the computer, right? Hello!