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Background

In real life, NASA's first spacecraft Pioneer 1 failed to reached the Moon due to a programming error in the upper stage causing a slight error in burnout velocity and angle. But what if the programming error never happened in the first place, causing Pioneer 1 to flew by the Moon and beyond?

Timeline

1958

October 11, 1958: NASA's spacecraft Pioneer 1 is launched. After flying by the moon instead of orbit insertion as planned, the space probe became the first man made object to enter interplanetary space. Although this mission is seen as a partial success since it did not went into lunar orbit, this is seen as a major milestone to upstage the Russians after the humiliation suffered during Sputnik 1.

1959

1959: Luna 3 is the first spacecraft to photograph the far side of the moon as in OTL.

1961

March 24, 1961: NASA astronaut Alan Shepard became the first man in space with a suborbital Freedom 7 flight. Ticker tape parade were held in his honor thereafter.

April 12, 1961: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is the first to orbit the Earth, humiliating Americans as in OTL.

May 25, 1961: Kennedy delivers the "We shall go to the Moon" speech. In response Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev orders Chief Designer Sergei Korolev to work on a booster and spacecraft capable of taking cosmonauts to the lunar surface.

1963

November 22, 1963: Assassination of President Kennedy.

1965

1965: Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made the first spacewalk.

1966

1966: USSR cosmonaut Irina Solovyova became the first woman to conduct a spacewalk in the Voskhod 5 mission. Meanwhile Soviet's Luna 9 became the first spacecraft to soft land on the Moon.

1967

1967: In this TL the Soyuz 1 tragedy didn't happen at all.

1968

1968: Yuri Gagarin did not die in a plane crash in this TL. Apollo 8 flew around the Moon as in OTL.

1969

July 4, 1969: The test firing of Soviet N1 rocket is successful.

July 20, 1969: NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong is the first human to land on the Moon.

1970

1970: A Soyuz 7K-LOK spaceship carrying Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov flew around the Moon. This alone caused a major shock to Americans regardless of Apollo 11.

1971

1971: Soviet Union's Salyut 1 is the first space station. On October, Alexei Leonov became the first Soviet citizen to step foot on the Moon after landing with an LK (Lunniy Korabl) spacecraft. At the meantime USSR's Mars 2 and Mars 3 became the first artificial objects to reach the Martian surface.

1972

1972: After the conclusion of Apollo 20 with a landing on Copernicus Crater, NASA began plotting a LESA (Lunar Exploration System for Apollo) moon base. Meanwhile USSR launched the second manned lunar landing mission to the landing site of Luna 9 spacecraft.

1973

1973: Launch of NASA's Skylab space station. USSR launched the third lunar landing mission which made Irina Solovyova to become the first woman on the Moon.

1974

1974: Unlike in OTL, NASA launched Pioneer H into the interstellar space. USSR landed a man in the lunar south pole.

1975

1975: NASA's Skylab B artificial gravity space station is launched, which is based on the Self-Deploying Space Station design. This is seen as another big lead against the Soviet Union in the Space Race.

1976

1976: First components of LESA moon base arrives at the surface between the Reinhold and Lansberg Craters in the Sea of Islands. Later on June, a group of three NASA astronauts, namely John Glenn, Frank Borman and Buzz Aldrin, arrived at the location. The 4th of July proved to be one of the most significant moment in American history when these astronauts greeted the peoples of the United States from their lunar base via television feed. They returned to Earth on 20th July and received a hero's welcome more grandiose than Apollo 11. Viking 1 successfully landed on Mars on this year.

1977

1977: In response to this the Soviets celebrated the 60th anniversary of Bolshevik Revolution by placing a L3M habitat on the lunar surface, near where Alexei Leonov has landed 6 years ago. Cosmonaut Boris Volynov occupied the lunar habitat and greeted the Soviet citizens in a same away the Americans did a year earlier on November 7th, 1977, the 60th anniversary of the communist revolution.

1979

1979: Soviet Mars 5M sample return spacecraft is launched to the Red Planet. The successful conclusion of the mission would bring more shock to NASA, the Martian samples are distributed to some Eastern Bloc countries and delivered to the U.S. and the UK as a goodwill gesture.

1981

1981: NASA launched the first space shuttle "Columbia".

1984

1984: Soviet space probe Vega 1 flew by Halley's comet.

1986

1986: U.S. space shuttle "Challenger" docks with a Soyuz spacecraft, signifying the end of the Space Race.

1988

1988: Soviet space probes Phobos 1 and Phobos 2 is successfully commenced in this TL.

1989

1989: NASA interplanetary probe "Galileo" is launched to Jupiter.

1991

1991: The Soviet Union and most of the Communist World collapses.

1994

1994: Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited the United States, with Yuri Gagarin and Alexei Leonov in his entourage . During the trip the White House held a state dinner for them, with the attendance of Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong.

1995

1995: NASA's Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby mission is launched to Comet Kopff.

1996

1996: NASA Mars probe Sojourner is launched.

2003

2003: Europa Orbiter is sent to the namesake Jovian moon with the aid of a Space Shuttle. Concurrently NASA launched Deep Space 4 to comet Tempel 1. Unfortunately the Columbia space shuttle tragedy happened as in OTL.

2004

December 2004: Pluto Kuiper Express is launched to Pluto, with an arrival in around 8 years later.

2006

2006: Pluto is being demoted to a dwarf planet. Deep Space 4 reached comet Tempel 1, becoming the first spacecraft to soft land on a comet, instead of Rosetta in OTL.

2008

2008: The Large Hadron Collider went online.

2010

2010: In this TL NASA's Constellation program is not canceled by the USA. Japanese spacecraft IKAROS became the world's first interplanetary solar sail spacecraft.

2011

2011: NASA retired its space shuttle fleet.

2012

2012: NASA's Voyager 1 is the first spacecraft to reach interstellar medium. Around this year the Pluto Kuiper Express arrived at the dwarf planet. At the same year Yuri Gagarin, disaffected by the Russian political atmosphere under Vladimir Putin, immigrated to the U.S. with his family and obtained immigrant status.

2015

2015: Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) discovered the first gravitational waves. NASA's Orion spacecraft reaches ISS after a long hiatus.

2016

2016: Donald John Trump is being elected as the President of the United States. Exoplanet Proxima Centauri b is discovered. LIGO announced the gravitational wave discovery as in OTL. NASA launched Neptune orbiter to the gas giant.

2017

2017: As of this year, instead of being defunct, the Inspiration Mars mission is being busily prepared for a launch in January 2018, with a manned Mars flyby in August 21st, 2018. Yuri Gagarin is serving as an advisor in the space mission. The star system TRAPPIST-1 is found to contain seven Earth-like planets. Moreover, disgusted by Donald Trump's behavior, Yuri Gagarin wrote an editorial on New York Times calling him to focus on space exploration.

2018

January 5, 2018: Nearly 60 years after the launch of Pioneer 1, the Inspiration Mars spacecraft is finally launched. The persons onboard are astronauts Mark Lee and Jan Davis, a married couple. They became the first humans to leave the Earth-Moon system.

August 21, 2018: The Inspiration Mars spacecraft flew by Mars. Millions of people witnessed the extraordinary moment with the help of TVs and webcasts. Donald Trump communicated with the couple and relayed his best wishes to them.

December 2018: NASA's Resource Prospector spacecraft which was built with help from Taiwan, launched to the Moon to test the necessary technologies to mine resources off Earth.

2019

May 21, 2019: After a long time in space, Mark Lee and Jan Davis finally returned to Earth. They were greeted with massive parades and a visit to the White House. Meanwhile at this year an Orion spacecraft reached the Moon.

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