Belitopia
Belitopia
Oct 8, 2019
Belitopia S1E1 – Apollo +
Play episode · 25 min

 

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 belitopia.com/apollo.

Transcript

What 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 Episode

Hello 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.

Documentary

Entering 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 I

The 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 II

The 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 III

Phase 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 IV

Apollo 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 Documentary

That 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 belitopia.com/apollo. That’s belitopia.com, slash a-p-o-l-l-o.

This week in Belitopia history 2025

May 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...

More episodes
Search
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu