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A three way space race - with a twist (NASA vs AEC vs USAF)

Archibald

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Yesterday I was reading George Dyson fantastic book about Project Orion, the nuclear pulse space battleship.

One of the most fascinating part is that peculiar moment in history when Apollo, NERVA and Orion somewhat collided, around 1963. They mention how, inside NASA, Harold Finger opposed Orion for NERVA, while the entire NASA was committed to Apollo, budget-wise at least.

Something fascinating I had not realized before - at some point Saturn V (or the S-IC at least) had all three programs riding on it -
Apollo, NERVA (RIFT and RNS) and the mini-Orion.

So as said in the title... USAF push for Orion is more successfull, and with NASA committed to Apollo, NERVA returns to AEC. A truce is found: Apollo and chemical props will stop at the Moon, NERVA will go to Mars, and Orion will go everywhere else. And all three will try to make best use of th existing Saturn V, eventually uprated variants.
 

RanulfC

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Yesterday I was reading George Dyson fantastic book about Project Orion, the nuclear pulse space battleship.

One of the most fascinating part is that peculiar moment in history when Apollo, NERVA and Orion somewhat collided, around 1963. They mention how, inside NASA, Harold Finger opposed Orion for NERVA, while the entire NASA was committed to Apollo, budget-wise at least.

Something fascinating I had not realized before - at some point Saturn V (or the S-IC at least) had all three programs riding on it -
Apollo, NERVA (RIFT and RNS) and the mini-Orion.

So as said in the title... USAF push for Orion is more successfull, and with NASA committed to Apollo, NERVA returns to AEC. A truce is found: Apollo and chemical props will stop at the Moon, NERVA will go to Mars, and Orion will go everywhere else. And all three will try to make best use of th existing Saturn V, eventually uprated variants.
So the US also fails to get to the Moon by the end of the deadline as well? :)

Seriously, while Orion could get a boost from committed Air Force funding keep in mind this was prior to ramping up in Vietnam, but this likely means that NERVA is butterflied away as NASA can't afford it during Apollo and AEC support was sperodic due to commitments for other research. In the end with Orion you have no real need or justification to keep developing NERVA. The other problem here is if Orion remains in AF hands it's going to be used as the basis for the Deep Space Deterrent Force and NASA isnt' going to have anything to do with that by design. Nor are they likely to be allowed anymore than NASA was to look beyond that particiualar role either. And that's before we discuss how destabilizing nuclear policy and geo-politically Orion is in and of itself in addition to its infrastructure and support systems.

While I've toyed with a scenerio where McNamara convinces Kennedy that building Orion is plausible and feasible, especailly with a commitment to a longer term goal that just landing a man on the moon and bringing him back to the Earth. The key issue is both to get the USAF to help fund things and THEN ensure it's taken away from them before it becomes the nuclear nightmare they envisioned it to be. Additionally as this takes place prior to the Moon landing decision NASA is then focused on Earth-To-Orbit travel in support of the Orion deep-spacecraft.

Unfortunatly I have to leave that situation on a cliff-hanger because the decision to go with Orion and the stars or the Moon and likely not much else is neither straight forward nor is is clear cut political choice.

Randy
 
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