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The Hammer and Sickle with the Stars.

Joshuapooleanox

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There was a proposal for a joint lunar mission during the early 1960s between the United States of America, and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This proposal involved pooling the resources together for one trip. John F. Kennedy proposed this to the United Nations, but Khrushchev turned down the proposal as this was at the height of the space race.

However, his eldest son later said that Khrushchev had actually had second thoughts, and was ready to accept the proposal by November 1963. For those who know dates, this was the month in which JFK was shot in Dallas, Texas.

Perhaps one of the most underrated scenarios in my opinion, as while many people have said 'What if Kennedy wasn't assassinated', this is by far my favourite sub-scenario within that broader question.

How could our view of the Space Race, the Cold War, Space Travel or even humanity itself changed as a result of this mission?
 
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Ysengrimus

Active member
What a fascinating idea!
The idea of a shared or coordinated space flight with Khrushchev's Soviet Union is a fascinating idea. The idea has a lot of appeal--both from an optics perspective, and from a practical standpoint. If there can be peace between nuclear powers, what better way to show trust than in a place with no borders to infringe on?
A part of the feasibility of this shared initiative, would be, I believe, the unique place that space holds in the collective imagination of mankind. It is a place with limitless possibilities--from utopians to Posadists and labor unions on Mars popularized by Joe Hill during the 1930s. (Tangent: there is a wonderful paper on the imaginative pull of space for social engineering found HERE that lays it out quite well). Space, in other words, especially at the time, was viewed as a limitless frontier.
Now, let us imagine what a successful joint mission between the Americans under Kennedy and Khrushchev might reap. Let's for the sake of argument, say that the two great powers collaborate on putting a living creature on the moon. The United States managed it in 1969--with doubled resources and coordination, let's be optimists and say that cuts a manned moon-landing time in half--say 1966 instead of 1969. But up to then, there are bi-annual or annual combined missions between the USSR and USA exclusively in space. This help normalize relations--make this less of a one-time team up, and more the norm when it comes to space.
Lets dream big and say that the initial cooperation works with satellites--and proves successful enough to warrant a manned mission to the moon. Americans and Soviets both.
This kind of big-science and propaganda could keep Khrushchev in power past his 1964 deposal date, by Brezhnev and the KGB. Kennedy was similarly uneasy with the seemingly free rein the CIA had in American policy, saying on several occasion he wanted the agency brought down to size and under control. The conservatives and reactionaries of America would doubtless hammer the Kennedy--who likely would have won a second term in this reality--for being 'soft on the Commies.' But not all of America is conservative, and any reason to step away from nuclear armageddon would be welcomed. Kennedy would be able to slowly draw the teeth of the military industrial complex, if the shared theater of space becomes more accepted as a concept.
If there is finally a sphere where peace is the base state rather than the exception, that could change everything.
On the Soviet-side, a limited partnership--with good results--would allow Khrushchev a way to pivot from some of his less successful policies--like trying to plant corn everywhere, even in places that weren't suited for it, and give him another cudgel to bludgeon Stalin's legacy with. It would provide him with cover against the hard-right factions of the Soviet government. With Khrushchev in power longer, with more international and political capital to spend on de-Stalinization, it is possible that the Khrushchev thaw would have time to recover from its early domestic blunders and bolster its image. The KGB's reach and teeth blunted, diminished. The regime that crushed the Hungarian revolt on 1956 could rehabilitate its international image as a country focused on progress. By focusing on the space race, Khrushchev could possibly de-escalate nuclear production--and do it under the guise of international cooperation, to show the world the USSR wanted peace.

Maybe we get a world without a Vietnam. Without escalation. We see an explosion of investment in space-tech, and far less in the creation of a cultural panopticon.
Perhaps the wall comes down in the seventies, rather than the late eighties.
What do you guys think? I'm just spit-balling here.
 
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Gary Oswald

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I suppose I'm quite cynical about this in that we had join american-soviet space mission in the 1970s and it didn't really change much about the cold war. Yeah Khrushchev isn't Brezhnev but it feels like exactly the sort of thing hardliners on both sides would attack and would be scrapped as red meat for them.

Especially if the US economy collapses thanks to the salad oil swindle.
 

Coiler

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I suppose I'm quite cynical about this in that we had join american-soviet space mission in the 1970s and it didn't really change much about the cold war.
I think that it would probably fall through with escalation in Vietnam or any other international incident, even if it initially was agreed upon. There'd also be legitimate suspicions towards any deep cooperation (which would involve technological access) beyond just "dock the capsules" which make me even more skeptical.
 

Ysengrimus

Active member
Fair enough, I think. There is absolutely a strong case to be made for the fact that nothing would fundamentally change, even with active and solicitous cooperation between the USA and USSR regarding space-travel.
But I like to think that Khrushchev, an engineer at heart, would welcome a sphere where technical mastery could stand in for military power. A sphere of influence that doesn't necessarily have military overtones at the time--besides the rockets used to get that high, obviously--could alter the dialogue between Soviet and Western Blocks.
I wonder, also, if this doesn't accelerate the Sino-Soviet split in the Communist world. Mao would be apoplectic at the idea of any sort of cooperation with the USA or Europe, and this division would change the Soviet political calculus, to my way of thinking. Then again, Mao was notoriously hard-nosed about anything other than total war with America at one time, and loathed Khrushchev--a feeling that was returned. If China splits with Russia on ideological lines on what a good communist should do, would they, not the Russians, supply the North Vietnamese in this universe's Vietnam? Would Vietnam still go down the way it did, with both Khrushchev and Kennedy in control of the two superpowers--and if so, how could they justify to their constituents fighting on earth, but peace in space? It's a fun thought experiment, I think. What do you guys think?
 

Gary Oswald

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If space is shared I'm not sure we ever land on the moon. If the super powers are not trying to out do the other why bother?
I dunno Kennedy's already set his stall on getting to the moon in the 1960s.

Judging by the space articles I've proofread for this site, NASA was already changing all their plans to meet that target before this pod.
 

Usili

Testing Is Underway
To go and answer this, imho it's a non-starter just because of Congress. Like for example in a NASA appropriation bill passed in 1963, it had this language as part of it: "No part of any appropriation made available to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by this Act shall be used for expenses of participating in a manned lunar landing to be carried out jointly by the United States and any other country without consent of the Congress." (Sourced from The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, here.)

Even if for some reason you did see a joint lunar landing, the timetable wouldn't move more to the left and earlier in the 1960s and instead it'd move to the right and later in the 1970s in my view. There was a huge mire of reasons that you had the landing in 1969 rather than earlier, with the biggest being that the Lunar Module was the pacing item for the lunar landing, and there simply wasn't any way you could push it along faster than it was. Plus there's also the fact that in terms of having to manage a joint international program, would cause delays in terms of trying to solve the technical issues and also in terms of impact to other things, like for example, lunar mapping, as the Lunar Orbiter satellites for the US explicitly used NRO cameras and thus held at the highest classification level, and so I doubt in a joint lunar landing, that the NRO would be willing to contribute it since the Soviets would then be able to figure out how detailed the NRO's own spy satellites were for mapping the Soviet Union. Like, the public lunar images were intentionally downgraded from the Lunar Orbiter, as for example with this image, the top one was the publicly released image by NASA in the 60s while the bottom one was what released in 2008:



This article goes to discuss it a bit: http://www.worldofindie.co.uk/?p=682
 

Charles EP M.

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It does seem extremely unlikely this lasts for very long: too many people would be leery and the Cold War would throw up too many disruptions. But I wonder what that does in the long term? A lot of people will have just seen the superpowers try to come together on a thing humans tended to agree on ("space is cool let's send a guy there") and it failed. What impact on Cold War politics and pop culture? Does this harm detente, "it failed before", or help it because people see it as a second chance?
 

Coiler

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What impact on Cold War politics and pop culture? Does this harm detente, "it failed before", or help it because people see it as a second chance?
Probably very little, people will assume that it never had a chance and it'll be just a small historical moment, the kind that gets a very brief mention in history books.
 

Joshuapooleanox

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Looking back at this scenario, unfortunately while its not realistic, my brain's imagining a glorious or optimistic future with a UN space mission. Something about the idea of the project being expanded into a UN Permanent Security Council mission, with five astronauts/cosmonauts one from each nation, landing the UN flag on the surface of the moon is just so novel to me.

I know its bitterly unrealistic and sounds like more like a far off sci-fi intro than an actual alternate history scenario but if there's a way to make a blessed future of international cooperation and space travel I'd love to see you try. Imagining a UN base on the moon is just pretty novel.
 
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