In this assignment you will extrapolate what might have happened if Project Orion had been built during the early years of the Space Race between the USA and the Soviet Union. There were several reasons why Orion was not given the green light: the USA decided upon a civilian space agency over a military one, the US military was not going to provide nuclear weapons technology to a civilian space agency, the US Air Force (who designed the project) didn’t have a legitimate role in space, and rising background radiation levels from above-ground and atmospheric nuclear weapons tests – the project was officially dead after the 1963 signing of the
Partial Test Ban treaty by the USA and Soviets that limited nuclear testing to underground explosions of nuclear weapons only.
Project Orion was a spaceship built on the same scale as an aircraft carrier that was powered by nuclear fission weapons. The spaceship could carry 1,450 metric tons into orbit, 1,080 metric tons to the Moon, and 725 metric tons to Mars (compared to the Saturn V – the largest working chemical rocket ever built – which could take 118 metric tons to orbit and 1.8 metric tons to the
Moon); the entire International Space Station weighs approximately 450 metric tons. So, if Orion had been built, it would have allowed for huge payloads (like an entire space station) to be sent into orbit in a single launch. The downside was that each launch would release radioactive fallout into the atmosphere as well as create ElectroMagnetic Pulse which is damaging to electronics (more damaging to today’s electronics than the electronics of 1960 which still used valves (vacuum tubes) that are more resistant to EMP effects). However, the fallout from an
Orion launch was calculated as having minimal consequences, compared to the fallout generated by the Soviet Union, the USA, and the UK through their weapons tests.
For more specific information on Project Orion see Resources at the end of this document.
Your assignment is based upon a counterfactual scenario; a counterfactual is a historical term for a limited "what if" scenario that extrapolates what would occur had X event in history been different and it is limited as it only extrapolates near future outcomes – maximum 50 years – after which there is too much uncertainty to reliably and academically speculate further. So a counterfactual is a historical model or thought experiment that is grounded in historical fact and anextrapolation into the future with a limited range in time. A counterfactual is NOT the same
as an alternate history (a subgenre in science fiction that extrapolates what would occur had X event in history been different for the purposes of creating a background and/or source of conflict) as the alternate history extrapolation is not a model, does not limit itself to a range in time, very often cherry picks its historical factors, and its primary purpose is to provide a setting for a work of fiction.
The counterfactual scenario is this:
In 1958, TV-4 (Vanguard 1) failed to orbit. This failure would place pressure on
the Eisenhower administration to do something to demonstrate that the USA was
going to take on the Soviets in space. President Eisenhower, although wary of
strengthening the military-industrial complex, makes the decision that space is too important to be left with a civilian agency; the US Air Force becomes the US
Aerospace Force with the mission to match and beat the Soviets in Space. The
USAF already had a project under development and in 1959 Project Orion is given
full funding for research and development of the spacecraft.
Yuri Gagarin (Soviet) is the first human in space, orbiting the Earth in 1961.
Freedom (USA) was a small 25 metre in diameter Orion spaceship that was first
launched unmanned in late 1963 and with a full crew of eight in February of 1964.
In October of the same year the USA places the space station Enterprise into Low Earth Orbit and the Soviets initiate their own Orion project. On July 4, 1965 the space station Columbia is launched into Geosynchronous Earth Orbit by the USA. In 1966 the Vietnam War ends in a Korean War-like stalemate. In the autumn of 1967 Freedom makes a manned lunar pass. The first human on the Moon is Valery Bykovsky (Soviet) Zond 5 mission March 1968. The second person on the Moon is Ed White (USA) and the entire 25 person crew of Eagle, a 40 metre in diameter Orion spaceship that explored several sites on the Moon in the summer of 1968. During the 1970s, the Soviets and the Americans used Orionspacecraft to launch arrays of solar power satellites into Earth orbit and to establish bases on the Moon, Mars, and the exploration of the outer planets of our solar system.
Soviet-American relations are strained but contained within the doctrine of
Détente, which persisted through the 1980s. The Soviet Union did not collapse in
the late 1980s in this timeline. The hippie counterculture, with the early end to the
Vietnam War, is less divisive to USA society and will have no more long term
impact than the beatnik counterculture of the 1950s. The electronics industry does not make a switch over from valve (vacuum tube) electronics to semiconductor electronics as valve electronics are more resistant to EMP; semiconductor consumer electronics are made for portable units but these are low-end priced devices as they have the potential of being rendered inoperable by EMP. With there being no The Counterculture, just a hippie counterculture, there is no major counterculture movement within the computer hobbyists. To a young man with a technical background, space was a big draw; the USAF and its civilian contractors were in need of young people with expertise in computer technology and 4 programming. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs joined Hewlett-Packard; Wozniak was part of the development team for the HP 9800 series, he was team lead developing the systems for the Burroughs base on Mars, as well as for the US Jove-Chronos expedition to Jupiter and Saturn (Jobs would leave HP in 1973 and become a Buddhist monk in Japan). Paul Allen and Bill Gates join Honeywell – they would design the mainframe and other computer systems for Lindberg (Luna, nearside), Curtiss (Luna, farside), and the Hades expedition to Pluto. Bill Joy was recruited by DARPA. Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg at Xerox Parc would lead the team that developed the Xerox Alto workstations used by USAF spaceships.
Your task is to accept the stated counterfactual as FACT (what that means is that for the purposes of this assignment that you accept the counterfactual as what really historically happened) then, from the viewpoint of an ordinary Canadian citizen in the year 2003 in this counterfactual timeline:
• extrapolate what technology would an ordinary citizen use in everyday life in the
year 2003 – i.e. how is technology used and who has access to it?
• extrapolate the social impact of the technology (Orion spacecraft, consumer
electronics, etc.) on society -- i.e. what changes in society may occur with the
implementation of these technologies?
• extrapolate the ethical issues that would result from the implementation of these technologies – i.e. how would these technologies improve or not improve the quality of life and issues of equality/inequality in society; who would benefit or not from the implementation of these technologies?
• extrapolate issues of environmental impact/sustainability that would result from the implementation of these technologies?
There are clues within the counterfactual to assist you, but you are going to have to do some research and some thinking. Your primary focus should not be just on space; yes, humans will have a greater presence in space than in our timeline, but the vast majority of humanity will still reside on Earth. While technical changes and their impact should be examined and discussed, social and political changes will also have an effect on society. Remember, human events rarely
occur in a total vacuum and there are almost always interconnexions.
You are being asked to take the above counterfactual as being FACT and then rationally extrapolate the impacts on Canada of 2003 in that timeline. Do Not take the attitude that this, “is just fantasy” and not take the assignment seriously; serious historians and social scientists develop and use models like this one to study historic events and how they impact on the present. It is not, “just all made up…” After all, the USAF did do feasibility studies on Project Orion, Vanguard 1 did almost explode when launched, President Eisenhower did consider giving space 5 to the Air Force, Wozniak and Steve Jobs were offered positions at Hewlett-Packard, Gates and Allen were actively recruited by Honeywell, and Joy turned down DARPA. Thus, you should approach this assignment both rationally and imaginatively. Be mindful of social context, e.g. if there was no The Counterculture, what impact would that have on other social movements? If
the microcomputer revolution didn’t happen in the 1970s and 1980s, what may have happened instead – would people have computers in their homes? And so on… A final note, do not use science fiction (alternate history fiction) as your primary source material. While science fiction can be used as sources of inspiration, at the end of the day, these are works of fiction, not history or social science.
Project Orion: Its Life, Death, and Possible ebirth
Electromagnetic Pulse Shockwaves as a result of Nuclear Pulse Propulsion
Project Orion (nuclear propulsion)
Project Orion_General Atomic
pdf on eLearn for this course
1. Standard Essay-like Report: 1,200 words minimum
This is an essay-like assignment as you are not required to introduce and defend an argument, only to address the four extrapolations given above. You may choose to introduce and defend an argument for this assignment and you may exceed 1,200 words if you so choose to do so.
2. Standard Presentation: 40 slide minimum
Using presentation software, e.g. PowerPoint, develop a presentation for an adult
audience that discusses and illustrates the four extrapolations. The Title slide and source material slides do not count toward the 40 slide minimum. You may
exceed the 40 frame minimum for your content. You do not have to actually
present the presentation, just create it.
3. Presentation to Grade 5 Students: 40 slide minimum
Using presentation software, e.g. PowerPoint, develop a presentation for a Grade 5 educational audience that discusses and illustrates the four extrapolations. The
Title slide and source material slides do not count toward the 40 frame minimum.
You may exceed the 40 slide minimum for your content. You do not have to
actually present the presentation, just create it.
|Due By (Pacific Time)
||03/21/2014 12:00 pm