January 1970: With the Soviets having put a woman on the moon with their second lunar landing, the White House orders NASA to make it a priority to do the same. 20 women are selected as astronaut candidates: some already experienced pilots, some already working for NASA, some of them previously considered during NASA’s brief period of testing women as potential Mercury astronauts. One of the more controversial choices is Tracy Stevens, wife of Apollo 15 astronaut Gordo Stevens and herself a pilot with light aircraft experience, though she hasn’t flown since getting married and starting a family. But for political and PR purposes, Tracy has “most favored nation” status among the candidates, something which earns the scorn of the other women selected when she keeps making the cut despite scoring the lowest. When one of NASA’s Lunar Orbiter satellites detects ice in a crater – an ingredient for long-term stays on the moon, including the lunar base Nixon is demanding.
written by Nichole Beattie
directed by Allen Coulter
music by Jeff Russo
Cast: Joel Kinnaman (Edward Baldwin), Michael Dorman (Gordo Stevens), Sarah Jones (Tracy Stevens), Shantel VanSanten (Karen Baldwin), Jodi Balfour (Ellen Waverly), Wrenn Schmidt (Margo Madison), Chris Bauer (Deke Slayton), Sonya Walger (Molly Cobb), Eric Ladin (Gene Kranz), Michael J. Harney (Jack Broadstreet), Dan Donohue (Thomas Paine), Krys Marshall (Danielle Poole), Cass Buggé (Patty Doyle), Nate Corddry (Larry Wilson), Brian Stepanek (Shorty Powers), Spencer Garrett (Roger Scott), Teya Patt (Emma), Teddy Blum (young Shane Baldwin), Jason Scott David (young Daniel Stevens), Benjamin Seay (Ray Schumer), Dan Warner (General Arthur Weber), Devin McCarthy (Janice), Kate Rodman (Megan), Leia Hurst (Barbara), Benjamin Burton (Murph), Nick Echols (Chaddie)
Notes: The incident in which Neil Armstrong had to punch out of the lunar landing research vehicle (nicknamed the “flying bedstead”) because it was about to crash was real and well-documented. Ironically, while water ice has been detected in shaded craters on the lunar surface, the first such detection took place when samples returned by the Soviet Luna 24 lander, launched in 1976, were analyzed on Earth. Confirmation of that find can be credited to NASA instruments which were carried to the moon on India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe in 2009. Given the fictitious hunt for a suitable spot for a lunar military base that is part of this series’ alternate-history plotline, it’s likely that in such a circumstance, the real Lunar Orbiter program – which scouted suitable Apollo landing sites in the span of just over a year between 1966 and ’67 – would have been extended beyond five orbiters.
LogBook entry by Earl Green