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.
Finished as of early September 2015, as anything beyond 2015 would be less realistic and pure speculation.
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.
- Cool Spaceship: There are lots of those◊ as well as the rockets◊ that launch them into orbit.
- 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 '70s 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.note (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.
- Double-Blind What-If: The thread on alternatehistory.com begins with a depiction of an in-universe forum thread speculating on what it would be like if NASA developed the Space Shuttle instead of continuing with Saturn rockets and Apollo spacecraft. They wouldn't have known that the Space Shuttle program would end up becoming way more expensive than anticipated.
- 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. In addition, Apollo 13 still has its mishap. 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. It tries to be realistic not only from a scientific and technological perspective, but also from a political and economic perspective.
- Moon Base: In the late 2000s, a small outpost called Orion◊ lands on the Moon. This is followed by the larger Armstrong Base◊ in the 2010s.
- Retro Rocket: The X-40◊ was the first automated vertical-landing reusable rocket, developed in the early 1990s (similar to the DC-X in our timeline). This later led to the development of the Thunderbolt◊ rocket by a private company called Star Launch Services, which accomplished the same feat as SpaceX (reusable first stage◊ of an orbital rocket) but over a decade earlier.
- 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. China later builds their own station called Tianjia◊, and Space Station Freedom is replaced by Space Station Discovery◊ in the 2010s.
- 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. A larger version is later used as a booster for the fully-reusable two-stage Starclipper◊ launch vehicle. (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.