Literature: Eyes Turned Skywards

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."
— Commonly attributed to Leonardo da Vinci

Eyes Turned Skywards is an alternate spaceflight history timeline found on the alternatehistory.com forums. The difference from our timeline is that after the 1969 Moon landings, NASA doesn't choose to develop the Space Shuttle, but instead continues to use hardware based on the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rockets. Eventually, an international space station is built in the late 80s/early 90s, ten years before the International Space Station began construction in our timeline. A return to the Moon occurs in 1999 (the 30th anniversary of the Apollo program). The Soviet Union/Russia comes to use a TKS spacecraft instead of the Soyuz, and China comes up with their own manned spacecraft a decade earlier than our timeline's Shenzhou program. The timeline also details other differences, such as unmanned space probes, and changes in pop culture due to the butterfly effect, and is usually presented in a history book-like, dialogue-free format.

The thread can be found here, and a summary (along with some nice images) can be found at the Alternate History Wiki


This work features the following tropes :

  • Alternate History: Focusing on alternate developments in spaceflight and space exploration.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: Challenger and Discovery are names for space station modules instead of Space Shuttles.
  • Different World, Different Movies: The "Interlude" updates guest-written by Brainbin (author of That Wacky Redhead, a timeline that's all about this trope) sketch out how popular culture evolves differently in this timeline, starting with the original plans for a Star Trek Revival in The Seventies playing out as intended on the small screen instead of being re-worked into a movie. It airs on NBC - the same network that cancelled the original Star Trek - starting in 1977, under the name Star Trek: The New Voyages, resulting in TOS instead acquiring the retronym TOV, for The Original Voyages. (Star Trek: The Animated Series likewise becomes TAV, for The Animated Voyages.) This jump-starts an entirely different course for the wider Star Trek franchise.
  • For Want of a Nail: The point of divergence is George Low becoming administrator of NASA in February 1969 instead of Thomas Paine. This leads to NASA not developing the Space Shuttle, and various differences in space programs around the world.
  • Fun with Acronyms: A unmanned resupply spacecraft derived from Apollo called the AARDV (Autonomous Automated Rendezvous and Docking Vehicle), also known as the Aardvark.
  • In Spite of a Nail: The Soviet Union still collapses in the early 1990s. The Apollo lunar landings still stop in the 70s, but not before having one more landing (Apollo 18) than the real life Apollo program. Humanity doesn't return to the Moon until 1999 with the Artemis program.
  • Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness / Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: Very, very hard.
  • Space Station: Space Station Freedom (different design from the cancelled project found in our timeline) is a co-operative project between the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada, constructed from 1988 to 1991. This timeline has its own version of the Soviet Mir station, which is much larger than the real life Mir, however, it is never fully realized after the collapse of the Soviet Union. China later co-operates with Russia by adding its own module, named Tiangong note , in the mid-90s.
  • Space Plane: The X-33 is a prototype/technology demonstrator for a future single-stage-to-orbit space plane. It successfully performs a flight in 2000, reaching a maximum altitude of 30 miles. (The real life counterpart of the X-33 was cancelled instead due to technical problems)
  • Shown Their Work: The alternate developments in space exploration shown in the timeline are highly plausible technologically, economically, and politically. There is a lot of technical and scientific detail.
  • What If?: "What if NASA continued to use Apollo and Apollo-derived spacecraft?", and other spaceflight history what-ifs.