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Project Apollo started as a program simply to land a man on the moon before the Russians. But, as time went on, the Apollo technology found more and more uses as we learned how to live and work in space. Apollo technology gave us earth orbiting space stations, two bases on the` lunar surface, a lunar orbiting space station, communications satellites a quarter of a million miles from either the earth or the moon, and a crewed mission to flyby the planet Venus.What a legacy.But what’s next? Now that we’ve proven we can live and work in space, what is our next challenge in space?The next challenge is learning how to live in persistently and sustainably in space. How can we have a permanent presence in space?That is the subject of season 2 of Belitopia, and this final episode of season 1 gives you a glimpse into the missions and technology that are next inline after Project Apollo, and the Apollo Applications Program is complete.LinksLink to episode ( Program Information ( support our show ( and rate us on Podchaser ( Informed when season 2 is about to start ( deGrasse Tyson - StarTalk ( Resource quote - StarTalk, Nov 27, 2016IntroductionThis season of Belitopia has been all about project Apollo, and extensions and enhancements to the use of project Apollo technology in order to further human presence in space.Using Apollo technology in Belitopia: We landed on the moon. We lived and worked in earth orbit. We lived and worked in lunar orbit. We lived and worked on the lunar surface. And we visited our nearest neighbor, the planet Venus.All of these missions were possible extensions to the real world Apollo program, if we would have just committed the financial resources to make it happen. And in the world of Belitopia, we did commit those resources and these missions occurred.So, this begs the question. Why didn’t we do these missions in real life? Well, you have to remember what was the primary driver for the Apollo moon mission in the first place. It was politics. We were afraid of the Soviet Union and what they could accomplish in space. Sputnik scared America, and our response was to build a space program to prove we were better at space exploration than the Soviet Union. It took many years...decades...before we caught up with the Soviet Union. They kept beating us to space firsts......first man in space...first man in orbit...first unmanned ship to the moon...and many others.We needed a victory.We eventually found that victory in July of 1969 with the landing of the first man on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin won the space race for us. It wasn’t because we, the United States, were better at space than the Soviet Union...we weren’t. Rather, it was because we finally were able to beat them at something. Beat them at one thing...landing a man on the moon.But once we did that, for all practical purposes, the race was over. The political drive that motivated the need for the space program was gone. We gave up, and we moved on to other more pressing national priorities, such as the war in Vietnam.The only reason there were Apollo missions beyond the Apollo 11 moon landing was because of the momentum involved in stopping it. The political pressure to stop investing came almost immediately, and eventually the program was swallowed up by the pressure and we stopped after Apollo 17. We had plans for more Apollo missions, and started building the space craft necessary for Apollo 18-20, but by the time Apollo 17 happened, there was no stopping the pressure to stop the investment, and the program was scrapped.The Russians had beat us on many accomplishments in space, but we had beat them on one accomplishment, and that was enough for us. And it was all the American public...and the political powers to be in the United States...could stomach. There was no longer enough motivation to continue the space race.But there are other reasons why we ***should*** explore outer space. Natural curiosity was a big driver for the program, and the space program created a host of auxiliary technology that improved our every day lives. These were reasons enough to continue the space program. But we also are just beginning to realize there might be valuable resources in space, resources valuable enough to worth exploring.But in the real world, none of these reasons were enough to justify continuing the space program. In the world of Belitopia, though, these reasons were enough, and the Belitopian world is a better place because of it.There is a great quote that describes for me why space exploration is so important in the world of Belitopia — and why it should be in our “real” world. The quote is by the famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on his show StarTalk in late 2016. The quote is:“There is an outer space treaty for the peaceful use of outer space. So the goal is when we all go into space, we will treat each other kindly. I don’t have the confidence that others have in that. I want to believe it. But, I say to myself, if you can treat each other kindly in space, then why not do that here on earth? Why do you have to be in space to not kill one another? However, my one glimmer of hope, is that so much of human conflict in the history of civilization has been derived from scarcity of resource and access to those resources. And I look at space. Astroids, comets...stars with limitless energy...and I realize…we should all realize…that space is a limit***less*** supply of natural resources. Space may be the only place where peace is guaranteed, because in fact, we would have run out of all reasons for why to kill one another.”If there has ever been a better reason for space exploration than this, I don’t know what it would be. This quote says that space exploration is important because it gives us access to uncountable amounts of natural resources, and that in turn reduces or eliminates our needs to kill our fellow human beings here on earthThis is why, in my mind, the world of Belitopia is so important.The Apollo Applications ProgramAnd the greatly expanded Apollo program was the first step in this. The expanded world of Belitopia began, if you recall back in episode #2, with the formation of the Apollo Applications Program, AAP, as a formalized program with a real budget and real objectives. In the real world, the AAP was a program that never really materialized. But in the world of Belitopia, it was fully realized and it turned into a separate agency, distinct and separate from NASA, that allowed us to create and expand the reach of the Apollo program in Belitopia. It was because of this expanded AAP program......That the Skylab space station became a fully funded, multi-space-station program....That the Lunar Skylab space station existed at all....That we were able to create two long duration lunar bases on the lunar surface....That a sophisticated human transportation network was created between the earth and the moon, as was the case with the LT missions used to send crews to the lunar bases and stations....That a powerful communications network was created covering the entire earth-moon system, allowing us full communications without blackout areas anywhere in the earth-moon system....And that, finally, humans left our earth-moon system on a flyby voyage around the planet Venus.All of this was possible because of the power of Apollo, and the vision of the Apollo Applications Program.Earth Based InfrastructureOne thing we did not talk about much this season, is the impact this expanded Apollo program had on the infrastructure needed on earth to launch all of these missions. In Belitopia, the space infrastructure needs on earth were substantially greater than they were in real life. We went from launching a dozen Apollo spacecraft into space over a 5-6 year period, as what happened in real life, to suddenly in the world of Belitopia, we needed to launch over 90 Apollo spacecraft. At any given point in time, there could be up to a half dozen distinct missions going on simultaneously...each needing a mission control center on earth to operate it. We needed the ability to build, assemble, launch, operate, and land a significant number of Apollo-based, crewed missions.For that, we needed expanded earth-based infrastructure.Let’s focus just on the NASA and AAP infrastructure pieces required. Obviously, the large contractors that provided equipment to NASA, such as Grumman, Boeing, North American, and Douglas needed to have expanded manufacturing infrastructures. But let’s focus just on the visible pieces of infrastructure needed within the NASA and AAP government program spaces themselves.Let’s start with the cape, where the missions all started. It’s where the rockets were assembled, and where they were launched.The various components that made up an Saturn Apollo launch vehicle were assembled in Florida in the Vehicle Assembly Building. At the time, the Vehicle Assembly Building was the largest building ever built. But with the expanded role of Apollo, the single Vehicle Assembly Building would not be sufficient. The existing Vehicle Assembly Buildings could simultaneously assemble three Apollo vehicle stacks. In Belitopia, at the peak of operations, there could be up to 9 vehicles being assembled at once. This required the construction of two additional Vehicle Assembly Buildings, each as massive as the first.Then there are launch pads. There were several launch pads at the cape in Florida that were used for launching Apollo spacecraft. But with the accelerated launch schedule, there would need to be four fully operational launch pads available, each one capable of launching at Saturn V or Saturn IB rocket into space. There were four launch pads in the real world at various stages of construction, but only two were really used. In Belitopia, all four would be required to be fully operational.This also meant that the conveyance network between the vehicle assembly building and the launch pad needed to be expanded. The conveyance network was the massive tank-like machine that was used to transport a fully assembled spacecraft stack from the vehicle assembly building, to the launch pad. The short trip, a mile or two at most depending on the launch pad used, took many days for a space craft to be transported. With three fully active vehicle assembly buildings and four fully active launch pads, this conveyance network also needed to be expanded.With the four launch pads, multiple launch control centers were needed as well, along with expanded training facilities for the additional launch control operations members that were needed.In Houston, mission control needed to be expanded. During the real Apollo days, there was never more than one mission operating at a time, so a single mission control center was all that was needed. At the peak of Belitopia, there could be up to three full Apollo missions operating at the same time. Additionally, at peak, there were also a Skylab space station in earth orbit, the lunar Skylab space station, and two distinct crewed bases on the lunar surface. That meant at peak, there was a need to manage seven fully staffed mission control centers to manage the seven in-operation missions. This also meant a huge increase in the staff to manage those seven mission control centers. And while the multiple missions could share back room staffs to some degree, a significant increase in back room supporting staff for the mission controllers would also be needed. Then there was the training facilities for all of these additional controllers...To say nothing about the large increase in the number of astronauts needed to handle these 90 missions and the training needs for these astronauts.Even at splashdown, more than one recovery zone and recovery ship was needed to support the ability to recover more than one mission returning close enough to the same time that a single recovery ship could not handle the multiple landings.And those recovery ships had staff, that needed to be trained.The needs were great. Not necessarily significantly greater than what was spent in real life at the peak of the Apollo program, but the spending at the peak of Apollo was needed not for a couple years, but more like a dozen or two years.This investment created jobs and spurred economic growth within the United States. So while a significant amount of money was being spent, the long term positive impact was significant.Apollo, a fully utilized program in the world of Belitopia, was a boom for our economy, for the space program, for technological advancement, for our position as a super power in the new world order, and for an expanded American dominance in the world stage in the latter half of the twentieth century.The Aging Apollo TechnologyBut, by the early 1980s, the Apollo technology was getting old and its limitations and warts were showing through. The earliest warts appeared during the Christmas Miracle of The Venus Flyby mission. But other warts started to show as well. The program had accomplished a huge number of goals, but the life of Apollo was nearly over.A bigger...better...larger space exploration program was needed if we wanted to expand our footprint even further and more deeply than we had up until now. Something better than Apollo was needed.So, on June 14, 1982, the Apollo Applications Program was dismantled, and the teams and structures of that program were merged back into NASA. NASA was already starting to explore other technologies, such as a Space Transportation Network — the Space Shuttle — and other technologies. The resources invested in AAP were now going to be put towards these other programs...and an enhanced and expanded NASA was the result.What were some of the programs that were needed beyond Apollo? There were many.First and foremost: there was a desire to replace the temporary Skylab space station program with a permanent manned space station in earth orbit. We needed this not only as a research station, but as a transportation hub for an improved earth-moon transportation system and as a launching point for deeper space missions.We needed a heavy lift rocket program that could bring large quantities of equipment and resources from the earth surface into low earth orbit. This was needed to assemble the space station, but also provide resources for other missions.We needed an easy and convenient method of bringing astronauts back and forth from the earth surface to the low earth orbit space station. This had to allow practical transportation of reasonably large quantities of people back and forth to the permanent space station.We needed an improved earth-orbit to lunar-orbit transportation program. Something that could replace the Apollo spacecraft and allow a regular shuttle program for people and supplies to and from lunar orbit.We were already working on a better lunar lander, as we discussed earlier in this season, and with that lander, we could build larger and more permanent bases on the lunar surface. These permanent bases would allow us to perform lunar geological research and locate valuable resources on and under the lunar surface.And we still wanted to go to Mars...All of these were missions that were coming, were needed, and were going to happen in the world of Belitopia, but we needed improved space technology in order to make all of this happen. Technology beyond Apollo.This is where season 2 will come from. While season 1 of Belitopia was based on the enhanced Apollo program, season 2 will be based on the next generation of space technology beyond Apollo that was to be built. The Apollo technology in season 1 gave us the ability to visit — temporarily but sometimes relatively long term — many different places in our earth-moon system as well as beyond to Venus. The new technology that we will describe in season 2 will focus on building permanent establishments in space.So, while season 1 built the temporary Skylab space station, season 2 will build the permanent Space Station Freedom. In season 1 we built the temporary lunar bases, Tycho Base and BLA Base, in season 2 we will build permanently crewed bases including a permanent Tycho Base...a permanent BLA base...and a brand new permanent Armstrong Base, named after the first man on the moon. We will begin the era of a permanent presence of humans on the lunar surface.We will also begin longer duration crewed deep space missions, including a return to Venus, a flyby mission to Mars, and a landing on the Martian surface.All of this because of the improved space technology we will be constructing in the world of Belitopia in Season 2.I do hope you have enjoyed Season 1. If you enjoyed it, please leave me a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, in Podchaser, or in the Podcasting application of your choice.And please checkout the wealth of information I have available on our website, All of it is available for free. But if you like like the work I do in creating the world of Belitopia, please donate to the cause. You can click on the “buy me a cup of coffee” links anywhere on the website, or go to to donate.If you would like to be informed when season 2 is about to start, please sign up for our email list. You can click the “Keep Informed” link on our website, or go to you for your support and I hope to see you next season, in the world of Belitopia.This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Chartable - -
We landed on the moon. We built a habitat on the moon.We are living in earth orbit, and we are living in lunar orbit.We are living on the far side of the moon, with no visibility to earth...ever.With four space stations, two lunar bases, and over 35 crewed trips between the earth and the moon, how can we possibly communicate with each other over the long term?How can we keep all these missions in communications with earth?The answer, is a communications network that grows and becomes more sophisticated as time goes on. By the end of the Apollo-era, we can communicate over a half million miles without the requirement that we be line of sight with an earth based antenna. This required a sophisticated network of communications satellites and technologies…and a bit of luck.This is the Apollo Lunar Communications Network. In the world of Belitopia.LinksEpisode Details ( Information from this Episode ( Points ( Fronzen Orbits ( ( Wobble - NASA ( Libration - Wikipedia ( Rise - Famous picture from Apollo 8 ( we near the end of season one, we’re going to try a slightly new format for this episode. We aren’t going to use the future documentary format, rather we are going to stay in a current day conversation. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the fledgling communications network being built in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s to support the various Apollo missions we have previously discussed in season 1. We’ve talked about part of this network briefly in episode 7, when we talked about the lunar base on the far side of the moon...the BLA base. But there’s a lot more to that network than you imagine, and a lot more to lunar communications in general than you might think. This network was the first such extra-earthly communications network, and it was developed during the early days of the space race.Global Earth Dish NetworkDuring the early Apollo days, during our first missions to the moon, one of the initial communications problems that had to be solved was how do you keep the moon-bound Apollo space craft in communications with earth, when the earth keeps rotating. That means, mission control, in Houston, Texas, was only in line of site of the Apollo space craft for relatively short periods of time every day — a few hours at most.In order for Houston to maintain a 24 hour a day communications with the moon-bound space craft, a series of satellite communications stations were built around the globe. As the earth rotated, different stations around the globe were in line of sight communications with the Apollo spacecraft at different times during the day. These stations were in direct communications with Houston via landline communications channels...essentially phone calls. Each station, when it was their turn, would relay signals between the Apollo space craft and mission control. The result was a virtual 24 hour a day continuous connection between Houston and the Apollo spacecraft.This was a great start. But as the 1960s moved into the 1970s more and more spacecraft were put into space between the earth and moon. This put a drain on this earth bound satellite network. Plus, the earth bound network required the United States to have facilities at foreign bases around the world, meaning there was a political aspect to maintaining the communications network.Something better was needed.Earth Orbit Communications SatellitesThe decision was made to invest in a satellite based communications network for lunar communications. This started out as a series of low earth orbit satellites that could communicate with spacecraft on the way to the moon. By utilizing several of these satellites, at any given point in time, at least one satellite and/or a ground station was in line of site of the moon at any given point in time. These satellites relieved pressure on the ground base network, but did not eliminate the need for the ground stations to exist.Eventually, as satellite technology improved, larger and more complex geosynchronous orbit satellites were put into space. This required a fewer number of such satellites in order to maintain communications with the moon, and it eliminated the need for the ground based network. At least one geosynchronous orbit satellite was in line of site with the moon at all times. They would communicate between each other, and one of them would send a signal back and forth to Houston. The result was a continuous communications network between earth and any moon bound craft, 24 hours a day, without the need for earth based relay stations around the globe.Near vs Far Side of the MoonBack in episode 7, which was part 2 of the Lunar Base series, we learned that we built a base, named the BLA base, on the far side of the moon...the side of the moon opposite that of earth.As you are most likely aware, the moon rotates at the exact same speed as the rate it revolves around the earth. While this may seem like a big coincidence, it actually is pretty common in our solar system...that is to have a moon rotate around its axis at the same rate as the moon rotates around the planet. It’s a phenomenon called tidal lock.Our moon is in tidal lock with earth. Tidal lock is the reason why we always see the same side of the moon from earth. The same side of the moon is always facing the earth. Therefore, until the space program, no human had ever seen the back side of the moon. While the Russians first took pictures of the back side of the moon from their Luna 3 probe in 1959, the first humans to see it in person were the crew of Apollo 8 as they orbited around the moon in Christmas of 1968. This is the Apollo crew that took the famous picture of the “rising earth” over the lunar horizon. This amazingly popular picture is believed by some to be a major contributor to the start of the global conservation movement.The BLA base, named after these astronauts from Apollo 8, was the first human establishment built on the far side of the moon.But being on the far side of the moon, it meant it was not in line of sight with the earth, ever. Hence radio signals could not get from earth to the base, which made it impossible to communicate with the base directly. This generated a huge problem that would have to be solved.Early Lunar Orbit SatellitesOne possible solution to the problem was to put satellites into lunar orbit, just like we did in earth orbit. Eventually, this would happen, but in the early days of the moon program, it was discovered that it was difficult to maintain an orbit around the moon for any significant period of time. Irregularities in the mass of the moon causes any object in lunar orbit to naturally decay and eventually crash into the lunar surface. This was a huge problem. While a solution was found to this problem in time for the Lunar Skylab program to take advantage of a stable lunar orbit, it took awhile for this capability to be discovered, and it was of limited usefulness during the planning and creation of the BLA base.Another solution was needed.L4 and L5 Lagrangian PointsThat solution involved satellites placed at the Earth-Moon L4 & L5 Lagrangian points.What are the Lagrangian points? The Lagrangian points are positions relative to the Earth and Moon that provide stable orbits ... stable positions ... where satellites and other objects can exist without having their position degrade and fall into either the earth or the moon. Links to more information about the Lagrangian points and where they are located are in the shownotes.There are five such points in the earth-moon system. However, two of them are quite useful for our communications purposes...they are the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points.These points are in an orbit around the earth at the same distance from the earth as the moon is from the earth. They also are the same distance away from the moon as they are from the earth. The earth, moon, and Lagrangian point form an equilateral triangle...that is a triangle with each of the three sides the exact same length. There are two such points, one that is in orbit ahead of the moon, orbiting the earth in front of the moon. The other is in orbit behind the moon...that is orbiting the earth behind the moon.Satellites could be placed at either of these two locations, and they would remain in that stationary position relative to the earth and the moon. They would be stationary relative to the moon, and would rotate around the earth at a rate equivalent to the rate the moon rotates around the earth, namely once every 27 days.How would satellites in these orbits appear from either the earth or the moon? From the earth, the satellites in either L4 or L5 would appear to move across the ecliptic at the same speed as the other words, they would rotate through the zodiac once every 27 days. From the perspective of the moon, they would appear to be stationary in the sky, just like the earth appeared to be stationary in the sky.Where in the lunar sky they would appear would depend on where you were on the lunar surface. But the key was that one of the two satellites, either L4 or L5, or the earth itself would always be visible from any point on the lunar surface. This made communications satellites at these two positions valuable in communicating with astronauts on the lunar surface.In the specific case of the BLA base, the base is nearly directly on the opposite side of the moon from the earth. This position meant the satellites would appear very low in the east or western sky...L4 in the eastern sky, L5 in the western sky. These two satellites would be used to communicate between the BLA lunar base and the earth.If L4 was visible in the eastern sky, and L5 was visible in the western sky, why were both satellites needed? Why couldn’t they have just one satellite at either L4 or L5? Why did they have to have both?Well, for one thing, as astronauts roamed the surface of the moon, it would be nice to have a satellite at both locations, which would allow more coverage of a greater portion of the lunar surface. This wasn’t a big reason, though, because there was no plans on roaming far enough from the base to make that much difference in the position of the satellites in the sky.But there was a bigger reason...and that was because of lunar wobble.You see, when I said that the earth and L4/L5 points were stationary in the sky, I wasn’t quite being accurate. The moon, like most other heavenly bodies, including the earth, have a wobble to them. While they rotate around their North-South axis, their North-South axis also rotates a few degrees. Think of a spinning top. The axis of the top doesn’t stay fixed, it rotates at a slower rate than the rate the top spins, but it does move. The same thing happens with planets and moons. Their north-south axis moves over time.Earth and Moon PrecessionIn the case of the earth, this wobble is very very slow. In fact, one rotation of the axis takes around 26,000 years. A very slow rotation. This is called the earth precession, and it results in the North Star...the star the North Pole points towards...changing over the course of thousands of years.The moon also has a also wobbles. In the moon case, the wobble is caused by a complex series of gravitation pull changes caused by how the moon rotates around the earth. The earth gravitation pull varies as the moon rotates around the earth, and the moon orbit is not perfectly round. The net result is the moon wobbles rather rapidly and rather significantly.Because of this wobble, the earth appears to move in the lunar sky in the shape of a series of ellipsis. These ellipsis’ are around 10 degrees to 15 degrees of arc across the sky (that’s about 5%-8% of the total sky from horizon to horizon). The earth would move in this ellipsis over the course of a lunar month...27 days. This is enough wobble that it can be noticed. The earth would appear in different spots relative to the background stars day after day. The wobble is significant.Links to more information about the lunar wobble and precession in general is contained in the shownotes.The same thing occurs with the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points. They also move in 10-15 degree arcs over the course of a lunar month. From the BLA lunar base, however, these Lagrangian points are near the horizon. As a result of this wobble, over the course of a month, the Lagrangian points will dip below the horizon, then go above the horizon, in the shape of an ellipse. When L4 is below the horizon, L5 is above the horizon. When L4 is above the horizon, L5 is below the horizon.This is the main reason why a satellite was needed at both Lagrangian points. Because over the course of a month, at some points one satellite was above the horizon and at other times the other satellite was above the horizon. Only the satellite that was above the horizon could be used to communicate with BLA Base. Hence, a satellite was needed at both locations for continuous communications.Communications LagThe moon is approximately 239,000 miles away from the earth. Even at the speed of light, communications messages sent from the earth to the moon would take 1.3 seconds to arrive at their destination. A round trip message from the earth to the moon and back again would take 2.6 seconds. If you were on earth talking to an astronaut on the lunar surface, and the astronaut immediately sent what you said back to you on earth again, you would hear an’d hear your voice repeat back to you 2.6 seconds after you spoke. This delay made real time communications a bit of a challenge, but it didn’t prevent it from occurring. You just had to realize you had the delay when you were talking to astronauts on the moon, and wait a longer period of time for them to reply to your query.However, when the signals had to be relayed through the L4 or L5 satellites, there was a greater delay. The distance from the earth to L4 or L5 was 239,000 miles, but then the distance from L4 or L5 to the moon was another 239,000 miles. This meant that the one way communications path from earth to moon via one of the Lagrangian satellites would take 2.6 seconds. A round trip message from earth to the moon and back again, via L4 or L5, would take 5.2 seconds. This was a significant delay and would make real time communications much more difficult. It was a fact of life, however, and this lag would have to be always considered.It’s the reason why, eventually, a better and more stable set of communications satellites in lunar orbit was preferred. It would remove the long transmission time to and from L4 and L5, which would bring the round trip delay back to 2.6 seconds...much better than the 5.2 seconds caused by the L4/L5 network. But, during the life of the BLA base, this was not to be available.Lunar Transit CommunicationsWhat about communications *during* the trip from the earth to the moon and back again? There were a number of Command-Service modules...CSMs...that were sent back and forth between the earth and the moon, bringing crews back and forth to the lunar surface to the various bases and also to the Lunar Skylab. These LT lunar transportation missions also needed to communicate to both the earth and the moon.Communications to earth was relatively easy. A high gain antenna was attached to the CSM that was used to send messages to earth. The messages at earth were picked up either by an earth based relay station, or one of the low earth orbit or geosynchronous orbit satellites orbiting around the earth. Replies were sent back to the in-transit CSM the same way.When the CSM reached lunar orbit, when the CSM was in line of site of earth, it could communicate with the earth. Before the L4-L5 satellites were in place, when the CSM was on the back side of the moon, they were in a blackout and could not communicate with the earth. This was the case during the early Apollo missions. This was important, because the lunar insertion burns and the trans-earth injection burns...these were the burns that put the CSM into lunar orbit and took the CSM out of lunar orbit for the return trip home...both had to occur on the back side of the moon, out of radio contact with earth. This was unfortunate, but a fact of life in the early Apollo days. Creation of the L4-L5 satellite network meant that the CSM could use the L4-L5 network when on the back side of the moon and remain in communications with earth all the time, even during the back side of the moon burns.This entire process meant that the delay in communications between earth and moon varied. On the way to the moon, the delay was based on how far the CSM was from earth... Once the CSM was in lunar orbit, the delay went back and forth from 2.6 seconds, to 5.2 seconds, depending on whether the CSM was on the front or the back side of the moon.The same was true for the Lunar Skylab. As it orbited the moon, when it was on the front side of the moon, it’s communications lag with earth was 2.6 seconds. When the Lunar Skylab was on the back side of the moon, the delay was 5.2 seconds as messages were relayed via the L4 or L5 satellites.All of this certainly complicated communications, but it was still highly valuable to be able to remain in constant communications with earth, even in lunar orbit.Because of this network, all astronauts anywhere in the earth-moon system...whether they were in transit to/from the moon, in lunar orbit, or literally anywhere on the lunar surface...were always in constant communications with earth.Venus Flyby CommunicationsAll of this network communications was designed for communicating between earth and various missions, spaceships, and bases at the moon or on the way to the moon.But what about the Venus Flyby mission? This was the only crewed Apollo mission that went beyond the orbit of the moon. This wasn’t a half a million mile trip, like a round trip mission to the moon involved. This was a 60 million mile round trip mission to and around the planet Venus.At 20-30 million miles away, communications was a bit harder. Communications lag was not measured in seconds, but in minutes. When the mission was near Venus, the round trip delay was around 200 seconds, nearly 3 and 1/2 minutes. This meant that realtime interactive communications was not possible at all. Communications was more like exchanging emails, rather then using a telephone.Additionally, signal strength was an issue. The Venus Flyby vehicle had a large and powerful antenna for communicating with earth. But still the...
The United States was forming quite a bit of a space complex.They had space stations in low earth orbit, learning how to live and work in space, eventually to establish a permanent presence in low earth orbit.They had bases on the surface of the moon. Learning how to live and work on the lunar surface, 239,000 miles from earth, and in the case of the BLA base, not even visible from the surface of the earth.They even had satellites far from earth at the earth-moon Lagrangian points.All of this has been discussed in past episodes of Belitopia.But what was left was an orbital presence above the surface of the moon. We’ve had many ships that have orbited the moon. Every Apollo mission that went to the moon, orbited the moon for some period of time. Yet, given the constraints of the Apollo command module, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for long term study of the lunar surface from lunar orbit.This was the purpose of the Lunar Skylab program. Provide an environment for the long term study of the lunar surface from low lunar orbit.This is…Lunar Skylab. Welcome to Belitopia.LinksEpisode Details ( Information from this Episode ( + Episode ( Lunar Bases p1 Episode ( Lunar Bases p2 Episode ( Frozen Orbits ( IntroductionThe goal of the Lunar Skylab program was to send a Skylab-like space station into *lunar* orbit — 60 miles above the surface of the moon — then occupy the station with long duration crews that could study the lunar surface in greater detail, along with learn how to live in zero G far from the surface of the earth.In real life, this program never took place. There was never a space station built beyond low earth orbit. But in Belitopia, we deployed a Skylab-like space station into Lunar orbit in order to facilitate the study of the lunar surface, to facilitate telescopic study of the space without the worry of earth’s atmosphere, and explore alternative transportation mechanisms between lunar orbit and the lunar surface.What follows is a fictional documentary about the Lunar Skylab space station. The documentary is presented as if it takes place in the year 2040, some 70 years after these events took place. The documentary, titled “Our World in Space”, describes the construction and occupation of this lunar space station. The documentary describes these events as a future historical record of past events.While fiction, it’s based on research into how such a station may have been constructed, what it would have been used for, and how it would have benefited humankind. Theis documentary is about the Lunar Skylab program and its impact on our long term presence in space. The Lunar Skylab program, in the world of Belitopia.DocumentaryHello, and welcome to “Our World in Space — The Lunar Skylab Program”.The Lunar Skylab. A space station 60 miles above the lunar surface. The first long duration human habitat to be built in space that was not in low earth orbit.The technology wasn’t hard for the station itself. The space station was essentially identical to the Skylab I space station, except it utilized many technology improvements that were built into Skylab III.The hard part was, how do we put it into lunar orbit? After all, the original skylab was launched into low earth orbit using a Saturn V rocket, at least the first two stages of it. That was easy. But now, the goal was to send the same station not 100 miles above the surface of the earth, but they needed to send it 239,000 miles away to a lunar orbit.They did this by making use of a third stage to the Saturn V, and putting the skylab station above that third stage. The additional third stage was actually an S-IVC third stage — the same third stage that was used for the Venus Flyby mission. An extended and more powerful third stage than the standard S-IVB that was used to send the Apollo spacecraft to lunar orbit.The Lunar Skylab was launched from earth on October 10, 1977. The single Skylab module was put into low earth orbit by the first and second stage of the Saturn V rocket. There it remained for a short stay while it was checked out and verified that it was undamaged during the launch. Then, the third stage S-IVC engine fired and sent the Lunar Skylab module on its 239,000 mile trip to the moon. The stations arrived in lunar orbit on October 13, 1977. The solar panels were deployed automatically, and the station was ready for occupation. The station was put into an orbit roughly 60 miles above the surface of the moon.A Stable Lunar OrbitRemaining in lunar orbit was a challenge. Due to variation in the composition of the moon, and changing densities, objects in lunar orbit tended to fall out of orbit. This was an ongoing problem with many previous unmanned satellites sent to the moon, along with all the Apollo manned voyages to the lunar surface. Maintaining a stable orbit was nearly impossible.However, during the many missions that came before the lunar skylab was ready for launch, it was determined that there were four stable orbits…called frozen orbits…where a satellite such as the Lunar Skylab station could exist and remain in orbit for the long term. The easiest orbit was at an 86 degree angle, which was a nearly polar orbit. This was possible, but it would mean it would be difficult for ships arriving from earth to dock with the space station, if they were also destined to land on the lunar surface. Given this, a much more equatorial orbit was desired. A second frozen orbit was found to exist at a 27 degree angle above equatorial, and this was considered to be close enough to be reasonable for docking with lunar surface bound space ships, such as the LT missions that transported crews to the lunar surface.Once the Lunar Skylab was in a safe and stable orbit above the lunar surface, the first crew for the station left earth. This was on October 13, 1977. The crew of Lunar Skylab M1 departed earth and arrived in lunar orbit on October 16, 1977, when they docked with the orbiting space station. They remained at the station for some 40 days before returning to earth on November 28, 1977. Their primary purpose was to setup and test the various components that made up the space station, and make sure it was ready for long term occupancy.In all, seven crews visited the lunar skylab over a period of roughly three years. The longest duration stay was Lunar Skylab M4, which stayed for 386 days.The Lunar Skylab included a telescope mount, just like the original Skylab I and the currently active Skylab III had. The telescope was used to take deep space pictures from lunar orbit. This was especially useful when the ship was in the point of its orbit where it was in the shadow of the sun, and away from the glow of the earth. The darkness at this point gave unprecedented access to the night sky that was great for deep space exploration, much better photographs than was possible from using standard 1980s technology telescopes. This created tremendous opportunities for deep space discovery.Lunar Geological PhotographyIn addition to taking pictures out towards outer space, the various crews of the Lunar Skylab took significant pictures of the lunar surface. One of the crews of Lunar Skylab, the M4 crew, which stayed the longest at the station, had among its crew a astro-geologist who could study the pictures real time and decide what additional pictures should be taken of what parts of the lunar surface. This meant the pictures that were taken weren’t just random pictures of the surface, but were strategically placed photographs of important characteristics of the lunar surface. This sort of intelligent target determination was only possible because a live, human astronaut was onboard the station. This could not be accomplished with 1980s technology using an unmanned satellite. It must be done using a crewed space station. This research was invaluable to the study of the composition of the lunar surface. Among other things, these photographs helped determine where there was likely to be deposits of water under the lunar surface, and where particularly valuable and/or interesting minerals were located. The value of this research was incredible, and that value alone justified the cost of the mission.The New Lunar LanderThe Lunar Skylab was also used for one other important project, that of testing out a new prototype lunar lander that was being developed in the late 1970s. This land, which was designed as a long term replacement for the old disposable Apollo LMs, was a reusable lander that could land and take off over and over again. It did not leave behind it’s descent stage, as did the old LM, so it did not create a lunar graveyard. It could be reused over and over again. As long as it had a sufficient supply of fuel, it could land and take off multiple times during a single mission. It also had the capacity to carry up to six astronauts, or fewer astronauts and an increased payload or fuel load. This lunar lander was designed to be the future transportation system for our planned permanent presence on the lunar surface.And in 1979, it was ready to be tested…Testing it was a function of the M7 crew, which was the last crew to visit the Lunar Skylab. This crew was in space from February 1, 1980, until October 25, 1980, which was 267 days — almost 9 months. One of the major tasks for this crew was to work out the kinks in this new lander.The lunar lander went on test cycles between the Lunar Skylab and Tycho base, and eventually between the Lunar Skylab and the BLA base. The M7 crew of the Lunar Skylab made many trips to the lunar surface testing this vehicle. Using the Lunar Skylab created a perfect testing arrangement. It was a great home base for the lunar lander to use for its testing.This new lunar lander would become a durable lunar surface-to-orbit transport as part of the permanent transportation network in place today. And the field testing of this lander was all based from the Lunar Skylab station.The Lander MissionOn February 1, 1980, the crew of Lunar Skylab M7 launched from earth, carrying a prototype of the new lander. The lander was stored beneath the CSM where the old LM was stored during normal Apollo missions. On February 4th, 1980, they arrived in lunar orbit. Once they arrived in the vicinity of the Lunar Skylab, one member of the Lunar Skylab M7 crew entered the new lander, undocked, and flew to the Lunar Skylab. Both the M7 CSM and the prototype lander docked to the Lunar Skylab.The lander was put through a series of tests in lunar orbit. Undocking, redocking, maneuvering around in various lunar orbits…approaching the lunar surface at a distance of only 5 miles, then going up to high lunar orbit at 300 miles, then back to the station. Multiple sets of tests to verify it’s space worthiness and orbital maneuverability were performed.Then, on March 4, 1980, the M7 crew entered the lander, undocked from the Lunar Skylab, and proceeded to land on the lunar surface. The first landing was at a distance of 743 miles from Tycho Base…the goal was to just prove it could land, they did not worry about pinpoint landings…yet.The lunar lander then took off, entered lunar orbit, and went back to land on the lunar surface again. It repeated this test three times before returning to the Lunar Skylab.Pinpoint LandingUp until this point, the lander was running on its fuel reserves that it originally launched from earth with. It had enough fuel for one additional test.In this test, the lunar lander went down to the lunar surface and hovered along the surface of the moon until it settled a mere 15 feet from the entrance to Tycho Base. This proved the ability of the vessel to land with pinpoint accurately. In this test, the lander remained on the lunar surface for three days. During this time, the Lunar Skylab M7 crew, along with the crew of Tycho 11, who were currently stationed at Tycho Base, built a pressurized tunnel that could be connected between the primary airlock and the hatch on the lunar lander. They pressurized the tunnel and tested that a crew member could, in a shirt sleeve environment, move between Tycho Base and the lander successfully. After this testing was complete, the tunnel was removed and the M7 crew launched the lander off the lunar surface and rendezvoused again with the Lunar Skylab, completing the final primary testing of the lander. The lander had performed all of the designed testing, and it performed it flawlessly.Shirt Sleeve EnvironmentsThe capability of the pressurized tunnel at Tycho Base was critical. This now meant it was possible for an astronaut to go all the way from the Lunar Skylab in lunar orbit, to Tycho Base on the lunar surface, while remaining completely in a shirt sleeve environment…they could do the entire trip without the need of a space suit.Emergency suits would always available in the lunar lander, but the ability to make the trip in a shirt sleeve environment would be critical for making the lunar lander a key component in the long term transportation from lunar orbit to the lunar surface. The easier it was to get from orbit to the surface and back again, the more the capability could be built into future missions and the more viable it would be to provide a permanent presence on both the lunar surface and in lunar orbit.A single test of this shirt sleeve capability was performed. The single test involved an astronaut from the Lunar Skylab to enter the lander without wearing a space suit. They then landed at Tycho Base. The tunnel was connected, and the shirt sleeve astronaut entered the Tycho Base environment without a space suit. They stayed for a day, performed some ceremonial duties with earth, then entered the lander in a shirt sleeve environment again and relaunched to the Lunar Skylab, where they entered the space station also in a shirt sleeve environment. The entire trip did not involve a space suit at all. This was the first time such a trip was made anywhere…earth, moon, anywhere…without the aid of a space suit.Earth to Moon Shirt Sleeve EnvironmentIt was also possible to go one step further. While it was never tested, it was possible to launch from earth without wearing a space suit. This wasn’t done primarily in case of an emergency. But it was possible.During the trip from earth orbit to lunar orbit, the crews of the Apollo missions were almost always in a shirt sleeve environment…and entering the Lunar Skylab from an Apollo command module was done in a shirt sleeve environment.This meant it was possible…not necessarily advisable…but possible to go from the earth surface all the way to the Lunar Skylab without using a space suit. It was previously proven that you could go from the Lunar Skylab to Tycho Base on the lunar surface without a space suit. That meant it was now possible for a human to go all the way from the earth surface, to the lunar surface, and back again…without ever putting on a space suit.This would be a major, and highly significant, first of its kind action. And while it was not advisable to take off in an Apollo era spacecraft from the earth surface without wearing a space suit for safety reasons, it was possible.This had to be tested…So, on June 29th, 1980, the crew of Lunar Transport 20 would test this capability. The LT 20 mission was scheduled to bring the crew of Tycho 12 to Tycho Base, and pick up the crew of Tycho 11 from Tycho Base and return them to earth. It was a simple, routine, and oft-repeated mission. But this time around, there would be a difference.The crew of Tycho 12, being transported by the LT 20 transport mission, would launch from the earth surface without wearing space suits. Space suits would always be available to them, in case of an emergency, but they would never be worn.The LT missions when they launched from earth typically contained an Apollo-era LM for bringing the Tycho crew to the lunar surface. In the case off LT 20, however, the LM was not included. Rather, the space and weight were used to store additional fuel needed for the prototype lunar lander.Once LT 20 arrived in lunar orbit, it maneuvered to dock with the Lunar Skylab station. This was the first LT mission that would dock with the station, all previous LT missions simply delivered their human cargo crews to either Tycho Base or BLA Base.After LT 20 docked with the Lunar Skylab Station, the crew of Tycho 12 entered the Lunar Skylab. The fuel stored in LT 20 was transferred to the lunar lander. This orbital refueling was also a first…it was the first time fuel was transferred from one vehicle to another while in space.Once the refueling was complete, the crew of Tycho 12, still in shirt sleeve environment, entered the lunar lander and proceeded to land at Tycho Base. The existing Tycho 11 crew, still at Tycho base, connected the tunnel between Tycho Base and the Lunar Lander. The crew of Tycho 12 entered Tycho Base without space suits.At this point, the crew of Tycho 11 was relieved, and they made their way to their existing Apollo-era LM lander over in the Lunar Graveyard, and launched for their rendezvous with the waiting LT 20 CSM, which would return them to earth in the normal manner.Tycho 12 was now on the lunar surface, with the new lunar lander. They made it all the way from earth to the lunar surface without the aid of a space suit, except for backups available in case of an emergency. They never wore the suits.During the mission of Tycho 12, the crew used the lunar lander to move larger distances across the lunar surface than had ever happened before. They were able to explore the entire area surrounding Tycho Crater, covering nearly 200 miles, a distance that had never been explored before. This was all possible because the lunar lander could cover great distances and yet perform multiple pinpoint landings.At the end of their mission, the Tycho 12 crew…the last crew to occupy Tycho base, boarded the lunar lander for the last time and launched to dock with the Lunar Skylab. There, they met up with the commander of the LT 21 transport mission, which was also docked at the Lunar Skylab. The LT 21 mission brought the crew of BLA 9 to the BLA Base, then waited at the Lunar Skylab for the crew of Tycho 12. Tycho 12 arrived at the station, went into the LT 21 command module, and LT 21 brought them back to earth.This was an extensive and elaborate set of maneuvers that was used to test multiple concepts. It tested the concept that shirt sleeve transportation within the earth-moon system was possible. It proved the valuableness of a lunar space station as a transportation hub useful for transferring crews from an earth-moon transport space craft to a lunar orbit to lunar surface transport ship. It could also be used as a crew transition center and as an emergency...
Not long after the end of the Apollo lunar landings, it was time for the next step in lunar exploration. There was belief, and some evidence from the experiments that were performed on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions, that there were minerals...water...and other scientifically useful resources on the lunar surface.There was also a concern that the Soviet Union would eventually land on the lunar surface, and attempt to claim all or part of it as their territory.So, the space race continued. On this front, the race was to the first long duration habitation of the lunar surface, and eventual lunar colonization. The United States created a habitat, a base, designed for the long term exploration and habitation of the lunar surface. In fact, they created two such bases. This allowed the Americans to explore the scientific wealth that awaited them on the lunar surface, as well as make a long term claim of the lunar surface before the Russians. While this is not what happened in real life, it is what happened in the fictional world we have created.This is…the Apollo Moon Bases — part 2. Welcome to Belitopia.Links and More InformationBelitopia WebsiteApollo Lunar Base - BelitopiaApollo Moon Bases p2 EpisodeApollo Moon Bases p1 EpisodeTycho Crater - Wikipedia)Tsiolkovskiy Crater - WikipediaLagrangian PointPlease support our showIntroductionNot long after the end of the Apollo lunar landings, it was time for the next step in lunar exploration. There was belief, and some evidence from the experiments that were performed on the lunar surface, that there were minerals, water, and other scientifically useful resources on the lunar surface. There was also a concern that the Soviet Union would eventually land on the lunar surface. As it turns out, the Soviet Union had given up on the quest for the lunar surface, and instead had focused on exploring and conquering near earth orbit. This was something we talked about in a previous episode, episode number 5, on Skylab. However, the United States was not aware of this fact, and they continued to work under the assumption that the Soviet Union was still trying to land on the moon, so they could claim as much of the lunar surface as possible.So, given this information, the United States turned away from spot landings of single Apollo LMs for relatively short stays on the lunar surface, towards developing and building their first long duration base on the lunar surface. The purpose of the base was to provide a long term habitation of the lunar surface by Americans. In fact, two bases were built.This is the story of those bases. In part 1, we discussed the design and layout of the Tycho base, which was located near Tycho crater, the same location of the famous monolith found on the Lunar surface in the Stanley Kubrick movie 2001 A Space Odyssey and Arthur C Clark’s book of the same name.We discussed how the base was delivered to the lunar surface in four separate pods, and how those pods were assembled on the lunar surface.In Part 2 we will continue our documentary “Our World In Space”, which takes place in the world of Belitopia in the year 2040, 65 years after the bases were created.We will continue this documentary to discuss the complex lunar transport system put in place to shuttle crews back and forth not only to the Tycho base, but the second base that was also created. We’ll discuss one of the side effects of this transportation system was the formation of an LM graveyard.We’ll also talk about the emergency procedures in place to save the base occupants in case of a problem, and how those procedures were put to test during a real base emergency. Finally, we’ll talk about the creation of the second base, BLA Base, and it’s unique position and unique communications requirements that this base required.This documentary is about the creation of the Tycho and BLA lunar bases, in the world of Belitopia.Documentary — Out World in Space, 2040ADHello, and welcome to “Our World in Space — The Apollo Moon Bases”.Part 2.Once Tycho Base was properly setup by the two assembly missions, it was ready for occupancy by the research missions. The first research mission, Tycho 3, arrived on December 1st, 1975, and stayed for nearly seven weeks.In total, nine research missions were sent to Tycho Base. These missions were named Tycho 3 through Tycho 12.Each research mission consisted of a two person crew. The crew was delivered to lunar orbit via an Apollo-era Command and Service Module, or CSM for short. The crew then entered an attached Apollo-era Lunar Lander, or LM for short. The LM descended to the lunar surface and landed near the base. The crew then performed an EVA, or extra vehicular activity — in other words, a moon walk — to arrive at and enter the base, where they lived for the duration of their mission. When their mission was complete and they were ready to depart the lunar surface, they performed an EVA back to their waiting LM, and launched from the same LM that delivered them. They rendezvoused in lunar orbit with another waiting CSM that returned them to earth.Each of the nine research missions stayed for longer durations and lived completely within the base. The shortest duration stay was Tycho 3, which stayed a mere 48 days. The longest duration mission was Tycho 10, which stayed on the lunar surface for 242 days, around 8 months.The research missions occurred from December, 1975, until October of 1980. The base was occupied almost continuously by one of the research crews for that entire nearly five years period. The final mission to Tycho Base, Tycho 12, left the base for the last time on Oct 5, 1980, after spending three months on the lunar surface.Crew DeliveryThe two assembly crews were each standalone missions. Three astronauts went to the moon abort a Saturn V rocket, which delivered them to lunar orbit in their CSM — command and service module. Then, two of the three astronauts entered their Apollo-era LM lunar lander, which took them to the lunar surface. After their shift in assembling the base was complete, they launched in the LM to the waiting CSM — and their waiting partner astronaut, and the three astronauts returned to earth in the same CSM that brought them to the moon.This model worked great for the assembly crew, but what about the long duration research crews? How were these crews delivered to the lunar base? The traditional model used to delivery crews to the lunar surface used during Apollo 11-20 wasn’t going to work. That model required an astronaut to remain in the CSM in lunar orbit for the duration of the landing crews mission on the surface. For a few days, or a couple weeks, this was acceptable. For an eight month mission? That was no longer possible.Instead, a series of delivery missions were used. The delivery missions, named Lunar Transport missions, or LT missions for short, were used to transport crews to and from the lunar station.Each LT mission launched with a three person crew, a CSM pilot and the two astronauts that were going to the lunar surface. The mission included a lunar lander, LM. Once the lunar transport mission arrived in lunar orbit, the two crew that were to occupy the Tycho Base went down to the lunar surface in the Apollo-era LM. The LM remained on the lunar surface until they used it to leave the lunar surface at the end of their mission.Meanwhile the CSM pilot orbiting the moon in the lunar transport vehicle waited for the departing Tycho Base crew to go to their waiting LM, take off, and dock with the lunar transport mission command-service module. The lunar transport CSM then took that departing crew, along with the CSM pilot, home to earth. So, the lunar transport mission, with the CSM pilot, brought one crew to the base, but returned home immediately with the previous departing crew.These lunar transport missions, named “LT” missions for short, occurred whenever there needed to be a crew rotation on the Tycho base. So, for example, LT 5, the fifth LT mission, brought the crew that would inhabit the station as the Tycho 5 crew, and it picked up the end-of-mission Tycho 4 crew and brought them home. The next LT mission, LT 6, brought the new Tycho 6 crew to the base and picked up the departing Tycho 5 crew. Each Tycho crew had their own LM on the lunar surface that was used to bring them from lunar orbit to the lunar surface, and would be used to return them from the lunar surface to lunar orbit when they departed. But each Tycho crew arrived in one CSM as part of one LT mission, and departed in a different CSM as part of a different LT mission. This ship-hopping approach continued for the entire five years of the Apollo Lunar Base program.The LM GraveyardStandard Apollo LMs were used to bring crews to the surface and return them back to lunar orbit after their mission was complete. These are the same LM designs that were used in the Apollo 11 to Apollo 20 lunar landing missions. The LMs were designed to contain two stages, a descent stage used during landing, and an ascent stage used during takeoff. During takeoff, the descent stage remained on the lunar surface and acted as a launch pad for the ascent stage.Given that each of the Tycho crews had a LM that was used to bring them to the surface and return them to orbit, and each LM left behind their descent stage after it left for again for lunar orbit. That meant near the Tycho Base there was a build up of abandoned descent stages. Twelve in all, for each of the twelve Tycho missions. These twelve lunar descent stages were all in a relatively small area — less than a quarter mile from each other — and all within a short lunar hike of the Tycho Base. This formed what was called the “LM Graveyard” unfortunate side effect of the landing approach used. This lunar graveyard become a lasting legacy for humankind’s first long duration stay on the lunar surface.The long term solution to this problem is LMs that can be relaunched and reused, which also means they stay in one piece. But the LMs capable of this were not available during the Apollo Lunar Base missions. These would come in later years.Emergency ProcedureGiven the long duration stays involved on the lunar surface, there was always an ongoing concern about what to do in case of an emergency. If part of the habitation system failed, or if there was a loss of pressure due to a micro meteor strike or other failure, there was always an ongoing concern for what to do.The problem was compounded because, for a significant portion of the stay on the lunar surface, there was no command-service module in lunar orbit that could be used to return the crew to earth. They were, quite completely, stuck on the moon.To that end, there were two major parts to the primary evacuation emergency procedure. The first was on earth. Due to the number of LT missions to lunar orbit, there was a continuous assembly line production of Saturn V rockets. At any given point in time, there was always at least one Saturn V rocket on one of the many launch pads at the cape. There was also a standby crew always trained and available for use in an emergency. If an evacuation was necessary, the Saturn V rocket could be launched within 48 hours, with a rescue craft and crew, destined to arrive in lunar orbit to take the Tycho crew home. Given the approximately 50-75 hour trip to the lunar surface, a rescue ship could be available in lunar orbit in approximately five days time from when the emergency first occurred.This was the first part of the evacuation procedure. However, a five day wait for a rescue ship was not a practical solution if there was a sudden and significant emergency on the lunar surface that required the crew to abandon the base. So, if an emergency did occur that required an immediate evacuation, the procedure on the lunar surface was for the crew to don space suits, exit the habitat, and make their way to their waiting LM, which was within a short walking EVA from the base. The LM had enough consumable resources to maintain the crew for up to fifteen days. The crew would remain locked in the LM, on the lunar surface, until the rescue ship arrived in lunar orbit. Once the rescue ship was available, the LM would take off from the lunar surface, dock with the rescue CSM, and the CSM would take the crew home. The station would be abandoned, but the crew would be saved.It was a simple and effective procedure to use in case of an emergency. But it did have the unique characteristic of making the Tycho missions the first long duration space missions that had an emergency evacuation procedure that required the launch of a rescue ship from earth, rather than having a ship available for immediate evacuation. Skylab always had a CSM docked to it when there was a crew on board, so the crew could leave and return to earth in a moment’s notice. The Venus Flyby mission always had their attached CSM available for returning home, similar to how the Apollo 11 through Apollo 20 missions worked. But the Tycho Base crews were on the lunar surface without a method to return home, unless and until a rescue mission launched from earth. They had the LM to use for an emergency if the station became compromised, but they could not actually leave the lunar surface until after the rescue ship arrived in orbit.There was one emergency that tested at least part of these procedures. On August 14th, 1977, during the stay of the Tycho 7 crew, there was an emergency decompression of the base due to an unknown reason. The crew was in a sleep cycle, so they were in Pod #4, the living quarters. Since the crew was in a normal sleep period, the hatch connecting Pod #4 to the rest of the base was closed. The decompression occurred in Pod #2 and in a matter of a few minutes, depressurized all of Pod #1, #2, and #3. The crew was ok in Pod #4, but, following standard emergency procedures, they put on the emergency space suits stored in Pod #4, and left the station through the emergency escape hatch in that Pod. They made their way to the waiting LM for further instructions.On earth, a rescue mission was formed and they were going through the procedures necessary to get ready for an emergency launch. While all this was going on, an evaluation of what happened to the space station was undertaken. It was determined that the loss of air pressure was due to a failure of a simple mechanical part that could be easily repaired by the Tycho 7 crew. As such, the decision was made to hold off on the rescue mission, and give the Tycho 7 crew 48 hours in order to fix the problem. If the problem could be satisfactorily fixed during those 48 hours, the rescue mission would not depart and the Tycho 7 crew could return to the base. If the crew was unsuccessful in fixing the problem after 48 hours, the rescue mission would launch and the Tycho 7 crew would remain in the LM until their rescue occurred.The Tycho crew put their suits back on inside the LM to get ready for an EVA back to the base to fix the problem. During the EVA, they were able to identify the broken mechanical system and repair it. The problem was solved. However, they did not have sufficient time during the EVA in order to turn on the base’s environmental systems and re-pressurize the habitat. As such, the Tycho 7 crew returned to the LM for the evening. The next day, they began another EVA to the base in order to restore the environmental systems. During this eight hour EVA, they were able to start the environmental systems, re-pressurize the habitat, and run the necessary self tests to ensure all systems were operating normally. Before the 48 hour window was complete, the Tycho 7 crew was able to get the base up and operating again, and were able to move back into the habitat. The rescue mission was cancelled, and the Tycho 7 crew resumed their mission. The crisis was averted.Other than this one emergency, the Tycho Base functioned nearly flawlessly during its five year life.The BLA BaseWhile Tycho Base was being built, a second lunar base was being planned. The purpose of this second base was to study the side of the moon never seen by man, short of those few astronauts to orbit the moon. That is, the far side of the moon.This second base was to be built near Tsiolkovskiy Crator, on the far side of the moon. This base was not named for the crater it was near, rather it was named the Borman-Lovell-Anders Base, or BLA Base for short. Borman, Lovell, and Anders, of course, were the names of the astronauts in the crew of Apollo 8. Apollo 8 brought the first humans from earth to the vicinity of the moon. The crew of Apollo 8 orbited the moon and gave us some of our most iconic photographs of the planet earth. These three astronauts were the first humans to ever see the far side of the moon first hand. They were the first to see a part of the lunar surface that no human had ever seen before. This is why the base on the far side of the moon — the side never visible from earth — is named after these three individuals.Given the length of that name, the name was shortened in true government fashion to the BLA Base, and that is the name that stuck in the minds of most people.BLA base was identical to the Tycho base. It consisted of an identical four pods that were launched, landed, and assembled in the same manner as Tycho base. The four pods were sent to the lunar surface over the course of eleven months from January 1977 until November 1977. As was done for Tycho base, two assembly crews were sent to the base to perform the large scale, and final assembly of the base. These two missions were named BLA 1 and BLA 2.Given the base was located on the far side of the moon, communications was difficult because there was no way for a radio signal to get from the base to earth without being relayed from another location. During the construction of the base, communications were relayed via the orbiting CSM and the astronaut that was waiting in this CSM. Even so, construction was slower due to the need for relays that weren’t always available given the location of the orbiting CSM.Before the first research crew could be placed on the base, however, a way for communicating with the base that did not require an orbiting CSM was necessary.Specialized SatellitesThe solution to the long term communications problem was the launch of a pair of very special communications satellites. These satellites were not destined to orbit the earth in either a low earth orbit or a high geosynchronous orbit, as all satellites up until now were located. These satellites were also not placed in lunar orbit. Instead, these two satellites were positioned at the Earth-Moon Lagrangian points L4 and L5. These two points are special points that allow the satellites to be positioned equidistant from both the earth and the moon, in a stationary position relative to the moon. These two satellites were visible to the far side of the moon and the BLA Base. Although from the BLA base, the satellites...
Links and More InformationBelitopia WebsiteApollo Lunar Base - BelitopiaApollo Moon Bases p1 EpisodeTycho Crater (Wikipedia)Please support our showNot long after the end of the Apollo lunar landings, it was time for the next step in lunar exploration. There was belief, and some evidence from the experiments that were performed on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions, that there were minerals...water...and other scientifically useful resources on the lunar surface. There was also a concern that the Soviet Union would eventually land on the lunar surface, and attempt to claim all or part of it as their territory.So, the space race continued. On this front, the race was to the first long duration habitation of the lunar surface, and eventual lunar colonization. The United States created a habitat, a base, designed for the long term exploration and habitation of the lunar surface. In fact, they created two such bases. This allowed the Americans to explore the scientific wealth that awaited them on the lunar surface, as well as make a long term claim of the lunar surface before the Russians. While this is not what happened in real life, it is what happened in the fictional world we have created.This is...the Apollo Moon Bases. Welcome to Belitopia.IntroductionProject Tycho was the name of the program to create the first long term habitat on the lunar surface. The United States worked hard and fast in order to create this habitat, so that we could continue our exploration of the lunar surface after the end of Apollo 20. After all, the Russians couldn’t be far behind. For the first time since it began, the United States was finally leading in the space race against the Soviet Union. They intended to stay in the lead.As it turns out, the Soviet Union had given up on the quest for the lunar surface, and instead had focused on exploring and conquering near earth orbit. This was something we talked about in the past episode, episode number 5, on Skylab. However, the United States was not aware of this fact, and they continued to work under the assumption that the Soviet Union was still trying to land on the moon, so they could claim as much of the lunar surface as possible.So, given this information, the United States turned away from the relatively short duration spot landings of single Apollo landing missions, which could only provide them with relatively short stays on the lunar surface. Instead, they turned their sight towards developing and building their first long duration base on the lunar surface. The purpose of the base was to provide a long term habitation of the lunar surface by Americans. The habitation would be by regular astronauts, but also by astronaut scientists that could study the lunar surface in greater detail over an extended period of time.How long of a period of time? The goal was to enable stays on the lunar surface of upwards of eight months by any single crew, and provide a total lunar habitation of five years at a single site on the lunar surface by multiple crews. Between the two planned sites, it would create the opportunity for nearly seven years of continuous lunar habitation and exploration.This would give astronauts and scientists plenty of time to study long term effects of living on the lunar surface, and time to study the surface of the moon in substantially greater detail. The desire was to prove feasibility for a permanent presence on the lunar surface and provide evidence that such a presence can be financially viable long term.A side benefit — but not an insignificant additional benefit — was to establish a near permanent presence to fend off the Russians from claiming ownership of extensive parts of the lunar surface. Thus, lengthening the American’s lead in the space race.This episode is about the creation and habitation of two long duration lunar bases, the Tycho Base and the BLA Base, on the surface of the moon. These bases are not intended to be permanent presence, but provide a long term presence in order to make a permanent presence in the future possible. In this manner, they are very similar to the role that Skylab played in earth orbit before the creation of the first permanent crewed space station was possible.This is what happened in the world of Belitopia.What follows is a fictional documentary about these lunar bases. The documentary takes place in the world of Belitopia in the year 2040, 65 years after these bases were first developed. This documentary, titled “Our World in Space”, describes the construction, deployment, assembly, and operation of these lunar bases in greater detail. This documentary is presented as a historical record of past events.While fiction, it’s based on much thought and consideration on what it would take to make these bases possible. This documentary is about humankind’s first attempt to live for long durations of time, on the surface of another astronomical body. It’s about humankind’s early start at colonization of the moon. This documentary is about the creation of the Tycho and BLA lunar bases, in the world of Belitopia.Documentary — Out World in Space, 2040ADHello, and welcome to “Our World in Space — The Apollo Moon Bases”.Shortly after the end of the Apollo lunar landing missions, America was looking for the next step in lunar exploration. After all, they had beat the Soviet Union to the moon, but now they needed to keep their dominant leadership position on lunar exploration, or risk losing everything. In the early 1970’s, it was still believed that the Soviet Union was attempting to land on the moon, and the United States must continue to increase their lunar presence in order to stay ahead of the Soviet Union. Little did the Americans know, but the Soviet Union was no longer focused on the moon. But, that little fact eluded the Americans, and they trudged on anyways.The next step on the way toward lunar dominance was to leverage the same Apollo technology that brought the first Americans to the moon, to build a larger lunar presence. To that end, the Apollo Lunar Base program was created.Founded as part of the Apollo Applications Program, the Apollo Lunar Base program, or ALB for short, strove to create the first long term presence for humans on the lunar surface. The goal was great. Humans…namely Americans…were to spend nearly five years on the lunar surface, spread between several distinct crewed missions to the base. Given that the longest amount of time on the lunar surface up until this point was the 21 day stay of Apollo 20, extending this to a five year habitation would be quite a feat.But that was the goal of the Apollo Lunar Base program. In all, two bases were planned. The first base. Which was also the primary one was to be Tycho base. Tycho base was to be located near Tycho crater in order to explore the geological environment of that area.Tycho crater, as you remember, was the landing site of Apollo 20. It was also the crater made famous as the location of the famous monolith found on the Lunar surface in the Stanley Kubrick movie 2001 A Space Odyssey and Arthur C Clark’s book of the same name.Besides being a location filled with geological wealth, it was the perfect location for the first lunar base, as it would create incredible interest and buzz on earth. 2001 A Space Odyssey, which came out in 1968, was extremely popular in the modern culture of the time. This movie is what gave hope to America for what a realistic future in space could be like, and it certainly looked like that future was starting to come true. Building a base at Tycho crater was part of that odyssey, and would bring huge PR benefit to the program.But, in addition to the PR benefit, it was believed that Tycho crater provided the easiest access to the resources we thought were available on the lunar surface. After all, it was Apollo 20 that provided the initial research into locations for the future base, and Tycho crater was seen as providing a veritable goldmine of research opportunities.Structure of the BaseThe lunar base itself was a series of four “pods”. These four pods were connected via short tunnels between them in a straight line format with two pods acting as the end caps of the line. Each pod was approximately rectangular in surface area, and had a flat underbelly with a curved top. They looked very similar to a Hostess Ho Ho.Each module was 45 feet long and 15 feet wide. They stood 12 feet tall. Each had a single floor where humans could walk inside in a shirt sleeve environment. The habitation area in most of the modules had an inside height of 9 feet. The extra room above the ceiling was used for storage.The tunnels were simple connecting tubes large enough for a human to walk upright inside them, and wide enough to pass another person going the opposite direction, but they contained no room to store equipment nor material.Each pod was loosely similar in technology to the module used in Skylab as well as the habitation module used during the Venus Flyby. However similar, the actual construction and physical structure of the module was very different from the Skylab and Venus Flyby modules.First, the Skylab and Venus modules were designed to work in zero-G, while the lunar pods worked in the standard 1/6th G gravity environment of the lunar surface. This meant a complete redesign of the interior and a completely new and unique set of living challenges for the crew in the pod. Equipment didn’t float, it had weight and fell to the floor. But heavy equipment could still be easily moved around inside with little effort. Humans inside the pod would walk upright and normal, unlike in the space based modules where they could simply float from one location to another. Yet while they could walk upright, they had to get use to the 1/6G so that they did not put too much spring into their step, and bang into the ceiling every time they moved suddenly. Humans would live and work in a shirt sleeve environment in 1/6 G for the very first time in history. These new ways of living and dealing with the environment were part of what was going to be investigated on the lunar surface. Each of the four pods that comprised the base had a separate primary purpose.Pod #1, the pod on the south-most edge of the base, was the utility pod. It was sometimes called the garage pod. This pod housed the primary airlock used to go from the shirt sleeve environment of the rest of the base. The pod had the space suit closet, where all the space suits were stored and serviced. This pod had the primary machinery for pressuring the entire base and storing the necessary non-food consumables used by the base. This included oxygen, hydrogen, and the fuel cells needed to make electricity and water, along with the recycling plant for recycling the water for reuse. Food was the only consumable not stored in this pod. This pod was also where tools and equipment were stored that were designed to be used outside the base in the open lunar surface. Many of those were stored in bins that were not pressurized in an external facing side of the pod. This capability is why the pod was sometimes called the garage pod.Pod #2, the next pod over in the pod chain, was the research and control pod. This was the heart of the base. This pod contained the control room and all the equipment for managing all base operations, along with the communications equipment for communicating with earth. The pod also contained the primary research facilities that were available to the crew of the base. Most of the day-to-day operations and management occurred in this pod.Pod #3 was next in the line. It was the health and fitness pod. This pod was where the crew could excersize and work out in order to keep fit and toned in the low gravity environment. It did not have the above ceiling storage area, and so the ceiling was over 11 feet high. This gave plenty of room for exercise and other fitness activities. It contained many different types and styles of exercise equipment along with systems that could monitor the health of the crew. It was also the home of the medical bay, where medications, medical equipment, and medical supplies were stored. Routine and emergency medical care was available here, and all crew members were trained to perform relatively advanced medical care.Pod #4 was on the northern-most edge of the pod string. It was the living and eating quarters. This was where the astronauts would sleep and relax. Shower and restroom facilities were available here, along with kitchen and food preparation capabilities. An entertainment area and sleeping areas were also available. When the crew was not working, and were not exercising, this was where they spent the majority of their off time.Pod #4 also had an emergency egress airlock, along with the storage for emergency space suits. If the crew was cut off from the main egress on the southern end of the base — in the utility pod — during an emergency, they could put on the emergency space suits and exit out the emergency airlock on this northern end. Each pod could be shut off from each other by sealed doors, so that an air pressure drop in one pod would not be fatal to the crew in the rest of the base.At night, when the crew slept, pod #4, the living and eating quarters, was sealed off from the rest of the base. That way if an emergency occurred during the night [background: emergency klaxon— “egress” alarm] and any of the three other pods lost air pressure, the sleeping crew would still be in a pressurized area that had access to emergency equipment and emergency egress capabilities.Besides the four pods, there was equipment and experiments that were kept outside the base. If any equipment did not need to be in a pressurized environment, or if they didn’t need regular access from the crew, they were kept outside the pressurized habitat to conserve valuable pressurized space within the base. Also outside were two rovers. These were enhanced versions of the lunar rovers used during the Apollo lunar landings. They were the same standard open air design, and the astronauts had to wear their space suits while driving the vehicles. They were enhanced for longer duration use and for simple recharging at the base.There was a desire to a have pressurized vehicle for use on the base, allowing long duration trips away from the base while the occupants were in a shirt sleeve environment. However, the vehicle was still being designed at the time the base was construct, and it was many years away from being created. As such, this vehicle was not available for use on Tycho base.Base Delivery and AssemblyEach pod was sent to the lunar surface independently on a separate unmanned Saturn V rocket. Four Saturn V rockets were used to deliver the entire base to the lunar surface. These four unmanned missions were named Tycho A, Tycho B, Tycho C, and Tycho D. They occurred between the period of Nov 1, 1974, until July 1, 1975.The pods were landed via remote control from Houston. They were landed as close as possible to the desired location for the base. The goal was to land within 1000 feet of the desired base location.The pinpoint landing goal was difficult to plan for, but was considered possible and reasonable. This was due to the extra-ordinary success the later Apollo lunar landings had at making pinpoint landings. Apollo 11 landed wherever it could…but a goal of all the future Apollo landings was to improve the accuracy of the landing to a specific location, and each Apollo landing got better at making that accurate landing. This was needed for the stated goals of each of those individual missions, but it also gave NASA the confidence that landing the base station pods in such a pinpoint manner was also possible.Once on the lunar surface, the pods were equipped with landing legs and side thrusters. An assembly crew dispatched from earth to the lunar surface could then use the thrusters to maneuver each pod into the desired final position next to the other pods on the lunar surface. The thrusters, under the control of a human astronaut on the lunar surface, could move the pod up to a quarter mile along the surface, yet position the pods within a couple feet of each other. This had to be handled via an astronaut on the lunar surface, because they could move the pod much more accurately than could be accomplished remotely from earth, given the communications lag between earth and moon.Once the four pods were in the desired location, the crew then swept the area under the pods to remove small pebbles and other uneven material. The landing legs then folded upwards and set the pod down on the lunar surface. The pods were now permanently positioned on the surface. Tunnels were then installed connecting the pods to each other before the base was pressurized.Two separate assembly crews were used to assemble the base. The first assembly crew, mission name Tycho 1, did the large-scale assembly of moving the pods into place. They also connected the pods, connected the generators and setup the electrical systems, and pressurized the pods. This crew was on the lunar surface for only 10 days, and lived in their LM during this time. They carried an lunar rover in the LM, and they left that behind to serve as one of the two rovers used by the base.The second assembly crew, mission name Tycho 2, arrived later, and they were responsible for the internal setup of the base. They setup the living facilities. They setup the research facilities. They setup the control center. They spent 17 days total on the lunar surface. For the first 5 days, they lived in their LM. On day six, they moved into the activated base to live for the duration of their stay. They carried another lunar rover in their LM, and left that behind as the second of the two rovers used by the base.The assembly of the base on the lunar surface occurred after the four pods were delivered. This took place during August and September of 1975, and the base was finally ready for long term habitation.After that, Tycho Base was completely setup and it was ready for long term occupancy by the research missions. The first research mission, Tycho 3, arrived on December 1st, 1975, and stayed for nearly seven weeks.SummaryThis is the end of part 1 of the Apollo Moon Bases. In the next episode, we will continue the mock documentary talking about the complex lunar transport system of missions used to shuttle crews to and from the Tycho base. We will also discuss the regrettable creation of the LM Graveyard, along with the emergency procedures that were designed to rescue the base inhabitants in case of a serious base malfunction or accident, and we’ll discuss the one time those procedures were put to a test in a real emergency and the outcome of that emergency. Finally, we’ll talk about the second base, the BLA Base, that was created on the far side of the moon, along with the extraordinary set of satellites that were put in unique...
What is Belitopia all about? This is a bonus episode where I answer questions about Belitopia and my plans for the future of the world of Belitopia, including future podcast episodes and other content. Plus, have you seen the Apple TV+ show “For All Mankind”? If not, you should! Hear my thoughts on this new show and how it is similar, yet different, from Belitopia.This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Chartable - -
I hope you are enjoying our world of Belitopia. We’re going to be taking a few weeks off for our mid-season break while celebrating the holiday season. However, stay tuned! There might be some bonus content coming out during the break! We will continue the second half of Season 1 in the new year, where we plan on talking about Space Station Freedom, our two Apollo moon bases, a heavy lift space transport system, and our very first space station in lunar orbit! Thank you for listening to our world of Belitopia, and see you next year!This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Podtrac -
The Space Race wasn’t just about who could get to the moon first. There were other battlefields where the space race was fought. One of those battlefields was in building a permanent manned presence in space in the form of a space station in low earth orbit. Such a station would not only be a great place for space based research, but also a starting point for military use of space. Winning the battle over low earth orbit against the Soviet Union was just as important as beating them to the moon.Low earth orbit wasn’t as glamorous as the race to the moon, so it did not receive as much public attention, nor political attention, nor ultimately least in real life.But in the world of Belitopia, the value of the fight for low earth orbit was critical, and the Skylab series of space stations was important for long term American presence in space. Even though it was important, that doesn’t mean we focused on it. In fact, one of the great lessons for America on space exploration came when we lost focus on the value of low earth orbit, and Skylab I, our first space station in low earth orbit, failed to deliver on its plans and promises. Instead, it would take two follow on Skylab space stations, Skylab II and Skylab III, before America would understand what it would take to maintain a long term presence in space in low earth orbit.This is...Skylab Plus. Welcome to Belitopia.Links and More InformationEpisode DetailsBelitopia Skylab InformationSkylab (Wikipedia)Salyut (Wikipedia)Apollo Applications Program (Wikipedia)Space Station FreedomPlease support our show.IntroductionThe space race was actually fought on two fronts. The first was the race to the moon. This is what Project Apollo was originally created for. The second was the race to a permanent presence in low earth orbit...the permanent manned space station.While the former was the more politically important race, due to the very public prestige associated with the voyage, the latter was actually a more important goal. Understanding, driving, and controlling human presence in low earth orbit was critical for many reasons:First, it provides long term research opportunity into the impact of space and the value of space based industry.Second, it provides research into earth and what makes the planet function, including significant improvements in weather forecasting, climate study, and geological research.Third, there are huge advantages to the military and in national security for the purposes of proactive spying, reactive security monitoring, and even — weapon delivery.Fourth, low earth orbit is a perfect jumping off point — a transfer point if you will — for future missions into deep space.All of these reasons made the race for low earth orbit just as important as the race for the moon. It just was not as politically or socially charged of a mission as the moon race was.Ultimately, permanent manned stations that could be used for research and as a transfer station for future missions was the mostimmediate goal. But before we could do that, we needed to understand what it took to create, support, and populate such a station. What we needed were baby steps, and we needed them fast before the Soviet Union could establish their foothold. It was truly a race.This is the story of Skylab. Skylab was a program for space stations based on the Apollo technology, and part of the Apollo Applications Program that we’ve spoken about in previous episodes.In real life, there was a single Skylab space station, and the results from the stations were…well...mixed. It was a damaged station that limped along, yet still provided huge research benefits for us. In Belitopia, Skylab I was just the first of a series of three Skylab space stations that were built. In Belitopia, Skylab was a true space station program that contributed greatly to our long term knowledge of space and space colonization.What follows is a fictional documentary about the Skylab space stations and our race with the Russians toward having a long term presence in low earth orbit. The documentary is presented as if it takes place in the year 2040, some 70 years after these events took place. The documentary, titled “Our World in Space”, describes the race to build space stations in low earth orbit and how the Skylab program gave the Americans a lead in space research and an understanding of how to live and work for long periods of time in space. The documentary describes these events as a future historical record of past events.While fiction, it’s based on much of the original Skylab I mission outcomes, along with thought and consideration on what follow-on Skylab missions would be like. This documentary is about the Skylab program and its impact on our long term presence in space. The Skylab program, in the world of Belitopia.Documentary — Out World in Space, 2040ADHello, and welcome to “Our World in Space — The Skylab Program”.Most people thought the space race was all about the race to put a man on the moon. But the space race was actually fought on two fronts. The first was the race to the moon. This is what Project Apollo was originally created for. The second front, and in some ways perhaps a more important front, was the race to a permanent human presence in space, particularly a presence in low earth orbit. This was the race for the first permanent manned space station.While the moon race was the more politically important goal, due to the very public prestige associated with the voyage; it was the latter goal that was actually a more important goal. Understanding, driving, and controlling human presence in LEO, or low earth orbit, was critical for America’s dominance in space. This is because low earth orbit is where all the space action would be. Low earth orbit is where we could build transfer stations for missions to other destinations. Low earth orbit is where we could do research on our home planet, including important early research on climate and weather patterns. Low earth orbit was where we could spy on our enemies and they could spy on us.Low earth orbit was the beaches of Normandy for space. Conquering low earth orbit was D-Day for the space race.Humans needed permanent manned space stations in low earth orbit. It was that simple.While ultimately permanent space stations that could be used for research and as transfer points was the goal, to accomplish that goal we needed to understand what it took to create, support, and populate such a station.After the United States was successful in beating the Russians to the first lunar landing, the Soviet Union transitioned their space program quickly from one of racing toward to the moon, to one of racing toward owning low earth orbit. Very quickly, they built and launched a space station. On April 19, 1971, less than two years after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, the Soviet Union launched Salyut 1, humankind’s very first space station. This was a full six months before the United States could launch their first space station, Skylab I. Once again, the Soviet Union beat America in space.But Salyut 1 had significant problems. The first crew that visited Salyut 1 could not successfully dock with it due to a problem with the docking module on Salyut 1. They couldn’t even open the door to the station. Instead, they had to return home without ever sitting foot in the station. The second crew sent to Salyut 1 was the first and last crew to actually enter the space station. This second crew was on board a mere 23 days before a fire forced them to abandon the station permanently. What’s worse, while the crew was reentering the earth atmosphere to come home, a pressurization problem in the ship...killed the entire crew. When the ship was recovered once it landed on earth, the crew was found inside, dead.This was the Soviet Union’s first attempt at a space station, but not their last attempt. They would create six other Salyut space stations in their race against the Americans.But before the Soviet Union could replace their first station, it was America’s turn. For the United States, the first space station needed to be based on the same technology that powered Apollo. The space station program was part of the Apollo Applications Program, and the goal was to make significant use of Apollo technology. Project Apollo had already proved itself in landing on the moon. It was planned to be used for the future upcoming Venus Flyby mission, and there were plans to use Apollo technology for the first lunar bases. But before it was used for any of these other projects, it was used to create Skylab.America’s first space station, Skylab I, was quickly built and quickly put into space. It was seen as a relatively simple project. Unfortunately, it was seen as so simple, that the team was not focused, and the station quality suffered. Like Salyut 1 with the Soviet Union, Skylab I would have significant problems. Let’s look back at the creation and history of Skylab I.The History of Skylab IShortly after the formation of the AAP agency in October of 1969, this was the agency spinoff from NASA that was responsible for reuse of Apollo technology, and shortly after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon for the first time, one of the very first projects for AAP was to figure out how to create a manned space station in low earth orbit.The decision was made to build a station quickly and cheaply, simply to get it into space ahead of the Russians.Hence, Skylab I was born. Skylab I was very simple. Take the 3rd stage of the Saturn V rocket, add some solar panels, telescopes, and other research equipment, pressurize the vessel so that it could be used by shirt sleeve crews in low earth orbit, then send it into space. Apollo command-service modules would be used to transport crews to the station, and the crews would perform simple scientific activities over medium to long duration voyages. It would be that simple.Skylab I was quickly developed, and it was developed on a shoe string budget. After all, this was going to be easy.Skylab I, unfortunately, was not the first space station into orbit. That honor would go to the Soviet Salyut 1. However, the problems with Salyut 1 were well publicized, and America was sure we could do better.Finally, on October 13, 1971, Skylab I was launched. But, unfortunately, karma knocked on the door of this space station as well. During the launch, the outer shielding for the station was torn off, as was one of the folded solar panels. The result? Skylab I was in jeopardy of boiling to destruction in the extreme heat of the sun in earth orbit. Without the protection of the outer shielding, there was no way the station could support a human crew and keep them alive. Unless a solution was found, Skylab I would have to be abandoned even before it was put into service.But American ingenuity came into play. Over the next 10 days options were considered and a plan developed. The plan was to send up a large umbrella if you will, that would be used to cover part of the space station and keep the sun’s energy from boiling the station. The umbrella would protect the station, and save the program.America ingenuity saved the day.And 11 days after the launch of the space station, the first crew of Skylab I arrived at the station with the parasol. They were able to deploy it as well as release the remaining solar panel to finally make the station habitable. The crew struggled getting the docking adaptor on the station to work correctly, though, a problem that waseerily reminiscent of Salyut 1, but they were able to clear up the problem and enter the space station to continue their mission.Skylab I was saved.The lesson of Skylab I — never more would our attention falter when it came to an important mission. Too much was at stake. The value received from a space mission is usually in proportion to the amount invested — time, money, and focus. The more you invest, the more you get out of the program. That lesson would serve the space agencies well for many years to come, and would be one of the main reasons why the manned space program continued to receive the funding it needed. The remainder of the Skylab program would receive the attention required, and funding necessary, to be successful.In all, three separate crews made Skylab I their home from October 15, 1971 until March 1, 1973. The longest crew stayed for 210 days, a record at the time. Skylab I was a success, and America was once again the leader in establishing a presence in low earth orbit. This was a lead that would actually be extended when the Soviet Union’s next attempt at putting a station into space, Salyut 2 which launched on April 3, 1973, became a complete and utter failure. While no human lives were loss, the ship itself was destroyed. It survived in orbit for a mere 13 days before it burned up in the atmosphere, having never even being visited by a human crew.Skylab IIWhile successful, Skylab I was limited. It was small, it was injured, and it didn’t have the power it needed to support our needs in space for the long term. Instead, a larger and more powerful space station was needed.This is where Skylab II came to be. Based on the same overall technology as Skylab I, Skylab II was nearly twice the size of Skylab I. It consisted of two sections that were launched independently, each section launched on its own Saturn V rocket, each section the size of the original Skylab I, and each section looking very similar to the core of the original Skylab 1. The two sections were joined in space to create a larger space station. The new station, which looked much like two main Skylab modules attached together, was assembled in space by an assembly crew launched separately over a 24 day period during February of 1974.Once the assembly was complete, the larger station was capable of supporting two complete three person crews simultaneously — six astronauts total, at a time. The result was a station that could perform significantly more research with more astronauts involved.Skylab II supported six missions from March 10, 1974 until May 5th, 1977. The fourth crew, that of the Skylab II-M4 mission, was a three man crew that broke the record for the longest stay in space of 426 days, or around 14 months.The long duration habitation research of the latter Skylab I missions and the early Skylab II missions was critical in the evaluation of impact on the human body on long duration missions. This was critical research for both the upcoming Venus Flyby mission, but also for the planned manned bases on the lunar surface.Skylab II was a huge overall success. While most of what it accomplished did not receive the media attention that the Venus Flyby mission received, it was extremely important in the ongoing space race with the Soviet Union over the control and ownership of low earth orbit.The SovietsMeanwhile, the Soviet Union wasn’t sitting back and watching. Their first two attempts were major disasters. But on May 25, 1974, Salyut 3 launched. Salyut 3 remained in orbit for eight months. This was followed shortly after by a Salyut 4, Salyut 5, 6, and finally a Salyut 7. Overall, the entire Salyut program consisted of seven separate space stations. The last station in the series, Salyut 7, was launched in April of 1982 and was occupied for over two and a half years concurrently. Salyut 6 was in service for nearly five years!Finally, on February 19, 1986, the Soviet Union launched and began space based construction on the Mir space station. This would be the first permanently manned space station in low earth orbit. Mir was continuously manned and operated for over fifteen years before it was finally retired and de-orbited in March of 2001.Skylab IIIMeanwhile, back in America, hot on the success of Skylab II, the United States was getting ready to launch Skylab III. Still based on Apollo technology, Skylab III was essentially three Skylab I modules fastened together. These three segments were launched from three distinct Saturn V rockets, and were assembled in orbit using two separate three person assembly crews over the course of nearly three months.Finally, on Jun 4, 1977, the first habitation crew arrived at Skylab III and stayed on board for 301 days. Over the course of the next seven years, a total of eighteen crews would visit Skylab III. At one point in time, three separate, three person crews would inhabit the stations at once. Nine astronauts at once were on board the space station. Over the course of these missions, the longest duration stay by an astronaut was 522 days. That’s nearly 18 months, or a year and a half. The longest any human has spent in space.The United States was learning how to live and work in space.The Skylab ProgramThe Skylab program was extremely valuable to our developing knowledge about how to live and operate in space. The research from Skylab helped us understand the impact of long duration missions in space. This was critical not only for the Venus Flyby mission, but for the future planned missions to Mars and beyond, along with our planned long term habitation of the lunar surface.And it was needed for our research, development, and launch of Space Station Freedom, America’s permanently habituated space station. Space Station Freedom was substantially larger than the Soviet Union’s Mir space station, and substantially larger than any of the Skylab stations, and it became a critical jumping off point for future lunar missions and deep space missions. Freedom was our first and most stable permanent home in space. But that is a story for another time. For now, it should just be known that Space Station Freedom would not have been possible without the research that was performed by the twenty five distinct crews on board the three Skylab space stations.Skylab was a quiet but hugely critical success for the United States space program.SummarySkylab truly was invaluable in our gaining experience in space. It was critical to our future missions and future plans. It was critical to our long term success in space.As mentioned in the documentary, Skylab led to Space Station Freedom, which gave us a permanent presence in space. Space Station Freedom was substantially larger and more stable than the Soviet Union’s Mir station. Mir was the Soviet Union’s last major space project. The space race would soon be over. Space Station Freedom, the Apollo lunar landings, the Venus Flyby, and the early lunar bases were all United States projects. While the Soviet Union was first in almost every goal of space exploration, it was the United States that ended up being the most successful and ultimately the leader.But the push to space continued, even if the competition was less fierce. Joint projects between nations, including the United States and Russia, were starting to occur.In real life,
Links and More InformationEpisode DetailsBelitopia Venus Flyby InformationWikipedia - Venus FlybyWikipedia - Apollo Applications ProgramOriginal 1967 NASA Venus Flyby Feasibility StudyPlease support our show.IntroductionIn the last episode of Belitopia, we started our story of the Venus 1 voyage. In this episode, we conclude our story of this historic voyage.Venus 1, a mission launched as part of the Apollo Applications Program, used Apollo technology with some necessary extensions in order to send a crew of two astronauts on the first ever flyby of another planet.This mission never happened in reality, but a version of this mission was in the planning stages before budgets were cut. But this is Belitopia. In our world, funding did occur, and the Venus Flyby mission actually occurred.We left off after part 1 in the middle of the mock documentary, “Our World in Space”, as it describes the Venus Flyby mission in greater detail. This fictional documentary takes place in the year 2040, 65 years after the mission took place.We left the documentary in part 1 after talking about the Christmas Miracle burn that saved the crew and mission in December of 1975. Now, let’s continue with our story. Let’s re-enter the documentary where we left off. We’ll talk about the flyby itself, the mission home, and the unprecedented and untried process used to slow down the ship in time for reentry into the earth’s atmosphere for a safe and slow splashdown.Now back to the voyage of Venus 1 — the Venus mission, in the world of Belitopia.Documentary — Our World in Space, 2040ADHello, and welcome to “Our World in Space — The Venus Flyby”. Part 2.The rest of the flight to Venus was, indeed, uneventful. After the Christmas Miracle burn on December 29, 1975, the next 43 days of the mission were busy preparing for the flyby. Long before the flyby itself would occur, many scientific experiments and studies were planned involving solar experiments with the sun, deep space experiments, and eventually Venus studies as the ship neared the flyby itself.The crew of Venus 1 was very busy.In fact, they were too busy to spend time thinking about what almost happened. They were too busy to think about what happened that resulted in the need for the Christmas Miracle burn in the first place, and how lucky they were that they were saved.Backlash from the CrisisThat wasn’t true on earth, however. On earth, there was significant discussions, among government leaders, NASA and AAP leaders, as well as among the general public. Their were two concerns.The first, would the STS engine continue to function for the rest of the trip, and can the mission end successfully as planned on day T+210? Most people were convinced that the engine would continue to work properly, but, there still were concerns.The second was a more actionable concern. While Venus 1 was in process, plans were progressing for a Venus 2 and Venus 3 flight. These two additional Venus flyby missions were similar in nature to Venus 1 using the exact same technology. The research and science they would perform would be different, but the basic flight plan was the same. Venus 2 was set to launch during the second planetary alignment window two years later in July of 1977. Venus 3 was scheduled to launch a year later in May 1978.However, the crisis on Venus 1 and the need for the Christmas Miracle brought heightened attention to the fact that there was only one main STS engine on the service module. If that engine were to fail, the mission would undoubtedly end in disaster. The engine was considered highly reliable, but still, it was a single point of failure. Unlike the Apollo moon missions, there was no free return trajectory that was available with the planned Venus missions profiles, so the engine would be required in order to safely return the spacecraft home.Given this concern, an unfortunate and unpopular decision was made. Apollo technology, as is, had insufficient safeguards built in to avoid any single point failure problems. Newer systems and better technology beyond Apollo was needed before we could safely attempt another mission beyond the moon. This effectively put an end to the planned Venus 2 and Venus 3 missions, and put to an end the development of a similar Mars 1 flyby mission that was still in the early planning stages. Those missions would have to wait for better technology, technology that would not be available for many years yet.The FlybyThe flyby itself was actually a very short window of visibility into Venus. Over 100 days into a 210 day mission, the flyby itself, the entire purpose of the trip, would occur during a very short two day period. After nearly 100 days in space, the entire purpose of the trip would be over in a matter of a few dozen hours.Planning was crucial to make sure that the ultimate advantage could be taken of the two day flyby. Sleep was minimal as the crew readied themselves for the flyby. There would be no sleep at all during the 48 hours of the flyby itself. Anticipation at its climax, the crew was getting ready.The flyby, adjusted for the changes caused by the Christmas Miracle burn, started officially at 15:35 hours on February 10, 1976 and ended at 8:12 hours on February 12th. The flyby of Venus, the planet named after the Roman Goddess of Love, occurred just two days before Valentines day, the holiday of love. This wasn’t the original plan. But, by, coincidence, coincidence created by the Christmas Miracle burn, the flyby would occur near Valentine’s Day. This was deemed a positive omen by the mainstream media and considered a good sign for the ongoing success of the mission. A sign of good luck that the crew — and those following on earth — desperately needed.United States President Gerald Ford, acting along with the congress of the United States, declared Valentines Day, February 14, 1976, an official day of celebration for the ongoing success of the Apollo Venus Flyby mission.And success it was.After the incredibly brief encounter with Venus, the ship was spun around by gravity and was now headed back on their four month return voyage home.Through March and April, the ship continued its trip to reach earth. Two Earth Assist Burns were needed. Nerves were fragile and everyone was at high alert as the first burn approached. After all, the SPS engine had not been used since the Christmas Miracle. If it failed again, all would be lost. It had to work.And it did work. It worked flawlessly. For over two months everyone was In a heightened state of anticipation to see what would happen when this burn occurred. Yes, all the experts said the engine was fine, but the proof was in the actual firing of the engine. Over two months after the Christmas Miracle, the STS engine worked perfectly and the crew was still on their proper course home.The second earth assist burn, EAB-II, occurred two months later and it too worked flawlessly. The crew of Venus 1 was perfectly aligned with earth and were heading home.All that remained now was to slow down enough to land safely.The SlowdownThe ship, after all, was traveling at unheard of speeds for previous manned space flight. The spacecraft was speeding toward earth at a relative speed of nearly 10,000 miles per hour. A significant amount of that speed needed to be shed before a reentry into the earth atmosphere could be considered.But how was this speed reduction going to occur? For the moon missions, this step was easy. While the ship was traveling at a high speed, the speed could be shed off by simply skipping into the earth atmosphere at such an angle that speed would be reduced by atmospheric friction, converting the speed to heat.For the Venus mission, though, the speed was too excessive to make that possible. If Venus 1 attempted to enter the atmosphere at the speed they were traveling, they would burn up in a matter of seconds, creating a fireball that could be seen for hundreds of miles.Before any attempt to enter the earth atmosphere could be contemplated, a significant amount of speed needed to be scrubbed. This speed reduction was accomplished by a series of maneuvers. These maneuvers involved the use of the gravity of the moon and the gravity of the earth to reduce that speed.The speed would be loss by a series of slowdown flybys of both the earth and the moon.The series of maneuvers were to occur over the last 14 days of the trip.This final stage of the voyage started on May 18, 1976, when the habitation module, which served as the crews primary home for the last 191 days, was undocked and left to float away. With most of the consumable resources consumed, the habitation module was no longer needed and would simply serve as a nuisance during the final maneuvers of the mission.So on May 18, the habitation module was separated from the ship and was sent into a trajectory that would send the spent module out past earth orbit and into deep space. The habitation module was the primary home for the two astronauts for the last seven months. It served its purpose near perfectly. Now, spent, it was abandoned.Meanwhile, the remaining Command-Service Module was sent onwards towards the second Lunar Flyby of the mission. This one, near the end of the mission, was designed to shed off a significant amount of excess velocity. The Lunar Flyby II occurred on May 19, 1976, and sent the ship on a quick 2 and a half day trip towards earth. The shortness of the trip to earth was because the ship still had too much velocity. While slower than its previous cruising velocity, if the ship were to try and re-enter now, it would still burn up.So, more speed needed to be shed. An additional burn of the service module engine occurred, and this burn aligned the spaceship into a position for a slingshot flyby past earth and back towards the moon. This earth flyby shed a significant amount of additional speed.On the way back to the moon, another minor course adjustment burn was performed, and Venus 1 was prepared for its third, and final, lunar flyby.Lunar Flyby III occurred on May 25, 6 days since the last Lunar flyby. This time, enough speed was shed so that the ship could ease gently towards the earth at normal Apollo reentry speeds.Finally on May 31, 1976, the voyage of Venus 1 officially ended with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at 13:22 hours mission time on day 210.The voyage of Venus 1, the first crewed ship to leave the Earth-Moon system and travel to another planet, was a success.CelebrationThe end of the trip occurred at a perfect time. The United States was deep in the middle of its Bicentennial celebration. On July 4, 1976, the crew of Venus 1, David Mason and James Ahmed, became guests of President Gerald Ford at the White House and were showcased during several Washington DC Bicentennial events. The pride of the US space program and the pride in the success of the Apollo program in general, had never been as great as this, since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon for the first time a mere seven years earlier.It was not forgotten, though, that the voyage had almost ended in trajectory. If not for the Christmas Miracle burn, rather than being with President Ford on the steps of the capital during a celebration of the United States’ 200th anniversary, the crew of Venus 1 would have been zooming past Venus and headed toward a fiery death. And rather than a source of national pride during the Bicentennial, it would be a time of mourning for the people of the United States.This realization, more than anything, is what put a halt to the development of the Venus 2 and Venus 3 flyby missions to Venus. It’s what put a halt to the early planning for the planned Mars 1 flyby. Never again would Apollo technology be used to move humans beyond lunar orbit. The risk of having no backup engine in case of a catastrophe was an understood risk at the time, but now in hindsight it was a seemingly unacceptable risk for deep space missions. For humans to travel into space, programs and space technology beyond Apollo would be needed. These programs and technology would, of course, eventually be created. But for now, Apollo was the means towards that end.Many things were ultimately accomplished by the Venus 1 mission. The crew set a multitude of records that would stand for many years to come. They were the fastest humans in the world. They travelled furthest from the earth, and they also travelled a further total distance than any human ever. They set the record for the longest duration space mission at the time and proved that humans could endure the long duration trips necessary for interplanetary travel.Even with the engine failure and the need for the Christmas Miracle, all objectives of the mission were met and many were exceeded. The trip of Venus 1 to and around the planet Venus was a huge success.SummaryThat is the end of the documentary from Belitopia. This two part episode described Venus 1, the first manned mission to leave the earth-moon system. The first manned mission to travel to another planet.If you enjoyed this documentary about the Venus 1 voyage, and would like more information about this mock mission, including mission events and timelines, ship diagrams, and course plans, go to our website at Week in History — November 5th, 2024November 5th, 2024. Election Day. On this day, the State of Washington voters, by an huge 78% to 22% margin, passed a referendum supporting the California Free Trade Bill.This put the State of Washington clearly on the side of California in “The Great Golden Standoff”. Washington State was now squarely in the sights of the United States government, as they struggled to try and hold the nation together. Tariffs, and nationalism, it was beginning to look like these issues would ultimately be the cause of the downfall of the United States of America, and the formation of the new super powers already growing in the Pacific Rim and elsewhere.This was a dark day in US history, and the newly elected nationalist president would have a huge challenge trying to keep the United States united, and the international community mollified.This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Chartable - -
 Among the many missions that came out of the Apollo Applications Program, one of the most amazing was the Venus Flyby mission. Imagine, using the same Apollo technology that brought us to the moon, for a long duration mission to fly by our nearest planetary neighbor, the planet Venus. Humans, traveling to another planet in our solar system. It was an ambitious plan.Unfortunately, in real life, funding for this mission never materialized. It wasn’t even close. Yes, there was some actual planning that went into a proposed mission, and some early plans were created. But no serious program was budgeted. Given the significant budget cuts after the moon landing, the Venus Flyby mission didn’t really have a chance.That was in the real world. But this is not the real world…This is…the “Venus Flyby” mission.Links and More InformationBelitopia Venus Flyby InformationEpisode DetailsWikipedia - Venus FlybyWikipedia - Apollo Applications ProgramOriginal 1967 NASA Venus Flyby Feasibility StudyPlease support our show.IntroductionIn the last episode, we talked about the Apollo Applications Program, and the future use of Apollo technology beyond its use in landing on the moon.During the late 1960’s, one of the missions that was considered for the Apollo Applications Program was a Flyby mission of the planet Venus.As we discussed previously, due to lack of support from both the Johnson and the Nixon Administrations, the mission never really was taken seriously.But there was some actual planning that went into this proposed mission. In fact, you can check out Wikipedia and other online sources, and you’ll find information about what was proposed in the late 1960’s for this trip. A high level outline of a mission plan was created. A link to that proposal is included in the links above.But this is Belitopia. In our world, Johnson and Nixon did support the AAP program, and the Venus Flyby mission was funded.This episode describes a significant variation from the initial plans that were created in the 1960’s. Instead, it describes a trip that I believe is more inline with what would have actually occurred, if we were allowed to invest in and create such a mission.In our version of the mission, the one that occurred in the world of Belitopia, the mission was named Venus 1 and it sent two astronauts on a planned nearly seven month round trip on a flyby pass around the planet Venus.What follows is a fictional documentary about this flyby mission. The documentary takes place in the year 2040, 65 years after the mission took place.This documentary, titled “Our World in Space”, describes the Venus Flyby mission in greater detail, as a historical record of past events.While fiction, it’s based on much thought and consideration on what it would take to make such as trip possible. This documentary is about the voyage of the first humans to leave the Earth-Moon system and flyby another planet. This documentary is about the voyage of Venus 1 — the Venus mission, in the world of Belitopia.This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Chartable - -
 The Apollo space program was much more than a set of missions to the moon. It was also a technology platform that provided the basis for future space programs. A technology platform that the Apollo Applications Program was created to leverage and enhance. In real life, not much came of the Apollo Applications Program. Very little funding was given to the program, and the program suffered. A stunted Skylab space station, and a Apollo-Soyuz joint docking in space were all that came out of the Apollo Applications Program. At least, that’s what happened in real life. But this is not the real world… This is the “Apollo Applications Program”.Please support our show.This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Chartable - -
 The Apollo space program. The quintessential peak of human kinds manned space program. The funding that went into this program was astronomical, around $120 **billion** dollars, adjusted for inflation.But once we landed on the moon, we lost interest in space. With the reduced interest in space came reduced funding...and our future in space suffered.But, what if funding didn’t stop suddenly…This is “Apollo Plus”.For more information, please see if the world was different? Science fiction is usually utopian or dystopian, either unrealistically good or unbelievably bad. There doesn’t seem to be much in the middle. But what if we looked at science fiction differently? What if we instead looked at a realistic world? A believable world.This is the world of Belitopia.…In this episode of Belitopia. The Apollo space program.The quintessential peak of human kinds manned presence in space.The funding that went into this program was astronomical, around $120 **billion** dollars, adjusted for inflation.But once we established John F. Kennedy’s dream of putting a man on the moon, we lost interest in space. Our society moved on, and the will and drive to do more and more in space went away. With the reduced interest in space came reduced funding. Like having whiplash, the Apollo program was stopped suddenly.But, what if it didn’t stop suddenly…This … is … Apollo Plus. Welcome to Belitopia.…From the space program to high speed trains, from bridges to artificial intelligence, from pop culture to politics, and war to religion. Belitopia is about the world of what if. What if, different decisions were made in our history? Different priorities held by our leaders? Different politics involved? Let’s see the world as it could have been, perhaps should have been, and might still become.Welcome to Belitopia.Start of EpisodeHello everybody, and welcome to Apollo +.Apollo, the United States space program that put a man on the moon.The Apollo program ended after Apollo 17 returned to earth on December 19, 1972. The Apollo program stopped … abruptly.By some people’s thinking, this was the end of the real manned space program. Everything else that came after Apollo 17 was a shadow of what went on before.The reason? Well, people lost interest in space. There was enough other things going on in the late 60’s and early 70’s to keep people’s interest. Who cared about going to the moon anymore? It was old news. After losing interest in space, the space program lost funding…no more big Apollo-type programs…nothing. NASA spent the next 50+ years squeaking by on as little money as they could squeeze out of the government budget…it was, really, a national embarrassment.The halting of the Apollo program was so sudden that many people believe the whole entire program must have been faked. We never landed on the moon, it was a fake. And so there wasn’t any more “there” there… So went the conspiracy theories.But, it did happen. We did land on the moon…and we did so five additional times. Six times in total, human-kind landed on the moon.Each flight had accomplished more and more important space objectives. Each flight did something new and different.Apollo accomplished many space objectives, including:First time we left the vicinity of the earth and entered into the gravitational pull of another object, namely the moon.First time we docked two ships together in orbit around an object that was not the earth. A task that was essential if we wanted to eventually complete our mission to land on the moon, and continue our expiration into space.First time humans landed on an object that wasn’t earth…namely the moon.We left the safety of our ship and walked around on the surface of another astronomical object.We brought home rocks and soil samples gathered from the surface.And we picked up objects left behind from previous unmanned trips to the moon and returned them home, to allow us to study the long term effect of exposure to space on them.We examined and learned the geology of the moon in greater detail, and travelled significant distances along the surface of the moon to explore areas far away from our ship.We did all this with Apollo, until Apollo 17.Then, we stopped.It wasn’t as if we had run out of ideas.We actually were already building more Apollo space ships. We were building Apollo 18, Apollo 19, and Apollo 20. We had plans for those trips. Apollo 18 was going to visit the Copernicus crater, Apollo 19 was visiting Hadley Rille, and Apollo 20 was going to visit the Surveyor 7 site at Tycho crater. The ships were built, crews selected, and missions were being organized. We were that far along. But the funding stop was so sudden and so significant, we mothballed the ships, told the crews we weren’t going, and scrubbed the remaining missions. Plans that were developed were abandoned.How would it have changed if funding had not stopped?What would have happened to the manned space program if we had continued funding into the future?Before we can answer that question, we have to understand why funding stopped, and what might have kept us going and kept the money flowing for more Apollo missions.It’s impossible to know for sure, but there are many possible reasons that could have contributed to the drop in funding. For example:While Apollo 11 was an amazing journey and an Amazing heroic story, Apollo 12 was, well, pretty much a dud. The mission had planned and promised a color video camera that would allow live color views of the lunar walk. But, the camera did not function, and as such there were no live views from the surface. Rather than showing nothing, the networks used actors on a stage to reproduce what was going on on the moon surface. People who tuned in to see live pictures from the moon, instead saw actors on a make shift stage. The audience turned away in droves. Viewership plunged. The public, really, never regained interest in Apollo.Apollo 13 recaptured our interest momentarily, but only because of a possibility of a looming disaster in space. Before the crisis, the popularity of Apollo 13 was at an astronomically low level. A planned live broadcast from the Apollo 13 command module right before the accident, wasn’t even carried by any of the broadcast networks. They had planned on showing brief clips of the broadcast during their “evening news coverage”, and that was it. If not for the accident, nobody would have cared at all about the trip.The remainder missions, Apollo 14-17 were seemingly only minor incremental improvements over the preceding mission. They were scientifically extremely interesting, most definitely, but from a public viewing standpoint, it was simply more of the same.Additionally, fear of another Apollo 13-type problem were weighing down on NASA, and pressure to avoid such an accident was great. So NASA was less willing to take unnecessary risks in future missions, making the missions that did occur “safe”. Safe and boring.Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, President Nixon was not, frankly, a fan of the Apollo program. This is because the program was JFK’s dream, not his. It was Nixon’s democratic predecessor that pushed for it. It was nothing Nixon was interested in.Given all of this, Apollo 18 and beyond were doomed.But, what if the camera on Apollo 12 had broadcast stunning pictures, in full color, from the surface of the moon? What awe inspiring views would we have seen that would have energized the population? What if Nixon was a fan of the space program…and Apollo…and saw the possibilities of the future of space exploration as his predecessor JFK had? What if Apollo was seen as the point of national pride and accomplishment that it, quite frankly, truly was? And what if the value of continuing that point of national pride encouraged further funding?That’s what we are going to explore this season on Belitopia…Everything else we discuss in this podcast this season will be based on the premise that we did continue significant funding for Apollo, and that the funding and national interest did not subside.Imagine this new world.Imagine finishing Apollo through Apollo 20. Imagine a world where we had an enhanced Skylab, a world where humans went further than the moon. Imagine what the manned space program future would be like. What would this world in space be like today? What about in 20 more years? What would this world be like?Welcome to Belitopia.What follows is a fictional documentary, a mocumentary, that takes place in the year 2040, 80 years after the start of the space program.This mocumentary, titled “Our World in Space”, describes the history of the enhanced Apollo lunar program in greater detail, as a historical record of past events. We will use this same future-mocumentary format many times in upcoming episodes in this season of this podcast.It’s a future view of our historical record.While fiction, it’s based on much thought and consideration on what could have happened, along with plans that were actually in the works at NASA before funding was cut. This mocumentary is about the history of man’s early establishment of a presence on the lunar surface. This is what Apollo Plus is all about. Here, in the world of Belitopia.DocumentaryEntering the world of Belitopia. The year, 2040. This is the documentary, “Our World in Space”.…Hello, and welcome to “Our World in Space — The Apollo Moon Missions”.The history of the space program in the United States started 80 years ago, on May 5, 1961, when Alan Shepard Jr spent America’s first 15 minutes in space. And this began the 80 year growth to the space program we have today. But we are not hear to talk about Alan Shepard, and we are not here to talk about space today in 2040. We are here to talk about our first critical success in space. A space program that ran in the late 1960’s, the 1970’s, and ended in the early 1980s. We’re here to talk about project Apollo.The Apollo space program. Some people call it the beginning of our push to put humans deeper and deeper into space. The beginning of our long term occupation and colonization of space. The purpose of Apollo, initially, was to land the first man on the moon. It did this historic feat, and it did so much more.The original Apollo program was broken up into a series of four phases, each phase designed to provide more and more capabilities for us to explore the lunar surface.Phase IThe original Apollo Phase 1 missions, that is Apollo 11 through Apollo 14 were known as the “Initial Apollo Phase” of the moon landing. These four missions were designed to give us experience in traveling and landing on the moon. While for Apollo 11, landing anywhere on the moon was considered a success, Apollo 12 had to be more accurate. Apollo 12 landed in the Ocean of Storms, a mere 600 feet from their objective, the resting place of the Surveyor III unmanned spacecraft that landed on the moon in April of 1967.Given the failure of Apollo 13 to actually land on the moon, the pressure was increased on Apollo 14, which was given the job of performing a pin point landing in the Fra Mauro highlands, near the crater of the same name.Ultimately, the ability to make landing on the moon a safe, regular, and reliable event was the goal of phase I.Phase IIThe next phase of Apollo was Phase 2. These missions featured extended stays on the moon and the ability to explore larger areas for longer periods of time. Apollo 15 through Apollo 17 focused on lunar stays of 3-4 days and featured experimentation with the Lunar Rover in order to explore larger areas. Apollo 17 had in its crew a geologist who could interpret the geology of the moon that was visited during their stay.Apollo 18 featured a week long stay in the Copernicus crater, not far from where Apollo 12 previously landed. Besides exploring this prestine crater, the Apollo 18 crew visited the Apollo 12 landing site. They picked up and returned an experiment left by Apollo 12 nearly four years earlier. This was also the first time that a crew of one mission, visited the site of another manned mission.Phase IIIPhase 3 consisted of two, extended duration Apollo missions to the moon.Apollo 19 visited Rima Hadley to continue the exploration of an area originally visited by Apollo 15. This time, the crew remained on the surface for nearly two weeks and explored the largest area covered by any Apollo mission, covering nearly 150kilometers of the lunar surface.Apollo 20 was the last of the initial Apollo lunar missions, and featured 18 days on the lunar surface at Tycho crater. While Tycho crater is extremely popular and well known today, it was also well known at that time.Tycho crater’s popularity originally arises from it being the location of the monolith found on the Lunar surface in the Stanley Kubrick movie 2001 A Space Odyssey and Arthur C Clark’s book of the same name. A great tribute having that location be the landing location to end the highly successful Phase III of Apollo. And of course, Tycho crater will continue to play an important role in human kinds exploration of the lunar surface, as we will talk about later.These phase 3 missions were highly significant to the space program, because they gave us a great understanding of the geological makeup of the moon. Many people believe it was during these later Phase 3 missions, when we started to realize the economic benefit of the resources available on the lunar surface, and in outer space in general. The moon has provided mankind a great laboratory for learning and understanding this value, and Phase 3 of Apollo just touched the surface of understanding this value. It’s probably safe to say that Apollo Phase 3 was the true start of the Golden Age of crewed space travel, an age of growth in the space program and humankind’s presence in space that we are still enjoying the benefits of to this day.Phase IVApollo Phase 4’s ultimate goal was to create the first manned base on the surface of the moon.To do this, it first had to start with the launch of several unmanned Lunar Orbital Survey Missions. These were a series of four unmanned ships sent to the moon during the summer of 1974, to insert satellites into lunar orbit. These satellites were necessary in order to provide the trans-Earth-Moon communications needs that would be required for the Phase 4 manned Apollo flights.The next step, was the construction of the lunar bases themselves.However, this required the ability to add a new capability in our set of tools for exploring the moon. It required the ability to execute a Lunar Surface Rendezvous, something that up until this point had never been accomplished.…A quick sidebar here.The history of the space program has shown that more and more increased rendezvous capabilities have been important milestones along our journey into space. All through the history of the space program, the ability to rendezvous in harder locations and further locations from home were hurdles that had to crossed. Whether it was Project Mercury and our ability to rendezvous a ship after splash down with a rescue vessel in a timely manner, or Project Gemeni which managed to achieve and practice rendezvous in earth orbit, and finally Apollo which required the ability to rendezvous in lunar orbit, 250,000 miles from earth. All of these were important objectives in our learning how to live and travel into space.But Phase 4 of Apollo required a new rendezvous capability. It required the ability to rendezvous on the surface of the moon.We saw a limited test of this in Apollo 18, where that crew visited the site of the Apollo 12 landing. But for Phase 4 of Apollo to be successful, NASA needed to launch multiple rockets towards the moon, and have all the ships land at the exact same location, within a mere matter of meters from each other. Each ship carried parts of the lunar base that were to be assembled on the lunar surface to create the full lunar base. If the parts could not be delivered accurately to the correct location on the lunar surface, precisely, then they could not be assembled into the finished station. In all, four unmanned Saturn V rockets were used to send components of the lunar base to the moon so they could be assembled by a manned crew at a later date. All four components had to land at the exact same location.…During the course of the winter of 1974 and the spring of 1975, these four rockets sent parts of the base to the planned location of this first lunar base, which was going to be at, of course, Tycho crater, the landing location scouted out for this purpose by Apollo 20. Then, on August 3, 1975, the crew of Tycho 1 started their trip to Tycho base. The two man crew finished most of the assembly of Tycho Base, and the crew of Tycho 2, launched September 5, 1975, finished the rest of the assembly. Tycho base was now ready for long term habitation of the lunar surface. Apollo Phase 4 proved that lunar surface rendezvous was possible, and that a base could be assembled on the lunar surface from parts sent in multiple rockets to the surface. This capability was required to build Tycho base, and it was required for the 12 separate crewed Lunar Landers that visited Tycho Base from 1975 until 1980. Additionally, in 1977, a second base was built near Tsiolkovskiy crater on the far side, the back side, of the moon. This base required communications satellites in orbit in order for it to communicate with humans on earth, or for that matter, with humans on Tycho base on the front side. This new, opposite side of the moon, base was named Borman-Lovell-Anders, or BLA for short, after the crew of Apollo 8. These three men were the first humans to ever see the far side of the moon. This base had 10 separate 2-person crews land and occupy the base from 1977 until 1981.Post DocumentaryThat was the documentary from Belitopia, describing how the early days of Apollo.From Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, to Tycho 10’s 242 day stay on the lunar surface, the Project Apollo lunar program was highly successful.As we will learn in later episodes, however, lunar exploration was not the only accomplishment and outcome of project Apollo. There were many more interesting outcomes. Real life cancelled plans, but plans that in the world of Belitopia, actually happened.But, that’s for future episodes.If you are intrigued by this enhanced Apollo program and enhanced Apollo voyages to the moon in the world of Belitopia, and would like to see more information on these missions, including a discussion with dates of each of the missions to Tycho Base and Borman-Lovell-Anders Base, please go to our website at That’s, slash a-p-o-l-l-o.This week in Belitopia history 2025May 1st, 2025. The day of the signing of the CAWA Declaration of Freedom Act. This day for ever more would be known as Uno de Mayo.On this day, California and Washington State officially declared their independence from the United States. They create CAWA, a loose alliance of cooperation and support between the two newly created nation-states.To add insult to injury, the United Nations agreed, via a near unanimous vote, to...
This is the world of “what if”. What if we had continued the space race, what would our space footprint look like? What if we had invested heavily in a transportation infrastructure around the globe, how would that change how we get from point A to point B today? What if we decided as a species that world hunger was not acceptable, how would we have solved it with technology? What if we had solved the autonomous car problem 50 years ago, how would that have changed how we worked and played today? What if sustainable energy was standard practice for a generation, how would that change how we interacted in our world today?How would our world be better? How would it be worse? How would it be, just different? Belitopia is this world, this world where the what if’s come true, and the world is a better place, a worse place, a different place.In season one of Belitopia, we look at the space program. What if the space race had continued after Apollo? What if we continued to invest in the space program at the same or greater levels than we did previously? Many experts believe that every dollar we invest in the space program, returns 8-10 dollars in improved technologies to our world. What if we truly recognized that and invested significantly greater amounts of money in the space program? What if we discovered that there are natural resources in space that are worth pursuing. Resources that can solve our energy problems, our food problems. Resources that were economically viable to pursue.It’s not utopia, it’s not dystopia. It’s believable science fiction. This is Belitopia.TranscriptWhat if…things were different…What if…different decisions were made, important decisions, in our world…What if…our leaders made different choices?What if…different political and social climates existed in our world, with different priorities and different expectations?What would be changed and what would be the same?Welcome to the world of what if…Much of science fiction is based either on a utopian view of the world, or, as happens in much of modern science fiction, on a dystopian view of the world:a natural disasterthe zombie apocalypsedisease, sufferingThe world is either unbelievably great…or unbelievably bad.There doesn’t seem to be much in the middle.But what if we looked at science fiction with neither a negative nor a positive bias?What if we instead looked at…a realistic world....a believable world.This is that world…the world of Belitopia.In season one of Belitopia, we look at the space program.What if the space race had continued after Apollo?What if we continued to invest in the space program at the same or greater levels than we did previously?Many experts believe that every dollar we invest in the space program, returns 8-10 dollars in improved technologies to our world. What if we truly recognized that and invested significantly greater amounts of money in the space program?What if we discovered that there are natural resources in space that are worth pursuing. Resources that can solve our energy problems, our food problems. Resources that were economically viable to pursue.Bottom line, what if we believed it was worth our while investing in space and space technology?We’ll explore what happens to the Apollo space program with continued funding.What happens to our long term plans for exploring the lunar surface?What about space stations? Skylab? And what about the space station Freedom?We’ll talk about the Apollo Applications Program, an ill-fated and under funded program with vast plans for continued space exploration. In this new world, these programs are carried thru, fully funded, enhanced, and expanded.What is this Venus Flyby mission? How does that change the excitement of space? How did that bring back the energy and vibrancy that the world felt after we landed on the moon? How did this mission provide additional fuel towards an accelerated space program?And what about our long desired journey to Mars?What about permanent settlements in space? Research stations? Transit centers? Lunar bases? An L5 transportation hub?What about greatly accelerated electronics, computers, and even greater miniaturization technologies?But this isn’t regular science fiction. This isn’t a pure imagination world. It’s a world that could have happened, perhaps should have happened, if only a few things had been different. It’s the dream of a space age that meets its promise and exceeds its expectations.Our story will be presented in the form of a mock documentary series, taking place in the future, that looks back at the history of our modified world. Looking back at it’s presence in outer space.This is the world of Belitopia.Welcome to the world of what if…      This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis: Chartable - -
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Podcast Details

Created by
Lee Atchison
Podcast Status
Sep 28th, 2019
Latest Episode
Mar 3rd, 2020
Release Period
2 per month
Avg. Episode Length
23 minutes
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