Another “what if” story depicting what would have happened if the global space race had never ended” in the 70s. For All Mankind is an American science fiction-web television series created and written by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi and produced for Apple TV+.
The first crewed mission to the Moon during the Space Race in the late 1960s was a global success for NASA and the United States. This alternate story poses the question: “What if the Space Race had never ended?”. In the alternate timeline, the Soviet cosmonaut, Alexei Leonov, becomes the first human to land on the Moon. This outcome devastates morale at NASA––but also catalyzes an American effort to catch up.
With the Soviet Union emphasizing diversity by including a woman in subsequent landings, the US is forced to match pace, training women and minorities who were largely excluded from the initial decades of US space exploration.
This actually happened in real history where the USSR included a pool of women astronauts including Valentina Tereshkova, who pioneered the space flight. She was the first and youngest woman to have flown in space with a solo mission on the Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963. She orbited the earth 48 times, spent almost 3 days in space and remains as the only woman to have been on a solo space mission for example.
The series begin with special focus on Edward Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman), a fictional astronaut whose career is impacted by the Soviets progress. He was moments before attempting to land on the moon, circling so close he could see the surface, where his superiors pulled him away claiming he was not ready yet to make such a big step.
As the show continues there’s an expansion in the story starting to get even more interesting where Russian’s second manned mission places a female astronaut on the moon provoking Richard Nixon to demand that the US do the same.
So the plot progresses from a disappointed straight white men group of astronauts to inspired white and black women while also looking at the rise of female employees at Nasa on the ground. This allows for some non conventional tensions to arise in a setting such as this, with one woman trying to play a double hat role as a mother with a newfound career as an astronaut while also dealing with the men around her who don’t give the credit she deserves. With the space race getting high temperatures, there is the desire from Nixon to build a military base on the moon, recalling current Trump’s space force plans, and the narrative leaps between the various strands and characters.
The technology depicted on the drama in some cases certainly was quite close represented to the real used, but in some other cases the representation of the spaceships and the moon bases looks quite advanced vs the existing technology at that time.