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Is this alternate history I came up with plausible? What holes does it have? Are some events very unlikely to happen, even impossible? Should I change some dates of some events?

Most of my knowledge is in Science, not in History.

Note that this would be in a history timeline of a wikipedia-like website.

EDIT: At the end, I have summed up the big problems you guys pointed out for me for this story.

Take your time to read this story, and while I would like to have some criticism and feedback, please do have fun too, its the main goal of my story after all.

The history of the Great Cataclysm:

April 28th 1944: During "Exercise Tiger", 1000 allied soldiers were ambushed and killed by german E-boats. One of the commanding officers survived and were captured by germans. The officer, under threat and torture, ceded to the germans, which now knew the plans of Operation Overlord. To keep this a secret, the germans drowned the officer and set up his corpse to be washed on the shore of Portland, England, later to be discovered by the allies. The allies, fearing the germans' knowledge about the Normandy Invasions, leaked information about "Operation Fortitude" and turned it into a double-deception. The allies were now preparing to land both on Normandy and Norway.

June 17th 1944: 2 Panzer divisions and 10 airbourne brigades are sent to Calais and Normandy to defend against the Allies.

June 6th 1944: The Normandy landings were a massacre. Every landing failed except Juno and Sword, which were much less defended. The remnants of the Omaha, Utah and Gold beach were relocated into a single spearhead through Sword beach. A large stalemate ensued. On the side of the Norway Landings, things were going well. Most of the Norwegian soldiers surrendered to the allies, they would now fight against the Germans.

October 28th 1944: Seeing the overwhelming allied forces landing in Norway, and under pressure from the allied countries, Sweden grants free passage for the allies. Taken by surprise, the germans relocated most of their forces defending the Netherlands border to Hamburg. Again, a large stalemate ensued during the siege of Hamburg, causing a death toll of 100 000 civilians.

January 15th 1945: With the advancing Russians, more and more german troops were relocated to the eastern front.

March 30th 1945: As it was more and more obvious that Hamburg was about to fall, Wernher von Braun and his team were relocated to Berlin, under the orders of Himmler.

July 2nd 1945: Berlin fell to the soviets. As they marched through Berlin, von Braun was found hiding in a bunker with his family, he was captured and sent to Russia.

August 6th 1945: The first use of nuclear weapons in warfare is recorded. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are bombed by the Americans. This would spark a new age of warfare.

December 23th 1947: The first transistor is invented by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain.

Late 1950s: Proxy wars in the world are intensifying, and the United States, under pressure after the soviets had successfully launched the first Man in space, were desperately funding for the Lunar Missions. The soviets, having von Braun on their side, quickly developed a working prototype of the N1 Rocket, which spawned the N2 rocket, powerful enough to send people to the moon.

February 14th 1970: The soviets broadcast to the whole world the first time man had set foot on the moon.

1971: Kennedy, under huge reprisal over the failure of the Lunar missions, promised to send people to Mars by 1976. To do so, the NASA was disbanded, and the government started funding commercial spaceflight.

1972: A group of hobbyists successfully hacked an open-hardware radio into a wireless modem. They demonstrated in a science fair two computers communicating with each other. They would later found the company WorldNet Ltd.

1973: Sparked by the necessity of lightweight and powerful computers to be used in spaceflight, the Microprocessor is invented, and put to large-scale testing by the US government.

1974: The Space Instruments Co. is founded. The personal computer is introduced to the global market.

1976: The first demonstration of asteroid mining is recorded. Rudimentary, but crucial to the commercialization of spaceflight.

1977: One year late, the first humans landed on Mars. Americans. However, it was only for show, and no permanent colony was established. This was ridiculed by the Russians, who had successfully established a helium-3 mining colony on the moon.

1981: To assist their space station project, the soviets built the KOM200, the world's first Teraflop supercomputer.

1986: Both the US and Russia launched their interplanetary space stations, each equipped with refineries, living quarters and enough supplies for 2000 people. Both were set on lagrange points near asteroids.

1988: While going through the digital revolution, China began mass-producing electronics, filling the big demand gap. Its GDP increased a hundred-fold in a few years, quickly surpassing those of Russia and the US, albeit to the detriment of its people.

1989: China successfully launches its first research-based space station.

March 12th 1990: South Korea's president is assassinated. The country goes into martial law. At the same time, North Korea invades Seoul with an army of over 800 000 people. This is the start of the second Korean War.

November 21th 1990: Seeing the US intervening in the Korean War, Russia prepares 10 nuclear missiles to be sent to Cuba.

January 1st 1991

3:00 AM: Disaster. One of the Russian nuclear missiles goes missing. The same day, a 10Mt nuclear explosion is seen on the coast of Florida. According to the scholarly estimates of the 2105 study by Roch, Wenn et Al., 714 201 people were instantly killed, 3 329 210 people died later due to complications. It is still unclear to this day how the soviets lost a nuclear bomb that day. See '91 Nuclear Conspiracy.

11:00 AM: NORAD goes in DEFCON 1. Fighter jets are deployed, as well as nuclear submarines.

12:00 PM: While Russia is still trying to figure out what happened, the reflection of the sun on a spy satellite triggers an alarm in the Perimeter system of the Russians. Without confirmation, the Russians sends an anti-ballistic missile in self-defense.

12:05 PM: Under DEFCON 1, high command mistakes the anti-ballistic missile for a second nuclear strike, and the President of the United States authorizes the launch of all its nuclear arsenal in retaliation of the Russian attack on their soil.

January 2st 1991: A full-scale nuclear war starts between Russia and the US.
Over 56 000 000 people are killed overnight. Every major city was hit, and more than 3 Billion died over the world during following years.

Death Statistics:
Shockwave: 56 184 000 Citation needed?
Fallout: 952 000 000
Food Blight: 542 810 000
Anarchy: 1 250 000 000

1992: After the devastation of the Great Nuclear War, every remnant of Russia, Europe, China, US, and South America coalesced into 3 Major Factions. The UNFT(America), RLSS(Europe, Russia), Klan(Asia, Oceania).

1993: Massive-scale disasters starts to occur on Earth, due to Food Blight, Radiation, Aerosols, etc. Scientists at that time estimated that the Earth would become inhospitable within 10 years.

1995: As the conditions on earth further deteriorated, 7 Huge spaceships were built and desperately aimed to send the people off Earth.

UNFTS Eden: 67 309 012 people on board,
Ownership: UNFT
Destination: Mars
Type: Self-Sustained Ground Colony

UNFTS Proxima: 31 200 914 people on board,
Ownership: UNFT
Destination: Titan
Type: Semi-Sustained Ground Colony

RLSS-C спаситель: 152 017 220 people on board,
Ownership: RLSS
Destination: Mars
Type: Orbital-Ground Hybrid Colony

KSS 乡四号: 91 247 010 people on board,
Ownership: Klan
Destination: Mars
Type: Domed City

KSS 金三号: 56 380 545 people on board,
Ownership: Klan
Destination: Venus
Type: Cloud-Top Colony

KSS 天二号: 11 670 418 people on board,
Ownership: Klan
Destination: Enceladus
Type: Self-Sustained Underwater Colony

UTC Freedom: 675 211 people on board,
Ownership: Private
Destination: Mars
Type: Colony

TBC...

EDIT:
To sum up, the current problems found within the story are:

  • Too much credit given to von Braun. (thanks @kingledion, @Schwern)

    (I would like my story to at least start in WWII, timeline diverges there. It's like chaos theory, one small thing happens, ends up with us destroying the planet.)

  • Reason for commercial initiative of space exploration/space mining

  • Reasons for the quick development of Computers/Microprocessors

  • Reasons that China became a big player in 10 years earlier than in our timeline

  • What are the Economical/Political/Socio/ecological reasons to abandon earth?

Small details I will definitively correct:

  1. Discrepancies in WWII (thanks @Schwern)

  2. Ridiculous death numbers (@Schwern, @a4android, @Zxyrra)

  3. Mass evacuation due to ecological disaster (It would rather be political reasons, or because they didn't have a better alternative) (@a4android) (Also note that I might change it so it explicitly says the spaceships were built in space, or on the moon, unharmed by the nuclear winter. By that time, the moon colonies had 700 000 people already.

  4. The Americans never capture von Braun, Korolev doesn't die. This way space race would have been extended without all the discrepancies.

Thanks for all the help, a lot of mistakes were pointed out that I didn't even notice.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Oct 23 '16 at 18:17

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The story can be summed up as follows.

  1. Von Braun is captured by the Soviets, not the Americans.
  2. Failure to beat the Soviets to the Moon extends the Space Race.
  3. An extended Space Race means space colonies are feasible in the 80s.
  4. Nuclear war happens, the Earth is rendered uninhabitable.
  5. The remnants of humanity launch colony ships into space.

But really it can be summed up in the last two parts: the Earth is uninhabitable, they send colony ships into space.

Is this plausible? I dunno. But I can go through the proposed history point by point for obvious flaws.


The allies, fearing the germans' knowledge about the Normandy Invasions, leaked information about "Operation Fortitude" and turned it into a double-deception.

Ok, pretty clever reversal of Operation Mincemeat. But...

The allies were now preparing to land both on Normandy and Norway.

Simultaneously? They didn't have the transports. Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France, had to wait two months after Overlord.

June 6th 1944: The Normandy landings were a massacre.

...if the Allies thought secrecy was lost, why did they invade anyway?

June 17th 1944: 2 Panzer divisions and 10 airbourne brigades are sent to Calais and Normandy to defend against the Allies.

I think you mean May 17th?

I don't know that Germany had "10 airbourne brigades" or Airborne brigades at all. They had Fallschirmjäger regiments and divisions.

At that time they had six Fallschirmjäger divisions, but two (5th and 6th) had just been formed (in France) and were not ready for combat. The 1st and 4th were tied up in Italy defending Rome. The 2nd was in Normandy already.

That leaves just the 3rd Division cooling its heels in Brest. They could have been transferred.

You might want to go with something more like: several Panzer and Panzergrenadier (ie. mobile infantry) divisions from Calais, plus the 3rd Fallschirmjäger division from Brest.

Furthermore, German reserves were tied up by Hitler's insistence that Normandy was a feint at the real landing would come at Calais. He withheld his reserves for weeks. You could tweak history very slightly by either A) the intelligence about Normandy means Hitler knows it's the real landing and releases the reserves, or B) the reserves are put under the discretion of the military commanders.

This would give the Normandy defenses a mobile reaction force to reinforce the beaches on day one. They would have backed up the very shaky coastal infantry divisions, and counter attacked to split the landing.

October 28th 1944: Seeing the overwhelming allied forces landing in Norway, and under pressure from the allied countries, Sweden grants free passage for the allies. Taken by surprise, the germans relocated most of their forces defending the Netherlands border to Hamburg.

Free passage to where? Why were the Germans defending the Netherlands border? Was there an implied amphibious invasion of Denmark?

July 2nd 1945: Berlin fell to the soviets. As they marched through Berlin, von Braun was found hiding in a bunker with his family, he was captured and sent to Russia.

Was the point of all that just so Von Braun is in Berlin and captured by the Soviets instead of the Americans? You can tidy things up just by starting there.

The soviets, having von Braun on their side, quickly developed a working prototype of the N1 Rocket, which spawned the N2 rocket, powerful enough to send people to the moon.

IMO this is overstating the role of von Braun, overstating the feasibility of the rushed N1 rocket, and understating the mess that was the Soviet rocket program. Maybe von Braun's personality and management would have fixed all this, but it more likely would have gotten him shot.

This also subscribes to Great Man History which has been largely debunked. I think you need more than one man switching sides to change the course of the Soviet lunar program.

1971: Kennedy, under huge reprisal over the failure of the Lunar missions, promised to send people to Mars by 1976. To do so, the NASA was disbanded, and the government started funding commercial spaceflight.

In 1971 there was a lot of basic research yet to be done on putting humans into space. I'm not sure commercial spaceflight in 1971 was feasible, let alone profitable. With the US defeated in the race to the moon, I don't know there would have been commercial excitement about space to bring in the investors.

1981: To assist their space station project, the soviets built the KOM200, the world's first Petaflop supercomputer.

We didn't have teraFLOP computers until 1996 and petaFLOP computers until 2006. This seems a bit much.

1986: Both the US and Russia launched their interplanetary space stations, each equipped with refineries, living quarters and enough supplies for 2000 people. Both were set on lagrange points near asteroids.

I assume you mean the Earth L4 and L5 points. We only know of one Earth trojan asteroid, 2010 TK7. But it's orbit is so inclined it's expensive to get to. It's also only about 300 meters wide.

You're better off choosing any number of Near Earth Asteroids.

Also you skipped the bit where they somehow launch and supply 2000 people.

1988: While going through the digital revolution, China began mass-producing electronics, filling the big demand gap. Its GDP increased a hundred-fold in a few years, quickly surpassing those of Russia and the US, albeit to the detriment of its people.

A hundred-fold increase in GDP in a few years is crazy. Dial it back.

You need to set up institutions to educate and train people, create materials, train those people, set up factories, invent products, iterate on them... ten, twenty years?

November 21th 1990: Seeing the US intervening in the Korean War, Russia prepares 10 nuclear missiles to be sent to Cuba.

Why? They have six ballistic nuclear submarines for a quick strike.

3:00 AM: Disaster. One of the Russian nuclear missiles goes missing. The same day, a 10Mt nuclear explosion is seen on the coast of Florida. According to the scholarly estimates of the 2105 study by Roch, Wenn et Al., 1 214 201 people were instantly killed, 6 329 210 people died later due to complications. It is still unclear to this day why the soviets lost a nuclear bomb that day. See 91 Nuclear Conspiracy.

There are problems with this. First, a 10Mt nuke is pretty rare. Big nukes are inefficient, so once we were done using nukes as a radioactive dick waving contest we went with smaller ones. And they're really big requiring an ICBM like the R-36. Not something you can just ship to Cuba and set up, or put on a submarine. It's more likely to be in the 100kT range.

Second, the biggest population center in Florida is Jacksonville and that's only 850,000 people. How does it kill the rest? And it kills a 1/3 of the population of Florida? This is a bit much.

We have the lovely NukeMap to simulate nuking cities. Hitting Jacksonville results in 250,000 dead and 250,000 injured. Most of the fallout blows out to sea.

Nuking Miami leads to 470,000 dead and 670,000 injured. Again, most of the fallout blows out to sea.

And so on. Play with NukeMap some. Scale back the casualties.

1993: Massive-scale disasters starts to occur on Earth, due to Food Blight, Radiation, Aerosols, Unpredictable Continental Drift, etc. Scientists at that time estimated that the Earth would become inhospitable within 10 years.

Unpredictable Continental Drift? No, continental drift is VERY pretty predictable. No, the entire nuclear arsenal of the Earth won't change the movement of the continents.

1995: As the conditions on earth further deteriorated, 7 Huge spaceships were built and desperately aimed to send the people off Earth.

Where are they going?


Whew! That was a lot. And it can all be summed up: there was a nuclear war, Earth is uninhabitable, the warring factions send colony ships into space.

I would advise that since most of that back story is rendered irrelevant in the end, go with the old soft sci-fi axiom: don't explain it. The more you explain, the more opportunity for holes. The more holes, the more you strain your audience's suspension of disbelief. The more the audience is trying to follow an alternate history back story, the less they're paying attention to the real story.

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    $\begingroup$ If I had the rep to upvote, I would upvote this answer 10 times :P $\endgroup$ – Bloc97 Oct 21 '16 at 4:30
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    $\begingroup$ Also, historically, the actual rockets was possibly the soviets strongest point. It's much easier to argue that the americans had better control systems than it is to say that they had better rockets. $\endgroup$ – Taemyr Oct 21 '16 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ The allies would have known that Normandy had been blown, from the Ultra decodes of Enigma and less-known decryption of other ciphers. The Germans should not have learned about Ultra from their captured officer, because he seems to have been commanding a landing unit, and nobody in any position to get captured was allowed to know the Ultra secret. Separately, the good Soviet rockets were re-purposed ICBMs. The N-1 was not, which is why it had inadequate budget, and thus inadequate testing. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Oct 21 '16 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ To make matters worse, I'm pretty sure NukeMap uses current population statisitics. In 1990 the population of Florida was only 1/2 of the current level. So the original numbers are more like 75% of the entire Florida population. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Oct 21 '16 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ Instead of all the machinations to get von Braun to the Soviets, you would probably have an equally large effect on their space program if you kept Korolev alive. $\endgroup$ – Skyler Oct 21 '16 at 14:52
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This answer shall deal with only a few possible holes in this fictional timeline, based on extrapolations from known facts or general sets of circumstances.

If Normandy failed, it is likely that victory over Germany would be achieved mainly by Soviet forces. This probably suggests that most of Europe will be under Soviet control, not just East Europe. There may not be a Marshall Plan to revive Western Europe economically and politically as bulwark against the Iron Curtain nations. Further research into the historical background of WWII will be needed to confirm or negate these propositions.

It is fallacy that the Soviets used their German rocket engineers to develop the Soviet space program. The Russians didn't trust the Germans. Instead they made the German rocket specialists to train Russians who then worked on Soviet rockets. They would have done the same with von Braun. Would Himmler have ordered von Braun and his team to Berlin. And why?

A Soviet Union that prosecuted a longer and more protracted war against Germany would be further weakened economically and in terms of manpower loss. Also, its resources would have been stretched to control an expanded iron Curtain. This makes the likelihood of a Soviet space program somewhat less. Although this can be argued against on the grounds that a enlarged Iron Curtain would have provoked a stronger anti-Soviet response from the USA and what survived of the West (say, UK and France). This might mean a more heated Cold War.

If a Soviet Union had space stations and a helium-3 mining lunar colony, it is incredibly unlikely that in 1991 they would attack the USA with nuclear-armed bombers. Suborbital delivery systems like ICBMs would be the preferred option.

Unpredictable continental drift is a geophysical absurdity, even in an alternative 1993. This is one of the least likely after-effects of nuclear war. The other after-effects in 1993 are plausible consequences of a nuclear winter. Your version of a nuclear war seems more widespread and intense than World War Three might have been in ours.

Mass evacuations into space post-nuclear apocalypse are unlikely. Colonization programs of this kind are massively resource intensive and require an extensive and stable infrastructure from which they can be launched. This won't exist in the aftermath of a nuclear war. If those resources could be mobilized they would be better spent on rebuilding the post-war world. Most political leaders will think so. This doesn't prevent the leadership of the three power blocs being so space-mad that they launch their massive colonization efforts. It's just that leaders like this are easily replaced by their politically opportunistic opponents and subordinates.

Perhaps if your version of the Cold War led to a massive colonization push prior to the Great Cataclysm of 1991, then this would be more plausible.

Please take this answer as a set of suggestions. It's your alternative history, after all. There will always be ways around any objection.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this long and well thoughted-out answer. As I am keen on making the story as plausible as possible, I'll have to revise the reasons people mass-evacuated the earth. Do you have any suggestions? Could a nuclear war make the planet so unhabitable that evacuation would be justified? $\endgroup$ – Bloc97 Oct 21 '16 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ There is one possibility. First, assume your proposed space colonization projects are well progressed pre-war. Allow for a nuclear winter en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter on a scale where the tipping point for firesoot aerosol removal is passed and a protracted winter follows leading to ecological collapse globally. Otherwise it could be due to a doomsday device en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_device like the cobalt bomb en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobalt_bomb, but this might be overkill. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 21 '16 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ Paragraph 2 is correct IMO. By 1944, we were already fighting the Russians, really. We had to get to inland. Otherwise Europe would have been a source of labor, food, and materials for an emboldened USSR. $\endgroup$ – Tony Ennis Oct 22 '16 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ A Soviet Union that prosecuted a longer and more protracted war against Germany would be further weakened economically and in terms of manpower loss. Also, its resources would have been stretched to control an expanded iron Curtain. Not necessarily. If they got all of Germany, that is a lot of manpower and industry under their control. USSR economic growth existed from 1945 up to around the 70's when Brezhnev stagnation occurred. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 9 '17 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ @DrZ214 Certainly: "Not necessarily." With alternative history it's possible to argue for possible outcomes to justify any given course of events. Your all Germany behind the Iron Curtain scenario is a plausible alt.history. Also, a Brezhnev-Kosygin free USSR might have avoided stagnation. All that can be done, so come up with plausible alternative historical proposals. Reality has a sneaky habit of upsetting our pet ideas. Your thoughtful comment is appreciated. $\endgroup$ – a4android Apr 10 '17 at 5:00
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Other answers have already covered a lot of stuff, so I'll limit myself to a few extras.

As far as von Braun's capture goes, he wasn't "found in a bunker" by the American army, he actively chose to go and find the Americans in order to surrender to them, because of the reputation of the Soviet army. He'd already been ordered back by Himmler, and had refused. So if your scenario supposes him being dragged back to Berlin against his will for a last-ditch fight against the Russians, the result will almost certainly be him attempting to jump ship to the Allies. It's more likely that he's executed than that he's captured by the Russians.

You also propose that Stalin would hang onto high-skilled captives like von Braun and use them to build a technological edge. However Stalin regularly purged high-skilled Soviet workers who were deemed too much of a threat, causing massive damage to the Soviet infrastructure through massive skills and personnel shortages. His successors were less overzealous that way, but still, the USSR was not generally a good place to be doing R&D and engineering. Von Braun making it through all this to lead a team seems highly unlikely.

The development of the microprocessor is entirely separate from space research. The two simply are not connected. In fact a lot of the component-shrinkage that went on with microprocessor development is the opposite of what is needed for a reliable space-based processor, because the smaller your transistors get, the more likely it is that cosmic rays and high-energy particles will corrupt your data. Put simply, microprocessor development can only happen on Earth, for Earth-based projects.

Space mining doesn't work. Simple as that. The cost to get equipment up there and mined product back doesn't stack up. A space elevator makes it a bit more cost-effective, but your timeline doesn't include one of them.

As for your factions, they simply don't work. A major fault is assuming that Europe would fall in with Russia. Given that the Allies are all still involved in WW2, Yalta will have a very similar outcome. Regardless of what happens to Germany, the rest of Europe (west of the Iron Curtain) will still align with the US and NATO, and will be full participants in the nuclear war. So, the chances of any European falling in with the people who've nuked their country to death? Zero, I'd assume.

The "Klan" has a similar problem, which is the old-fashioned Western assumption that all orientals are the same. The Japanese spent the whole first half of the 20th century crapping on everyone near them. Meantime the Chinese and Koreans don't get on that well either, and the entire Indian subcontinent (the most heavily populated place in the world, and also the place least likely to suffer in a nuclear war) has nothing in common with any of them. You also haven't covered the outcome of the Chinese civil war and the breakaway of Taiwan. These are not people who are going to happily share a rocket.

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    $\begingroup$ Is it really that unthinkable that after 1/3rd of the population of the world died, some might reconsider their political alignments? $\endgroup$ – Bloc97 Oct 21 '16 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Bloc97 The population of an entire continent reconsidering their collective political alignment to actively leave their existing alliance and join the people who nuked them, who run a political system which is entirely antithetical to the belief systems of all countries in that continent? I'd say that's pretty damn unlikely, yes. You might just about get the Chinese and Koreans to side with the Japanese if the Japanese own up to WW2 war crimes and play nice, but Europe joining the USSR is simply not on the cards ever. $\endgroup$ – Graham Oct 21 '16 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ Look at how fast the former Soviet Bloc nations joined NATO the moment the option was possible. While Russian propaganda insists this was a hostile act by NATO and the US to "encircle" Russia, the unpalatable truth for the Russians is very few people outside Russia actually like them. Samuel Huntington describes this as the "Clash of Civilizations", because the Orthodox, Slavic "civilization" does not share many of the assumptions "Western" civilization does. Europe will never willingly join with the Russians. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Oct 21 '16 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ Note that while development of the microprocessor might not be aided by additional funding of the space race, concerns about military superiority in the early/mid 50s could see a push towards miniaturisation at that point which might cause earlier invention of the integrated circuit (which was funded by a USAF project in the late 50s in reality). Although the proposed timeline has the microprocessor developed later (in 1973) than it was in reality (between 1969 and 1971, depending on whether you're talking about research prototypes or commercial production devices). $\endgroup$ – Periata Breatta Oct 23 '16 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ The development of the microprocessor is entirely separate from space research. The two simply are not connected. I'm afraid this is just wrong. The Apollo Guidance Computer was the first to use an Integrated Circuit. Miniaturiazation was absolutely driven by space tech as they needed the smallest, lightweight, and light-powered comps as possible. Cosmic rays did not stop Apollo. Apollo and computer were shielded since it was manned. It's unshielded, unmanned craft that usually have vulnerable chips. No argument with the rest of your post tho, especially commercial space mining. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 9 '17 at 10:56
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A couple of things:-

No officer that was on a boat during "Exercise Tiger" would have known where the landing was planned to happen - that was one of the biggest secrets of the war.

If the Nazis did manage to get one of the planners (and that's a big if) they'd have had to empty his brain before the 6th June (5 weeks) AND convince Hitler who was meddling in strategic decisions and convinced the attacks would come further North and that Normandy was just a feint like Dieppe.

Also, in April 1944 the actual date of the invasion was uncertain, even to the planners and depended on weather forecasts. Everyone (on both sides) knew that an invasion was going to happen, they just didn't know where or when.

Doing an invasion of Norway would have been extremely challenging due to the terrain and climate so I feel that's implausible too.

It doesn't destroy your fundamental premise though - which is good.

If you don't need von Braun, you don't need Norway and if you don't need Norway you can skip this bit and still be pretty on track.

One thing I remember reading years ago that might help was that the Russians made a decision to stick with valves rather than transistors back circa 1960 and it was this decision that crippled their electronics industry more than anything else. Maybe you could reverse that decision somehow and the Russians and Americans have a more even technology competition which should get you where you want.

Good luck

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    $\begingroup$ Everyone on both sides knew where the landing would happen: Pas de Calais. It just turned out that everyone was wrong. $\endgroup$ – Mark Oct 21 '16 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ "stick with valves rather than transistors". What does "valves" mean? Do you mean vacuum tubes? Vacuum tubes are much more resistant to the EMP of a nuclear blast, so that might explain it. Please clarify and link to something because I want to read more about the Russian electronic decisions and industry. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 9 '17 at 10:46
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A few things I think are not accurate:

  • You are giving a lot of credit to Von Braun. While Von Braun was the most important figure in the American space program, he probably wasn't the most important figure in the space race. That was Sergey Korolev, whose record speaks for itself. Beat Von Braun to space, beat Von Braun with the first man in space, etc. Korolev started having heart attacks in 1960, his health deteriorated in 1962, and he was dead in 1966. I don't think Von Braun going to the Soviets changes the timeline too much. Korolev (the actual Russian, not the hated German) would have still run the show in Russia, the US with all those European scientists that fled the Nazis in the 1930 would have found someone effective to lead the space program. Korolev not dying is probably a more realistic cause for Soviet space superiority.

  • The Soviets basically never showed any aptitude for computers. If the first western Petaflop computer was made in 2008 (as far as I can tell) expect the first Soviet version in 2050.

  • Even if the Soviets won the space race, they still had an unsustainable and horribly inefficient command economy. You never address the structural reasons that caused the Soviet Union to actually crumble.

  • China's economy didn't really open up until the 1990s. It was more or less a calculated move after Tienanmen to open the economy to forestall any more political upheaval. I don't see China getting into electronics mass production in the 1980s.

  • I don't know that spaceflight in the 70s required much computer-ing. They pretty much calculated trajectories before launch and the passengers were just bullets at that point. Those spacecraft didn't have the fuel capacity to do significant course correction burns, so not much demand for onboard trajectory calculations.

  • Defunding NASA and leaving Mars to the market doesn't sound like a great way to get to Mars.

Edit:

A group of hobbyists successfully hacked an open-hardware radio into a wireless modem.

I'm not super sure what this means. How about, "a bunch of researchers at some government lab or another make a wireless modem". Sounds pretty realistic.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great points, you guys sure know how to find the holes in this story. $\endgroup$ – Bloc97 Oct 21 '16 at 4:45
  • $\begingroup$ Tomorrow, I will correct most of the points you guys have given me, thanks for the help. How does this sound: Korolev dies, but then von Braun is given charge? All these points are valid, but I mean, without radical events happening in the story, it would be a tad bit boring... $\endgroup$ – Bloc97 Oct 21 '16 at 4:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Bloc97 "The Soviets basically never showed any aptitude for computers." I can't contest that because I haven't read much about it, but I will say the Soviets had great electronic engineering at least in 1945. They invented "The Thing": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thing_(listening_device) , basically a predecessor of RFID tech. Not sure why they never seemed to get great computers. Maybe Bloc97 can get some German electronic engineers in addition to or instead of von Braun. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 9 '17 at 10:29
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Theere is at least one more person who needs to be added to your contrafactual during the initial part of the Space Race: Bob Truax. The United States is going to need to make a massive jump to bypass the USSR in your scenario, and with mid 1960 to mid 1970 era technology, the only way to go is "big".

Enter the "Sea Dragon", a massive two stage rocket powered by "blow down" pressure fed rocket motors of enormous size and capable of launching 550 metric tons into LEO. The only way the United States is going to be able to accomplish the goals you have outlined in this future history (much less launch massive space colonies) is to build outlandishly huge rockets like this.

enter image description here

Sea Dragon to scale with a Saturn V

You can actually see the reasoning by looking at Elon Musk's "Interplanetary Transport System", which also uses a "Sea Dragon" sized booster to loft it's space capsule into orbit. The ITS, for all its huge size, can only carry up to 100 people, and even then needs similarly sized tankers to allow for fast transportation anywhere in the Solar System. In the era you are speaking of, and with the time frames available, assembling things in space will simply take too long, cost too much and have too much of a learning curve. Building large units and testing them on the ground gives a much better chance of success. (This should also give you an idea of just what sort of space systems will be feasible in your time line).

enter image description here

ITS spacecraft. Just add the booster capable of lifting 550 tons to orbit and a few tankers, and you're on your way...

Like most other readers, I am a bit critical of the idea that anyone will be building very capable and sophisticated spacecraft after global thermonuclear war. Sea Dragons could still be built, given they are designed around shipyard rather than aerospace tolerances, so any surviving ITS type spacecraft which somehow survived the holocaust could be mated to Sea Dragons and sent on their way.

A much more likely scenario is there are already a few, very small research stations set up around the Solar System, and the survivors on Earth are sending what amount to space barges filled with supplies to keep them going (550 tons of MRE's will last a very long time indeed). Without surviving space infrastructure or an astronaut corps to supervise refuelling in orbit, these things are going to be sent on minimum energy transfer orbits, taking years to arrive. You now have a nice set up for space piracy, privateers hijacking supplies destined for another colony and other scenarios.

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    $\begingroup$ Wish I could upvote this answer multiple times. The notion of building this kind of technology after a devastating nuclear war is simply crazy. You need the tech to be in place first, so need another reason why it will be necessary. And a reason why it was in a place that wasn't targetted in the war (i.e. why and how its existence was kept secret effectively, unless as suggested it's already in orbit ... and if it is in orbit, why it's beyond reach of the fighting). $\endgroup$ – Periata Breatta Oct 23 '16 at 8:16
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The core implausibility is the sending of spaceships many orders of magnitude larger than what we could currently achieve, after the nuclear war. I would assume that most of the relevant production facilities were destroyed and personnel killed. Even if they were somehow spared, they're in a society with less than no spare resources.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yep. No nuclear war if progress is to continue. $\endgroup$ – Tony Ennis Oct 22 '16 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ 3 billion human lives ended on [January 2nd 1991]. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Oct 24 '16 at 4:17
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Great thinking...

The only thing I am confused about is launching 675,211 people (UTC Freedom: Smallest) with an average weight of say 50 KG to space. I.e. with the technology of 1998 you need to launch 33.76 KT of cargo into space with life support and additional cargo for colonizing.

IMHO even with Project Orion I think it’s not possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ I guess those ships should now be only built in space and scrapped on arrival. It's feasible to launch numerous smaller rockets to send people onto the big ships, right? $\endgroup$ – Bloc97 Oct 21 '16 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ Only if you can build a lot of them, which means you'll be looking at manufacturing capacity issues. Building launch rockets is an expensive, time consuming process, and unless you ramp up the capacity slowly over a very long time it will take a lot of work. The alternative is having a truly reusable launch vehicle, something like the shuttle was originally planned to be, but that would be an expensive project to organise, and I doubt the finance could have been available along with a mars mission at the same time. $\endgroup$ – Periata Breatta Oct 23 '16 at 8:42
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I think the most gaping hole in this is actually the first part. Sure, a British person tells about Normandy, but the Allies had (basically) won the war at that point. We already had the Enigma code cracked (although the Germans didn't know this)(For more, look up Alan Turing, or watch 'The Imitation Game'). If the Germans had found out about Normandy, the British would have found out in turn from encoded German radio transmissions. They would not have landed in Normandy, but instead wherever the Germans were not. The point of Normandy was to get as many boots in Europe as possible, we went to Normandy because Hitler wasn't assigning many soldiers there.

If they had moved troops to Normandy, it is actually more likely that the Allies would have won faster, because the beaches of Normandy were very hard to take even without many enemies there, if Germany had been left open by sending the troops to Normandy, the allies would have just sailed there and taken Germany in one swift move.

Others have covered the rest, but it's worth reiterating that Russia was unstable economically, which is why they lost the cold war. You would have to find a good reason why they didn't collapse soon. Maybe Von Braun/(or some other hero type) starts a coup, and then reinstates Germany and Russia as one country. The leadership would likely have been better. They free cold war East/West Germany, break down the wall and 'free' their people. Those guys might make it to space. German engineering is pretty good.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good information in the first paragraph, though I don't know if there were better landing spots. However, what the OP needs is a reason for the invasion to be postponed. $\endgroup$ – Tony Ennis Oct 22 '16 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. Perhaps instead of one British captive, there was a Nazi spy. Instead of invasion, they start playing shadow games. Nazis move to Normandy, British start planning on attacking through Italy, German's move to Italy. British realize there is a spy. By the time they find the spy the Soviets have a massive head start. $\endgroup$ – EvSunWoodard Oct 24 '16 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @EvSunWoodard, what Nazi spy? British intelligence was so successful in World War 2 that they were running the entire German spy network in the UK and feeding the Nazis whatever the Allies wanted them to know. This means that any hypothetical uncaught spy would be providing information that would be contrary to an entire trusted network that was providing different information. Not to mention that Admiral Canaris, head of German intelligence, was essentially running his shop as a franchise of Allied intelligence, so the odds of a real spy succeeding were slim. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Dec 19 '18 at 8:41
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Your timeline seems about as plausible as any (what actually happened is crazy enough), up until the nuclear war. Then all progress would stop and we'd be set back hundreds of years.

I would venture that losing the Normandy plans might have upped The Butcher's Bill but the Allies would not be stopped. The Luftwaffe had lost control of the skies and would not regain it.

Your timeline requires a guy with the plans to get captured and for the Allies to not realize it. Not happening. Instead...

What postponed Operation Sea Lion was that the Luftwaffe, in being unable to destroy the RAF (the whole reason for the Battle of Britain), would be unable to protect the landing sites from the RAF.

So we make a slight historical change to turn the tables on the Allies: I would change the timeline by having the Me262 properly deployed, and not delayed by Hitler's orders to convert it into into a bomber. With the advent in 1942 of the world's first operational jet interceptor, the Allies' heavy bombing raids are much less effective; Germany retains its fangs. Emboldened by this success, Germany moves forward with production of jet fighters. The Allies are 3 or 4 years behind in jet technology and struggle. Now, in 1944, the Luftwaffe can at least fight for the skies above Normandy. For this reason, the invasion is postponed. As the Russians apply pressure, resources are drawn to the East. The Allies finally invade sometime in early 1945. But the Russians have scooped up the rocket scientists. Whew!

This is a historical pedant nitpick.

Finally, nuclear war must be avoided. So Russia loses a nuke, and it explodes off the coast of Florida. Perhaps it went off prematurely in a container ship on it's way to Tampa? This would scare the bajesus out of everyone, including the Russians. Now the space race could be something more like "For the [USSR/USA/China] to survive, we must establish colonies. We have seen that nuclear weapons can be lost and fall into the wrong hands. And if the [Other Guy] secures their future first, MAD is lost."

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  • $\begingroup$ Personally I don't see anything wrong with the Me-262 as a bomber. They could bomb Britain at will. Jet aircraft can fly higher and much faster, basically almost invincible from AA or AAA guns, and certainly invincible from any propeller aircraft. Of course, you need a lot plus the doctrine of strategic bombing. The luftwaffe was never set up for strategic bombing. And you need lots of Nickel ore for lots of good jet engines...and lots of tech investment. To do all this in time for 1940 Sea Lion would require much, much explanation, and might mean Russia dies too. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 9 '17 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ Actually no. The Me-262 would have been vulnerable in 1942-43 once it had to carry the weight of its fuel and a meaningful bomb load. By 1944 it was vulnerable to P-51 Mustangs regardless. As an early jet, the engines were slow to come to speed. During landings, they were especially vulnerable. And the Me-262 was not ready at the time of Sea Lion which was in 1940. $\endgroup$ – Tony Ennis Apr 9 '17 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ The biggest problem with using the Me-262 as a bomber is it had a dreadfully short range, especially with the extra mass and drag of the bombs added. Far better to use it for its intended role and use purpose built aircraft like the Arado-234 be used as jet bombers. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jan 20 '18 at 5:16
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Unless the push was massive (which would have required a lot of finance), I highly doubt that the US would be capable of a manned mission to Mars in 1977, with only 6 years to prepare. In reality, in about the same time frame, the US went from deciding to build the space shuttle to building an unpowered prototype for atmospheric testing. The design and construction of the engines for the space shuttle weren't finished until 9 years after the project began; most suggestions for viable Mars missions rely on this technology having been developed before it can even begin.

As of 1971, NASA's best guess for the earliest it would have been able to launch a manned Mars mission was 1987.

And given that most of this work was performed by commercial organisations, I don't think put any more emphasis on commercial involvement would assist matters all that much. It's being successful now, but only because manufacturing techniques and materials have pushed the cost of entry much lower than it would have been in the 70s.

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  • $\begingroup$ There was a huge devolution in NASA's capabilities. Once it became apparent the Space Race had been "won", the funding was pulled and the later Apollo missions were cancelled. In the mid 1960's, NASA was confident that they could reach Mars in the mid 1970's with evolved Apollo hardware, and the movie 2001 was patterned partially after early to mid 1960 era NASA planning for the post Apollo era. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jan 20 '18 at 5:19
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I would criticize the pace of progress in this alternate history, even accounting for the fact of a more intense Cold War being a driver of innovation.

Most specifically, the idea of setting up a moon colony in 1977 to mine helium-3 is totally unrealistic. I presume that you are implying that they would use it as a nuclear fusion fuel for civilian power (obviously in this timeline as in real life, military fusion is easy enough to achieve without it). Despite decades of trying, we are still 34 (-ish) years away from a realistic fusion power plant, so it seems extremely unlikely that they would have maintained the Herculean efforts required to achieve controlled fusion by 1977; also note that controlled helium-3 fusion is harder to achieve than the current tritium approach. Not to mention the fact that both sides in the Cold War were perfectly happy using tried-and-tested fission power (and certainly coal, oil gas) up to that point.

This is the only truly demonstrable pitfall in your alternate history, but it is certainly questionable that the monumental hurdles in asteroid mining, teraflop computing etc would be overcome so quickly.

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I want to add a few things. Your timeline covers a lot of history. I myself have only read in depth about WW2 and the Soviet side of the space race.

  • von Braun would make a little difference, but not a dramatic difference to Soviet rocket tech. Dramatic difference must come from dramatic more investment. (However, his absence from America could certainly cost them the Moon Race.) von Braun's team built the F-1 engine because America invested in huge ground test equipment for such a huge engine, and in particular, fixed acoustic problems by literally detonating small explosives next to the engine pipes while the engine was firing to see if the shock would self-damp. If not, build a slightly different pipe shape. von Braun's team was noted by NASA for its extreme meticulousness in assembling and inspecting the saturn rockets. The Saturn Family never exploded, from Saturn 1s to Saturn 5s. (But notice I am saying von Braun's team instead of von Braun by himself.) See Challenge to Apollo by Asif Saddiqi (caution: huge book).

  • More USSR investment is plausible. They got all of Germany, so that's a lot of civilian labor and industry under their control.

  • Just curious, but why did you put Soviet Moon Landing on 1970 Feb 14th? IRL, first man in space was 1961 Apr 12 but you said late 50's, so I'm assuming you're simply shifting the timeline forward. With von Braun and Korolev and more investment and Kennedy's same promise, don't see why Soviets would be delayed.

  • The Outer Space Treaty...you should remove this from your timeline. TOST declares the Moon and other objects are not claimable, and it prevents nations from putting nukes into orbit. I think you want both of these enabled. Storing nukes in orbit would lower the enemies' reaction time by half. It could drive storing attack satellites in space too, and other countermeasures. It is therefore a great way to drive and keep space and rocket tech, much more so than commercial space mining activity or Mars mission. Do you know how expensive space mining would be? Even rare-earth elements are cheaper to get on Earth. Helium-3 is not here, but I believe it can be synthesized in a nuclear reactor for much cheaper than going to the Moon. Besides, I believe Helium-3 can be collected directly from the solar wind, so only a simple orbital satellite is needed, not all the way to the Moon.

  • If you wanna keep the manned Mars mission, do a Mars flyby or Mars orbital at the most. A Mars landing in 6 years is way too much, especially as America hasn't landed on Moon yet.

  • As others have said, JFK is limited to 2 terms, so put his brother RFK next if you want. Would still take some explaining since JFK just "wasted" huge resources on a failed Moon Race. IRL, the Space Race was actually rather unpopular in many fields like education because it diverted massive funds. Even the military did not like such a huge Saturn Rocket that was way, way too big for any nuke or spy sat.

  • Just wanna point out that rocket tech and space tech will absolutely drive the computer industry, at least to the point that personal computers take off on their own. Spacecraft need the lightest, smallest, least power hungry comps available, because resources are so expensive in space. So no inconsistency there.

  • Curious, you said space stations with refineries, but what are they refining? Only specific harvested thing you mentioned was helium-3, which needs no refining. Refineries on Earth---whether oil refineries, bauxite refineries, iron refineries, etc., are huge, huge, huge (heavy) facilities that need constant input/output of chemicals and usually go to molten temperatures.

  • This may sound crazy, but a nuclear exchange does not necessarily lead to nuclear winter. IRL, America and USSR detonated hundreds of A-Bombs, even H-Bombs, above ground during their testing (roughly 1948-1963). (Really you should go by Megatonnes detonated per year rather than number of bombs per year, since MT/a went up hugely in the last 5 years or so IIRC.) This contaminated nearby areas, and some of them remain contaminated to this day, but did not threaten nuclear winter across the entire planet. See this table and Wikipedia's detailed list for more. But this can actually work in your favor and brings me to my next point...

  • It seems pretty obvious to me that China was the one who stole/hacked the nuke and got US and SU to kill each other. That would greatly benefit China. Perhaps China planned to be the only one with the industry who can now save Earth with their rocket tech, and they want and will get total control of the new world.

  • Just wanna point out that the Cold War was tripolar with US/SU/China, not bipolar. The Sino-Soviet Split began in late 50's and was full blown by early 60's. To understand China and their decision-making, I encourage you to read about Mao Zedong (died in 1976) and The Gang of Four. I've only read a little bit about them.

  • The kind of evacuation numbers you quoted are probably too much even for a decades well-driven space industry. You might be better off shrinking the numbers to a few thousand. Very stark, yes, only a few thousand escape, out of billions. But hey, that can work in apocalyptic novels. Repopluation is always possible if they have a big place to live. You will still need terraforming tech to survive for long, tho. Perhaps you need something to drive terraforming of Moon or Mars beforehand.


I think you have a good timeline that, if you're really serious about maximum plausibility, just needs a little work. If you ever do publish or post it online, please come back and post a link so we can get it.

As others have recommended, I will recommend too: don't get too bogged down in backstory. Stick with the action parts and enthralling parts first. First impressions are everything, and to quote the X-Files, however paranoid you are, you aren't paranoid enough.

You can tell the backstory gradually over time with flashbacks, conversation, history lessons? If you haven't heard of Isaac Asimov, I highly recommend his short stories. He was a master of telling backstory through simple conversation between two characters. You can probably get anthologies of him on amazon for one penny (and 3.99 shipping! >:O )

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There's a fundamental flaw in these "Earth is dying, so we need to go to space" scenarios. That is, all the potential destinations - Mars, Titan, Venus, the Moon - are also dead. Certainly nothing can grow there. You can't walk outside without protective gear. And with the exception of Venus (which poses its own problems), the gravity is wrong. They are all worse by any measure than Earth can get, barring a full on asteroid impact. So given those conditions, it'd make a lot more sense to simply create sealed habitats on Earth and pretend they were Mars. Or set them up in Antarctica. Or under the ocean. You can save far more people, it'd require far less resources, and the survivors would be far more comfortable since the gravity will be what is best for human life.

If the concern is radiation, consider that by traveling in space, your colonists will certainly be more at risk from radiation than they would be years after a nuclear war.

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Is it safe to assume for the year 1971 Kennedy is President of the US? In real life Kennedy was the 35th president from January 1961 to November 1963, when he was assassinated. Since this is an alternate history, the assassination can be dismissed, but that means he would have only been president until January 1969. If you really want him to be president for 1971 then someone else should have become the 35th president, and then have Kennedy be the 36th president.

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  • $\begingroup$ As a foreigner, I know a person can only be POTUS for 2 4-year periods, but do they need to be consecutive? If not, someone else could be president for the 1965-1969 and then Kennedy is elected again, right? $\endgroup$ – xDaizu Feb 8 '17 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ Yes it is possible, and yes it has happened. Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th POTUS. $\endgroup$ – Zillakon Feb 8 '17 at 15:19

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