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"I take this step for my country, for my people, and for the Marxist-Leninist way of life, knowing that today is but one small step on a journey that will take us all to the stars."
Alexei Leonov, taking the first step on the moon, June 26, 1969
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For All Mankind is a live action Historical Fiction and Alternate History TV series on Apple TV+, created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi. It shows a fictional history of the Space Race where the Soviets landed on the moon before the Americans. NASA finds themselves scrambling to meet or exceed the Russians, including training female astronauts and creating a lunar base. Moore has reportedly planned out an entire seven season story arc in advance.

The series stars Joel Kinnaman as Edward Baldwin, Michael Dorman as Gordo Stevens, Wrenn Schmidt as Margo Madison, Sarah Jones as Tracy Stevens, Shantel VanSanten as Karen Baldwin, and Jodi Balfour as Ellen Waverly.

Previews: First Look Trailer, Official Trailer

Has a character page under construction.


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For All Mankind provides examples of:

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    A-D 
  • Actor Allusion: At the beginning of Season 2, a reporter mentions that the first space shuttle will be named Enterprise in honor of Star Trek. The reporter is played by Linda Park, who played Ensign Hoshi Sato on Star Trek: Enterprise.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Wernher von Braun's wife is called Anna and his son is called Josef rather than their real names (Maria and Peter, respectively), presumably because they are still alive.
  • Adult Fear:
    • After Patty's death, Ed is teaching his son how to ride a bike. The kid keeps falling down no matter how persistent Ed is in his training. When Ed is called away, he realizes that in the end he cannot prepare his son for every danger and something bad can happen to his child no matter how much he tries to prevent it. A few years later his son is riding his bike, is hit by a car and dies in the hospital.
    • Karen Baldwin arrives home and is greeted by two police officers who inform her that her son has been in an accident. He's rendered brain-dead, putting everyone on the ground in the horrific position of having to keep it secret from Ed so his grief won't further compromise the already precarious mission.
  • Airstrike Impossible: Season 2 has an example that takes place in vacuum, not air. The LSAM (Lunar Surface Access Module) is flown through a narrow canyon to retake the mining site from the Soviets by surprise.
  • All for Nothing: Molly risks her life to save another astronaut who's trapped in the open as a radiation surge from a solar flare is about to hit, leaving her radiation counter safe in her lava tube shelter so she'll be able to stay on the moon. But her superiors still think leaving her on assignment is too risky and call her back to Earth, likely to die of cancer within a couple years with no chance of ever getting back into space. She's further outraged when the man she saved decides to retire and enjoy whatever time he has left on Earth.
    • For the final twist of the knife, she develops Normal-Tension Glaucoma, from the radiation, meaning she's going blind and will never get fly again herself anyway.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: Mary Jo Kopechne survives past 1969, but still puts Ted Kennedy's political career in jeopardy when they're suspected of an affair.
    • Alexei Leonov, the first person on the Moon in this timeline, also uses the phrase "one small step."
  • All There in the Manual:
    • How and why the Soviets are able to make it to the moon first is never fully explained on screen, but series creator Ronald D. Moore says that Soviet rocket engineer Sergei Korolev survived the 1966 surgery which killed him in the real world, and subsequently was able to fix the previously fatal flaws in the N-1 rocket.
    • Season 2 was released with several supplementary news reports covering the differences from real history during the decade-long Time Skip:
      • America lands the first rover on Mars in 1975, thanks to Ted Kennedy's determination for the country to get its first win in colonizing another world. In our timeline, it was a non-mobile lander, and the first Mars rover didn't land until 1997.
      • Kennedy is narrowly defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1976 in a controversial ballot recount similar to the real life 2000 election.
      • The first Sea Dragon is launched in 1977 to ferry supplies for expanding Jamestown.
      • The continued interest in space causes Close Encounters of the Third Kind to be the biggest success in Oscar history with twelve awards,note  while real life BP winner Annie Hall only gets one for Diane Keaton as Best Actress.
      • Reagan refuses to hand over control of the Panama Canal, greatly increasing anti-American sentiment in the country.
      • The continued tensions in Panama result in John Lennon being attacked by Mark David Chapman after recording an anti-war song rather than in front of his apartment, and his companion is able to subdue Chapman before the fatal shot. Lennon was hit twice but survives.
      • The Department of Defense takes a greater hand in applying NASA's technology to military efforts, including using shuttles in orbit to attack ground targets.
      • In 1982, East German forces follow a defecting couple into West Germany and kill them, provoking an international incident that nearly leads to nuclear war.
  • Alternate History:
    • What if the Soviets were the first to land on the moon?
    • The Time Skip at the start of Season 2 features several quick succession: Roman Polanski is caught at the Canadian border and brought to Justice for his statutory rape, Prince Charles marries his First Love Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Miracle on Ice doesn't happen, John Lennon survives Mark David Chapman’s attack, and Anwar Sadat survives an assassination attempt but Pope John Paul II does not. The Soviet Union decides not to invade Afghanistan and instead focuses its attention on the Space Race.
    • The continuing space race greatly accelerates the development of solar power technology and electricity powered cars. A lot of this technology is developed in Texas and Texas becomes a leader in the use of renewable energy.
    • The ongoing needs of the Jamestown Base cause NASA to be far more careful while inspecting their rockets, and they fix the O-ring issue that in real life caused the destruction of the Challenger.
    • Deke Slayton passes away roughly twenty years earlier than he does in real life, meaning that he is not a part of the Apollo-Soyuz project.
    • NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine is one of the passengers killed on Korean Air Lines Flight 007. He was planning to go to South Korea to discuss the formation of an East Asian Space Alliance.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • Danielle's pre-astronaut position at NASA of computer was actually a job title to describe a person.
    • When VHS was first introduced, studios were worried that home video recording would cut into ad revenues.
    • "Automobile crash category," which Radislav enjoys, is a real genre of music.
  • Anger Born of Worry: After Ed puts his NASA career in jeopardy, Karen gives him a massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech. At first it seems that she is being selfish and is angry about losing social status and the perks of being an astronaut's wife but it soon becomes clear that she is worried about Ed. If he goes back to active duty with the Navy, he will most likely be posted to combat duty over Vietnam where he could be hurt and/or killed.
  • Artistic License – History: A couple, mostly minor, instances:
    • It's mentioned that Laika the dog was "the first living being in space". Not true. The first animals in space were actually fruit flies launched in the nose cones of V-2 rockets in 1947 by NACA (the predecessor of NASA). The first mammals in space were monkeys and mice launched in similar flights the following year. Unlike Laika, they survived.
    • A major part of the plot in Season 2 hinges on the idea that Soviet Buran space shuttle used stolen American plans for its solid-fuel rocket boosters, but used an outdated version that would be dangerous to launch in cold weather. That never happened— while the Buran itself was essentially a copy of the NASA shuttle, the Energiya rocket used to launch it was a purely Soviet design. In fact, the Energiya didn't use solid-fuel boosters at all, for precisely the reason given in the show.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: No, no matter what you do to a nuclear reactor, it cannot make Shackleton crater "uninhabitable for the next thousand years." Natural radiation already requires more than enough shielding to make what a nuclear accident could possibly do irrelevant.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Von Braun correctly predicts that once the NASA administrator reads his report on the Apollo 23 disaster, he will order it covered up. At this point von Braun cannot directly benefit from this so he insists that he will only give the report to Margo. This will give Margo the blackmail material needed for her to get the promotion she deserves.
    • After Ed takes Mikhail prisoner, Mikhail tells him that the only way Ed can avoid any trouble over this is to kill Mikhail and Make It Look Like an Accident. That seems like the exactly wrong thing to say to a paranoid man who has tied you up but Mikhail knows that Ed is a deeply honorable man. Ed might kill a man in self defense or in the line of duty as a soldier but he would never murder someone simply to save his career. Mikhail plants the idea that killing him would be a selfish, dishonorable thing to do and thus assures that Ed will reject the idea of killing the cosmonaut.
    • The White House asks NASA to set up a peace symbol of a handshake in space between an astronaut and cosmonaut expecting the Soviets to refuse to participate, which will give America the moral high ground. It is then subverted when the Soviets pull their own gambit by accepting the offer.
  • The Beard: Ellen and Larry become this to each other since their careers would be over if NASA finds out they're gay, and they hang out together so much that people assume they are romantically involved anyway. When the FBI starts to investigate them, they get married to maintain their cover.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Deke Slayton was one of the original Mercury Seven but was prevented from going into space due to a heart condition. A decade later, he is finally medically cleared for space flight and gets himself assigned to a Apollo flight where he will walk on the moon. He ends up on the disaster-prone Apollo 24 mission. He dies from his injuries in orbit around the moon and is buried on it.
    • Margo blackmails NASA into getting the promotion she deserves. She ends up being Flight Director for the Apollo 24 mission.
    • At the beginning of season 2 Gordo becomes depressed and tells Ed that he wishes that he could once a gain be the young cocky astronaut who believed that his actions could change the world. Ed takes this to heart and puts Gordo back on active status and assigns him to the next Jamestown mission.
    • Margo is furious that the Soviets have stolen a mining claim on the moon that NASA has spent moths testing and developing. When the President orders that the site be retaken, she is very gung ho about it until she is told that this will entail sending armed Marines to the moon.
    • After the Soviets call the US bluff about the joint goodwill mission, the White House needs the perfect astronaut to send as a PR move. Then Ed suggest Danielle as the perfect candidate. The White House does not want the US to be represented by a black woman astronaut but can't reject her without creating a PR disaster.
  • Big Little Man: What appears to be an Apollo command module is sitting in the middle of the ocean. Then there's a countdown to blastoff and it's revealed to be just the tip of a huge Sea Dragon heavy lift rocket.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The season one finale shows that NASA survived the disastrous Apollo 22-25 missions and starts on a new stage of space exploration and colonization. However, to get there required enormous heroics and was tragically costly. 12 ground crew and 2 astronauts are dead and the Baldwins are shattered by the death of their son. Also Aleida is heartbroken as her father is deported back to Mexico.
    • In season two, the Jamestown nuclear reactor crisis is averted and the two superpowers make peace at the brink of war, but with the sacrifice of Gordo and Tracy Stevens and the deaths of other astronauts and cosmonauts. Kelly quotes John Lennon: "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end."
  • Bilingual Bonus: Aleida and Octavio speak Spanish with each other and their housemates, and the many Soviet character speak Russian (usually neither translated nor subtitled). Notably, an important conversation in the second season finale was left in untranslated Russian, and only viewers who had closed captioning turned on (or who spoke Russian) could tell that Margo has become a KGB target and Sergei is an unwilling Honey Trap.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece:
    • Due to the ad hoc nature of Apollo-Soyuz, the Americans are scrambling to use a space vessel that isn't the top secret Pathfinder - so they literally un-retire a piece of Apollo hardware that had heretofore sat in a museum.
    • When Tracy and Gordo are trapped in the galley (the original part of Jamestown), Gordo manages to get the old communication system back up again - only problem is that the other end is now a half forgotten storage closet. Only Aleida getting a snack and hearing voices from the closet gets the comms back up.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Gordo starts the series extremely arrogant, cocky and entitled. His experience on Apollo 22 breaks him and he seeks help from a therapist.
    • When season 2 starts, Tracy is a national celebrity with a big ego and a bad drinking problem. She accepts a 6 month mission to Jamestown without really considering what it entails. She has to live in cramped, smelly quarters, work as a glorified truck driver and do so without regular access to tobacco or alcohol. After a month she starts to lose it. When she puts the base in danger by breaking regulations, she is put on probation and stripped of all privileges.
  • Broken Pedestal: With Wernher von Braun no longer protected by successfully getting the first person on the moon, Nixon has the full extent of his Nazi affiliations dug up to drum him out of NASA. Margo takes this particularly hard as she looked to him as a mentor (and it's implied a Parental Substitute for her distant father). She refuses to talk to him until von Braun forces the issue.
  • Butterfly Effect: Several thanks to the changes.
    • A major one is that after the Soviets land on the moon, Ted Kennedy has to cut short a trip to Chappaquiddick to meet Congressional leaders. Thus, without that crash hanging over him, Kennedy is able to defeat Richard Nixon and be elected President in 1972.
  • Cabin Fever: The Apollo 22 crew (Baldwin, Stevens, and Poole) gradually grow stir-crazy while stranded on the Jamestown Base. Gordo has the worst of it, regularly defying orders and becoming obsessed with The Bob Newhart Show.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Subtle example - email is called "d-mail" (digital mail) in this timeline.
  • Call-Back:
    • Tracy finds out that Gordo is cheating on her because his mistress flushes the toilet while he is on the phone with Tracy. Two episodes later, Gordo calls up Tracy in her motel room and tries to guilt trip her so she flushes the toilet to make him think that there is someone else in the room. She then smiles and acts like nothing is going on.
    • After taking Ed's place as the sole occupant of Jamestown base, Ellen sees one of the ants that Gordo was obsessed over crawling around.
    • Later still when Tracy is welcomed to Jamestown, she is informed of the "ant problem" - most likely dating back all the way to Apollo 22 (even if that is never confirmed or denied on screen)
  • Career-Building Blunder: Ed's unauthorized interview with a reporter in the first episode almost ends his career as an astronaut. However, he perseveres through his punishment and refuses to bad mouth NASA during the congressional hearing. This impresses a lot of people and he is subsequently put back in command of the Apollo 15 mission. The success of that mission is rewarded by giving him command of the important Apollo 22 mission (though given the problems that one has, it probably doesn't feel like a reward).
  • The Chains of Commanding: Ed experiences this during Apollo 22 when Gordo has a mental breakdown. Keeping a mentally unstable astronaut on the moon puts the entire crew in danger but sending him back will end his career as an astronaut. In addition, Jamestown cannot be left unattended due to Soviet presence in the area so someone has to stay behind, trapped alone on the moon till a relief mission arrives sometime in the next few weeks. Ed is eager to get home and his own sanity is strained, but he is in command so he volunteers to stay behind. When the relief finally arrives, he initially refuses to leave and has to be told that he fulfilled his mission and is now officially relieved of command.
  • Classified Information: The Pentagon wants a military base on the moon as soon as possible. When NASA asks what exactly these soldiers on the Moon will be doing (a basic requisite for planning such a base) the Pentagon refuses to say. Likewise when Ed is interrogating Mikhail about what the Soviets are up to on their base, he refuses to talk either. The irony is that both sides are still learning how to survive for long periods on the Moon, so neither side is in a position to set up any kind of useful military installation.
  • Cold Equation:
    • In space your life expectation is measured by how much oxygen you have and whether you have enough fuel and/or velocity to get somewhere where you can get more oxygen. When the Apollo 24/25 repair mission goes wrong, an astronaut is left floating in space without a way to get back to the flight capsule. The astronaut will run out of oxygen unless the flight capsule can intercept in time. However, the flight capsule might not have enough fuel to both make the rendezvous and then safely land back on Earth. Flight Control has to decide if they are going risk two lives in order to save one that might already be mathematically lost. Margo orders the crew to abort the rescue operation but Tracy disobeys and manages to get to Molly with just enough fuel left to land safely.
    • When Apollo 24 is about to shoot past the moon and into deep space a rescue mission is launched but there is only a small window to save them and if the operation takes too long, the rescuer might be killed along with them.
    • Similarly when the hull of the nuclear power plant command center on Jamestown is breached and one of the astronauts gets separated from the others and ultimately thrown out the window, the others hesitate shortly but ultimately close the hatch, because there is no chance for rescue any more.
  • Coming in Hot: Happens to Apollo 11 even worse than the real version, after which NASA spends several agonizing hours trying to reestablish contact. Luckily, they did survive and are able to return.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Just like Nixon's real life successor Gerald Ford, Ted Kennedy gives him a pardon for the Watergate Scandal upon becoming President. Nixon is rather less appreciative getting it from a Democrat.
  • Cool Car: As in real history, Chevrolet was savvy enough to make a deal to give Corvettes to all the astronauts, knowing everyone would want to drive the same car as them.
  • Cool Rocketship: The Stinger for the first Season Finale has a Sea Dragon super-heavy launch vehicle taking off from the ocean.
  • Creator Provincialism: The series focuses entirely on the American space program while the Soviets are simply a vague, unknowable force. This handily means they didn't have to spend any effort on an explanation of exactly what differences to real history allowed them to get to the moon first and could simply present the act itself as the point of departure. That said, per All There in the Manual, supplemental material does point out what the Point of Departure is: Sergei Korolev, the Soviet equivalent to Wernher von Braun who in reality died early in 1966 survives and fixes the flaws of the N1 rocket. The limited viewpoint also helps the dramatic arc in season 2 when tensions between Soviets and Americans escalate due to several misunderstandings and the viewer is left deliberately in the dark as to Soviet intentions and capabilities.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: One assumes that was the motivation of Pam when she dumps Ellen the second time after hearing Lee Atwater describe her as potential Republican politician material. She knows being gay would get in the way of Ellen's dream and wants her to pursue that instead.
  • Cutting the Knot: As tensions escalate, the Soviets use Buran to blockade the moon and threaten to fire on Sea Dragon if it attempts to land. What does Ed ultimately do? Use the missiles aboard Pathfinder to destroy Sea Dragon himself, ending the threat.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • This is concluded to be the likely cause of Patty's fatal Lunar Landing Training Vehicle crash. Being primarily a helicopter pilot, she wasn't accustomed to being able to eject when that should have been her first reaction, like what saved Neil Armstrong from a similar crash in real life.
    • When training on the moon rover Ed warns Molly that pilots have a tendency to treat it like a plane rather than the wheeled ground vehicle it is. They look at their controls and check behind and to the sides rather than looking straight ahead which can be dangerous when driving over rocky moon terrain.
  • Death by Adaptation: The Apollo 23 explosion kills eleven people, including Gene, who in real life is still very much alive.
  • Desk Jockey: Season 2 starts with most of the main astronaut characters working desk jobs. Ed has taken over Deke's job in the Astronaut's Office while Gordo and Danielle are off the flight roster. Tracy mostly does PR. Ellen is about to retire as an astronaut and take on administrative job as NASA. Only Molly is still active and is determined to keep going into space till she dies.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Ed knocks out cosmonaut Mikhail and ties him to a chair to interrogate him about what the Soviets are up to. Mikhail points out that now Ed's only options are to release him and have Mikhail tell everyone he was assaulted, or kill him and Make It Look Like an Accident. Fortunately a Conflict Killer intervenes when Apollo 24 needs rescuing.
  • Dirty Business: Passing the Equal Rights Amendment required a lot of under-the-table political deals and NASA was not immune. This results in 12 men dying because the manufacturing of a key part was moved to Illinois in order to buy the governor's support.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The launch of Apollo 24 is plagued by breakdowns and delays. Fixing one issue, results in something else breaking down which causes another launch window to be missed. By the time of the next launch window, something else breaks down. The constant delays have a bad effect on the crew of Apollo 22 who are waiting for Apollo 24 to relieve them on the moon. This culminates in the tragedies of Gordo having a mental breakdown and Ed being stuck on the moon while his son dies in an accident. And it doesn’t stop there, as Apollo 24 suffers a booster failure requiring Apollo 25 to be re-tasked to install a new flight computer. And then the booster turns back on the second it’s installed, resulting in Molly almost being lost if not for a near-suicidally desperate maneuver by Tracy, and 24 helplessly going right past the moon into deep space. Harrison Liu is killed instantly by the booster ignition and Deke Slayton is critically injured and dies in orbit around the moon.
  • Doomsday Clock: A nightclub was named "11:59" with references to nuclear apocalypse as a form of Black Comedy.
  • Double Standard:
    • An angry Margo who thinks Molly isn't taking Apollo 15 seriously enough says that she can't just be good, she has to be perfect, because of this.
    • Ellen Waverly confesses to Deke Slayton that she's homosexual. Deke responds with outrage and accuses Ellen of jeopardizing the space program. Though he apologises afterwards, Deke advises Ellen to never tell anyone else, because that's all people will see about her.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Soviets claim the Americans illegally seized their lithium mine on the Moon, and the world appears to believe their story. The audience and the main characters know it was an American mine that the Soviets seized before the Americans could officially claim it and the Americans were actually retaking it.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: The engine on Apollo 24 accidentally ignites while Apollo 25 is still tethered to it. Its commander Molly Cobb is forced to Cut The Safety Line to save her ship, leaving her adrift in space. With the help of her husband back in Mission Control, Tracy Stevens is able to find her again despite Molly orbiting through the dark side of the Earth when her flashlight goes out. Unlike some other fictional examples, orbital mechanics and fuel are important factors; Apollo 25 doesn't have the fuel to do the intercept and is at first ordered to return to Earth instead, only for Tracy to exercise her command authority now Molly is off the ship.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • The astronauts all head to the Outpost after the Soviet moon landing. Paul Santoro predicts this will happen and goes around questioning them, finding a willing source in the drunken Ed, who tells the reporter he thinks NASA lost its balls after the Apollo 1 disaster.
    • On being told his son is brain-dead, a fact that everyone on Earth kept from him, Ed Baldwin turns off all his equipment, sits in a Corner of Woe with a bottle and gets drunk.
    • Subverted with Gordo after he returns from the moon. He is troubled, depressed and contemplating doing something career-ending so he is found in a bar in the middle of the day... completely sober and drinking ginger ale.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: In the season 2 finale, Tracy and Gordo create jury-rigged counterpressure suits in order to save Jamestown base from a nuclear meltdown. Unusually, this is played entirely for drama, and it ends up being a Suicide Mission.
  • Due to the Dead: As Danielle and the Soviets get to know each other prior to Apollo-Soyuz, they learn each other's drink customs and have a toast to the deceased astronauts and cosmonauts.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Gordo and Tracy, faced with an imminent nuclear meltdown at Jamestown and no spacesuits to help them get to it, instead opt to completely cover themselves in duct tape to allow them just barely enough time on the surface to fix it. They save the day but aren't able to get back in time, just like they knew would probably happen, but it's the job they chose.

    E-H 
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Molly holds nothing against Margo for ordering her to be abandoned floating helplessly in space, and indeed had given the rest of the crew the same order herself, neither of them anticipating Tracy could pull off the insane move that was able to save her.
    • Averted with Tracy and Gordo's infidelity. After the divorce she tries to be cordial for the sake of their children but can't help herself from twisting the knife from time to time. She still has not forgiven Ed for not telling her what Gordo was doing.
  • Easily Overheard Conversation: Margo warns Sergei about the O-ring issue on Buran within hearing range of both a KGB agent and an MP, and the two get flustered as they discuss seeing each other again. Admittedly she has no other option because Sergei is getting rushed out of the country and Buran is due to launch soon after, but her willingness to reveal state secrets and growing feelings for Sergei make her a KGB target.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Bill Strausser in Mission Control is known as "Peanut" because of an incident where he peed his pants after staying at his post for a long time. But this was because he had to deal with an emergency on Gemini 8 in which the capsule lost control and was tumbling.
  • Epic Fail: One of the female astronaut candidates starts landing her plane way too fast, and bounces off the runway before being forced to take off again (known by pilots as "porpoising"). Amazingly, it takes her a bit longer to get cut.
  • Every Man Has His Price:
    • Once Margo sees that von Braun's report on the Apollo 23 disaster is going to be covered up she decides that she does not want to be a whistle-blower and instead trades her cooperation for a promotion.
    • Averted with Edward Baldwin; giving the chance to salvage his career if he criticizes von Braun at a Senate committee hearing, he instead admits that he also shares the responsibility for the US not being first to land on the Moon.
  • Explosive Decompression: When Jamestown's hull is breached, strong winds ensue which ultimately throws a Red Shirt out the window.
  • The Faceless: Because In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face is averted, there's a tense moment when Ed finds a cosmonaut retrieving the Soviet's damaged camera from the American ice mining site. All Ed can see is his own face reflected in the man's visor, adding an air of menace to the scene.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: While Ed and Molly don't like each other at first, they start to get along once they're on the Apollo 15 mission with only each other for company. By the fifth episode, they've settled into a Vitriolic Best Buds dynamic and Ed trusts Molly enough to tell her about some of his insecurities.
  • First-Name Basis:
    • Margo and Sergei come to like and respect each other during the Apollo-Soyuz negotiations and planning, but after Sergei acts on the information Margo gave him and sends an armed Buran to the Moon, she pointedly addresses him (who continues calling her "Margo") by his last name when he makes a video-call to announce the launch of the Soviet half of Apollo-Soyuz.
    • Most astronauts both on Earth and in space call each other by their first names. Even Ed Baldwin and the Soviet he took captive in Jamestown use each other's first names, though Ed initially uses a Stock Foreign Name.
  • For Want of a Nail:
    • The Soviet moon landing causes Ted Kennedy to in cancel the Chappaquiddick party where in real life he got into a car accident that killed his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne, ending his hopes of becoming president despite avoiding jail time.
      • Because Kennedy becomes President in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment passes in 1974. However, this required an under-the-table deal with the governor of Illinois, which unwittingly led to the Apollo 23 disaster.
      • Kennedy has an affair with Mary Jo Kopechne, bringing her to the White House as a staffer.note  The affair comes out as a scandal in 1974.
    • It's implied that this caused Apollo 11's landing to be much rougher than in real life.
    • Apollo 12 is not struck by lightning during launch. The Soviet landing led to the launch's timetable being pushed up, which meant it didn't launch during a storm.
    • Neither is any mention made of the Apollo 13 disaster, which would have taken place during the female astronauts' training. In the Season 1 finale, a risky plan involving a LEM is discussed as if there's no frame of reference for taking it so far outside its intended purpose like happened on 13.
    • Ronald Reagan becomes the 39th President in 1976, and unlike Jimmy Carter refuses to cede control of the Panama Canal, leading to greatly increased tensions between the countries. This inspires John Lennon to make a song protesting the situation, and it's on his way home from recording it that he's shot by Mark David Chapman, leading to his keyboardist stopping Chapman before he can be fatally wounded.
    • NASA redesigns the shuttle's solid rocket boosters in 1981 after discovering the Fatal Flaw that destroyed Challenger in Real Life.
    • The Soviet Buran shuttle uses solid rocket boosters instead of liquid rocket boosters.
  • Gender Is No Object: No one voices any problems per se with women being astronauts, and ERA protestors are shown with signs and buttons saying "A woman's place is in space". Objections tend to be raised more towards flying experience, and in Tracy's case, going from stay-at-home mother to astronaut. It is then revealed that the program was always meant to be a publicity stunt and the White House was waiting for a politically convenient time to scrap it.
    • Though this is brought about after a female trainee is killed, and public opinion then turns against the idea of women risking their lives as astronauts.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Gordo loses it when the Apollo 22 crew gets stranded at Jamestown, becoming obsessed with ants that escaped a broken farm even long after Danielle recaptured them all, and forcing the others to recreate the episode of The Bob Newhart Show that was their only entertainment after the Betamax gets wrecked. Eventually he has to be evacuated back to Earth, but because Danielle has to accompany him, and the US can't afford to abandon the Jamestown, Ed has to stay behind alone on the Moon. Ed in turn becomes increasingly paranoid about what the Soviets at nearby Zvezda are up to. He ends taking prisoner a cosmonaut who turned up at Jamestown seeking help because he was Almost Out of Oxygen.
  • Gone Horribly Right: To show peaceful intentions towards the Soviet Union without actually having to do anything, the White House proposes a joint US-Soviet space mission, betting that the Soviets will turn it down. To everyone's surprise, the Soviets accept, and NASA has to scramble to put together a mission that doesn't involve the new, technologically advanced Pathfinder shuttle.
  • Happily Adopted: In Season 2, Kelly (born Hanh Nguyen) is a Vietnamese girl who had been adopted by the Baldwins after Operation Babylift and the death of Shane. Her only conflict with her adoptive parents occurs when she wants to attend the Naval Academy like Ed did and her parents worry about her safety, but they quickly work through it. She does seek out her biological father (her mother having died in childbirth), but she decides not to speak to him in the end.
  • Happily Married: Surrounded by couples suffering from infidelity, societal discrimination, and PTSD, Molly and Wayne stand out as mutually supportive and open with each other. While Wayne does almost leave Molly after she schedules a dangerous surgery to correct her vision, she decides against it and they immediately reconcile.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: After the U.S. loses the race to put a human on the Moon, Wernher von Braun is brought before a congressional committee which brings up his past association with Nazi Germany to remove him from NASA.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • The United States (and implied the entire Western world) has one when the Soviets land on the moon.
    • Ed and Karen Baldwin both break down after their son Shane is rendered comatose in an accident.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: After Gordo becomes dangerously unstable while stranded at Jamestown, Danielle breaks her arm for an excuse to bring him back in the lifeboat, likely seriously impacting her career, so that the extent of his breakdown won't become public knowledge and result in him permanently losing his flight status.
    • In Season 2, Molly rescues Wubbo while exposing herself to the radiation from a major solar flare. In the finale, Gordo and Tracy have to go outside Jamestown in makeshift duct tape space suits to stop a nuclear meltdown, and they don't make it back alive.
  • Hero of Another Story: Season 2 features an epic story of increasing tension and military actions in Panama with numerous heroics, which is relegated entirely to a background story occasionally seen on news reports.
  • Hiding the Handicap: Molly takes great pains to keep secret that she's slowly going blind after being exposed to radiation from a solar flare.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Many real-life NASA officials and astronauts appear, including Deke Slayton, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Pete Conrad, John Glenn, Gene Kranz, Thomas O. Paine, and Wernher von Braun.
    • Richard Nixon appears through stock photos and a soundalike on the Nixon tapes. At one point he's heard speaking about the space program with Henry Kissinger. Ronald Reagan appears in season 2, having been elected in 1976, and actually appears in video footage.
    • Alexei Leonov, the first cosmonaut to land on the moon, was also a real-life cosmonaut who performed the first-ever spacewalk.
    • Sally Ride appears in season 2, having designed the nuclear-powered engines on the Pathfinder shuttle, and will take part in its maiden voyage to Mars.
  • Historical In-Joke: In real life, Leonov helped end the space race with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, where he met Deke Slayton and the commander of Apollo 10.note  Here, Leonov landing on the moon first keeps the space race going.
  • Honey Trap: At the KGB's insistence, Sergei calls up Margo and invites her to get a drink with him at a conference in the UK.
  • Hope Spot:
    • With the crew of Apollo 22 stuck in Jamestown while their relief suffers delay after delay, Gordo becomes unstable. Ed is able to talk him down and takes him on a moon walk so they can get away from the claustrophobic base. Gordo seems better and opens up to Ed about what is bothering him. Just as it seems that the crisis is over, Gordo thinks that he sees one of the escaped ants in his space suit and freaks out. Ed calms him down but one or both of them could have been killed as a result. Ed realizes that they need to get Gordo back to Earth before he gets them all killed.
    • When Gordo and Tracy have to fix the Jamestown reactor, they cover themselves in duct tape as an elementary form of protection and have only 15 seconds to before they succumb to the effects of space exposure. They manage to fix the reactor and make it back to the airlock. But by the time they're found, they're both dead.
  • How We Got Here: Half of Season 2 builds up to The Stinger from Season 1.

    I-L 
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!:
    • Ed is convinced that he could have successfully landed the Apollo 10 lander on the moon thus beating the Soviets to the moon. He initially blames von Braun for being too cautious but he ultimately acknowledges that the decision not to land was his own and was probably the correct one.
    • Molly could have been one one of the original Mercury astronauts and is quite bitter about getting removed from the program just because she was a woman. As such she is extremely pessimistic about the new female astronaut program and does not believe that she will ever be allowed to go to the Moon.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • When watching Leonov's first words from the moon, Baldwin reaches behind the bar to grab a bottle and pour it into his glass. The next day, Slayton tells the entire astronaut corps first thing in the morning to leave NASA and go blow off steam over the weekend. They all decide to go back to the same bar.
    • Averted when Molly Cobb does a high risk landing on the Moon with a lot of pressure to succeed as the first woman in space, she says that she needs a cigarette. Likewise when Karen Baldwin is unable to keep up her Stepford Smiler façade, she goes over to Wayne Cobb's house and shares a joint with him, despite never having touched drugs before.
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    • The Watergate Scandal still happens, even though Richard Nixon is running against Ted Kennedy instead of George McGovern, and Kennedy pardons Nixon just as Ford did in real life.
    • Deke Slayton is brought back to flight status and assigned to Apollo 24, as he was to the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project.
    • Ted Kennedy becomes President, but the string of NASA disasters is blamed on him and he ends up losing to Ronald Reagan.
    • The season 2 premiere plays with this. We see a montage of newspaper articles and TV footage that shows that even with the altered timeline many historical events of the late 70s and early 80s still happened because they have been building up over years or even decades. However, they do not always have the same outcome. Panama still asks for the return of the Panama Canal but the Reagan administration refuses. The Iranian Revolution still happens but this time the Iranian Hostage Crisis is resolved with a special forces mission that while successful, results in some hostages being killed. The Camp David peace negotiations still happen between Egypt and Israel but do not result in the signing of the Accords. In the Soviet Union, Brezhnev still dies and is succeeded by Andropov but the Soviet leadership decides not to send troops to Afghanistan thus avoiding an unpopular, resource-draining conflict.
    • The downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 still happens on September 1, 1983, and Thomas Paine is on board.
  • Insufferable Genius: All Aleida's former employers consider her a brilliant engineer but had to fire her due her constant insubordination and inability to work as part of a team.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Played for Laughs when Ed chooses Gary Piscotty, a US Air Force pilot, for the Pathfinder crew. He hazes Gary by having him wear a Navy cap and have him adjust it till Ed decides that Gary looks close enough to a Navy aviator for Ed to tolerate him. It also hides Gary's ginger hair, which Ed cannot stand.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Gordo is a lousy husband but he is right when he tells Tracy that she will not become an astronaut by complaining about how hard the training is. Likewise, Molly was needlessly cruel when chewing her out, but she is correct that Tracy can't let being tired affect her performance if she wants to be an astronaut.
    • Tracy is insulted when Deke Slayton suggests that she voluntarily withdraw from the program since the next stage will be really dangerous and unforgiving for someone with her lack of experience. Tracy sees that Deke's concerns were valid when the much more experienced Patty is killed during training.
    • The female astronauts are patronized all the time by the male astronauts and thus can miss when the same men genuinely give them valid information. When training on the moon rover, Molly thinks that Ed is implying that she cannot drive a car but he is actually warning her not to fall into a bad habit of operating it like it was an airborne plane rather than a wheeled ground vehicle.
    • Von Braun correctly points out that the "soft skill" of playing well with a team has passed Margo by and this swayed the NASA brass away from promoting her to Flight Director.
    • Likewise Margo handing NASA von Braun's report on the explosion of Apollo 23 goes exactly as von Braun predicted. Margo even quotes his line about it: All systems are corrupt
    • Throughout season 2 we see the US and the Soviet Union throwing accusations at each other about their agendas for the moon. It seems like just mud-slinging propaganda but we then discover that some of the accusations are true. The Soviets have armed their cosmonauts and trained them in space combat. The Americans are preparing to put nuclear weapons on the moon.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Deke Slayton is opposed to having female astronauts and he mercilessly culls the candidates from the program. However, once the remaining women have proven themselves, he will not scrap the program just because the political winds have shifted. He risks his career to give them a chance to succeed or fail on their own merits.
    • Thomas Paine appears to be a political stooge forced on NASA whenever the Republicans are in power, but he reveals to Ellen that he loves space and the space program, having fought to become director when Nixon was president and using backroom deals to get NASA the funding it needs until it can become financially independent. He also tells Margo that he wants the Apollo-Soyuz Mission to happen because it will go down in history.
  • Jump Scare: The explosion of Apollo 23 comes completely out of nowhere, in the middle of what had seemed to be just a regular conversation scene.
  • Kilroy Was Here: Danielle is visiting the Soviet Union as part of the Apollo-Soyuz Project when tensions between the US and the Soviet Union escalate. She is locked in her room and has no idea what is going on. She does discover that the room's door has a bunch of Cyrillic characters etched in it. She is later told that the previous occupants of that room etched their names on the door. The names are: Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova, Alexei Leonov and Anastasia Berikova.
  • Lighter and Softer: The show rather surprisingly takes the view that a world where the Soviets won the race to the moon would be better than what really happened in several ways, with American women getting to be astronauts a decade earlier, space travel continuing to be a viable prospect past the actual landing, and Ted Kennedy still being a viable presidential candidate against Nixon. Likewise, technological development is accelerated by the continuing space race. In Season 2, which takes place in 1983, renewable energy, electric cars, and digital mail ("d-mail") are more common than in our timeline.
    • But it also has its Darker and Edgier moments, especially with the death of a female astronaut candidate, the ground crew of Apollo 23 (and the corrupt pork barrel politics that led to that), Ed and Karen's son, and some of the crew of Apollo 24. In season 2, there is the shooting of two unarmed cosmonauts, the invasion of Jamestown Base, and escalation towards nuclear war. But in the end, tensions are defused with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and Ed's decision to blow up the Sea Dragon cargo vessel amidst the Soviet blockade, although Gordo and Tracy Stevens sacrificed themselves to stop the runaway reactor at Jamestown.
    • Arguably the most negative outcome of the show's alternate history compared to real life is that space exploration becomes inexorably linked with military expansion, leading to missiles and guns on the moon that NASA has no choice but to accept
  • Lima Syndrome: Despite nearly killing Mikhail, Ed eventually warms up to him and trusts him enough to help get the extra fuel enough to help rescue Apollo 24, then allows him to repair the Soviet rover so he can return to Zvezda, despite the risk of an international incident and the end of Baldwin's career.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Deke Slayton consistently wears a dark blue polo shirt and black pants.
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    M-P 
  • MacGyvering: Ed and Molly cannibalize their rover to make a rappelling harness to search a deep crater for ice. Molly has to put her trust in the cable being able to hold her, with no way to test it.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: A variation occurs in-universe when Tracy gets remarried, and opts to keep Gordo's surname rather than her new husband's, rationalizing that she is a public figure and better known by "Stevens".
  • Married to the Job:
    • Our introduction to Margo Madison shows her sleeping in her own office, not just because she was working late, but because she has a bed and toiletry facilities set up there. This makes it difficult for her to understand Aleida who as a teenage girl has the distractions of boyfriends and family. She gets quite flustered when Aleida asks to stay with Margot when her father is deported to Mexico, even though Aleida has nowhere else to stay.
    • After Pam breaks up with her and Deke Slayton dies, Ellen devotes herself to astronaut work and forgoes any new romantic relationships. She still maintains the facade of a happy marriage with Larry.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Molly is a tough-as-nails Action Girl. Wayne is an open, emotional artist who worries about her to the point of a breakdown. They're Happily Married.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Wernher von Braun mentored Margo and Margo mentors Aleida. (And if the series went the same way as in Real Life, von Braun's mentor was this guy.)
  • Mexican Standoff: Besides the Mexican-Standoffishness of the Cold War in an of itself there is a literal one. While Pathfinder is on the far side of the Moon and hence incommunicado, Sally Ride threatens Ed Baldwin with a gun to stop him from shooting Buran. Ed pulls a gun in turn and says Sally is only bluffing before Gary Piscotty manages to defuse the situation.
  • Moon Base: NASA plans a permanent lunar base called Moonlab, as an Allohistorical Allusion to the Skylab space station; this is later renamed to Jamestown Base and landed at Shackleton Crater where water ice can be found in the shadows. The Soviet Union also builds Zvezda Base at the same crater.
  • Moving the Goalposts: After the Soviets land on the moon first, NASA changes the goal of the Space Race, training female astronauts and planning lunar colonies and manned interplanetary exploration.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • Ed is horribly guilt-ridden after Patty's death in a LEM test he was administering, convinced he overlooked some instruction that would have avoided the crash. This leads him to be unhelpfully aggressive while teaching his son to ride a bike.
    • Margo's father apparently never quite got over working on the Manhattan Project
  • Never a Self-Made Woman:
    • Margo finds herself being put down as "Wernher's girl" regardless of her actual talent.
    • This trope is actually the case with Tracy Stevens, who is only invited onto the female astronaut program because she and Gordo being the First Couple In Space is good publicity. It takes her some time to gain the respect of people like Molly Cobb, who are there entirely on merit.
  • Never My Fault: Von Braun runs through every excuse possible as to why he's not complicit in and responsible for many horrors of WWII, from "I'm just an engineer" to "I didn't know" to "I would have been killed if I spoke up". Only after Margo repeatedly questions him about whether he knew that his rockets were being built using concentration camp slave labor does he even come close to admitting he did anything wrong. Even then, his idea of "admitting" it is saying that important scientific work requires sacrifice.
  • Never Say "Die": Deke and Ellen can't bring themselves to say the words "die" or "death" when it looks like Apollo 24 is hurtling to deep space. Even after Deke dies, Weisner doesn't use the word when informing his wife Marge.
  • No-Paper Future: Averted. Jamestown has a communication device (presumably a fax-machine) that prints everything it receives on an endless paper strip. Why NASA decided to not eliminate or at least reduce that weight is never addressed.
  • No Respect Guy
    • Ed finds himself being overshadowed by all the media attention paid to Molly Cobb, including being ignored in a phone call from President Nixon to the Moon.
    • When Danielle deliberately injures herself so Gordo can return to Earth for psychiatric treatment, Gordo is treated as the hero while her injury is used as another reason why women shouldn't be in space. But when Gordo wants to confess the truth, Danielle bluntly tells him to keep his mouth shut as it would end both their careers.
  • Noble Demon: The show pulls no punches about Von Braun’s culpability in the Nazis’ atrocities, but he’s sincerely devoted to advancing the American space program and keeping it as safe as possible. If he’d still been around, there’s no way the destruction of Apollo 23 would have happened.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted
    • NASA realizes the piss tube on the lunar module has only been made for men. When they suggest that Molly Cobb wear a diaper the entire trip, Ed is not impressed and orders them to come up with a better idea. "You're NASA, you're rocket scientists. Figure it out."
    • Among all the other stresses at Jamestown, the toilets don't work properly.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Molly isn't interested in being a feminist icon or challenging gender roles, she just wants to fly. However, when she finally gets chosen to go into space, an angry lecture from Margo and the admiration of the other women at NASA change her attitude somewhat.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: During the survival course, Tracy encounters Ellen with a Twisted Ankle, and even though she risks failing the course, she helps Ellen to the finish area. This earns her the respect of both Deke and Molly, even though neither think she's qualified enough to become an astronaut. Tracy later refuses to leave Molly behind when she's cast adrift in space, despite Molly ordering her to.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Molly points out to Ed that they are not as different as they think they are. Just like many other pioneers and explorers they are selfish and egotistical. They go out to further human knowledge and get glory, and the people they leave behind get sick from worry.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Apollo 23 had a launch escape system which let the command module and crew survive the explosion of the Saturn V. Unfortunately, unlike the Soyuz, Apollo's command module is designed to splashdown, not land, and the CM hits the beach instead of the ocean. The crew survives but is severely injured, still recovering two months later.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Donald Kent Slayton is addressed by everyone by his nickname "Deke".
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Lampshaded by Slayton when he tells the Apollo astronauts just how disappointed and angry the Mercury astronauts were when the Soviets beat them to sending the first man into space. Things were so bad that John Glenn said "fuck". Everyone in NASA knew that Glenn never swears.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat:
    • The Nixon administration changes "top priorities" at the drop of a hat: the moon race gives way to a Moon Base, which is then to be adapted to military use, then that's put aside for the female astronauts program, which is then ordered dropped when the White House decides getting the Moon base has priority because they're worried the Soviets will beat them again.
    • Harry Weisner, the NASA administrator under Ted Kennedy, wants to bury von Braun's report about the political cause behind Apollo 23's explosion and allows himself to be blackmailed by Madison to keep it under wraps.
  • Open Secret:
    • In season 2, the higher ups at NASA know about Gordo's excessive drinking but are willing to ignore it and keep him on the astronaut roster as long as Gordo stays out of the limelight.
    • More people seem to know about Ellen and Larry's homosexuality than they would like. Harold Weisner, at least, acts like he knows when he advises them to get married.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The decision is made not to tell Ed that his son has been in a traffic accident. Unfortunately the story gets out to the press and the cosmonauts on the Soviet Moon Base send a message of condolence, causing Ed to think they're trying to Mind Screw him, so he smashes up their equipment in a rage.
    • After Ed captures and ties up a cosmonaut he stops communicating with NASA while he figures out what to do. This means that he does not know what happened to Apollo 24 and that his help is vital to the rescue operation. Gordo and Danielle have to remotely control the base's lights to send him a Morse Code message.
    • Armed Marines on the moon encounter two Soviet cosmonauts trespassing on a US claim. The Marines order the cosmonauts to stop and not move. Instead, the cosmonauts reach into a case, presumably for their own weapons. The Marines open fire. A cosmonaut dies horribly and the other one is badly wounded. The cosmonauts were reaching for a translation card, either because their English was not up to the task or to recall what frequency the Americans broadcast on.
    • Tracy desperately tries to warn an astronaut that an armed cosmonaut is behind him. However, the astronaut is in a space suit in a depressurized hallway so sound does not carry and he cannot hear her. She tries to gesture but before he can clue in to what she is doing, he is shot in the head.
  • Propaganda Machine: Leonov, like Neil Armstrong in real life, used the phrase "one small step" when landing on the moon. The context is, ahem, slightly different:
    Alexei Leonov: I take this step for my country, for my people, and for the Marxist-Leninist way of life. Knowing that today is but one small step on a journey that someday will take us all to the stars.
  • Punny Headlines: The Houston Sentinel on the day after the Soviet moon landing uses the headline "Red Moon."

    Q-T 
  • Rank Up:
    • For his actions during Apollo 22, Ed is promoted to captain.
    • After the Time Skip, a number of the characters have been promoted. Ed is an admiral (retired) and in charge of the Astronaut's Office, Ellen is in command of the expanded Jamestown base and scheduled to take over as Deputy Administrator at NASA, and Margo is the Director of Johnson Space Center.
  • Redemption Equals Death: For both Gordo and Tracy in the Season 2 finale. They start out the season as a sad sack and an egotistical celebrity respectively, but both die as heroes saving Jamestown from being destroyed by a faulty nuclear reactor. It's especially poignant for Gordo, since his first time on the moon ended in a mental breakdown, with only Danielle's quick thinking and self-sacrifice saving him from permanent disgrace.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Tracy repeatedly messes up a flight sim, Molly snaps at her that being tired isn't an excuse and tells her that she is only there because having an astronaut couple is good PR for Nixon, and that if she weren't Gordo's wife she would already have been cut.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: After Ed tells a reporter how he really feels about NASA and von Braun, he is removed from Apollo 15 and assigned to Apollo Applications. When it appears that his days as an astronaut are finished, Ed prepares to quit NASA and return to active duty in the Navy.
    • This may have happened to Alan Shepard, the first American in space, who has not yet appeared.
  • Reentry Scare: An atmosphereless version when the Apollo 11 mission has apparently failed when the radio and telemetry are cut off from the Eagle on landing, indicating a catastrophic crash-landing which would end not only the astronauts lives but also the US space program. The silence goes on for hours and everyone has given up hope, when Neil Armstrong is finally able to reestablish contact. It turns out the lander had a rough landing impacting with some boulders and now rests at an 45 degree angle with partial crumpled landing legs. Fortunately, the lander is otherwise undamaged and is able to launch and reunite with Collins in the Command Module with some careful calculations.
  • Refuge in Audacity: After getting orders from the White House to scrap the female astronaut program, Deke calls a press conference announcing the four remaining women as the next astronauts, making it impossible for anyone to order them expelled without serious political fallout.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Some characters in Season 2 talk about future Mars missions being done by the private sector, like what a certain real-life rocket company plans to do.
  • Rousing Speech: Kranz gives one to Mission Control prior to the launch of Apollo 11:
    Gene Kranz: Till a few weeks ago, I thought I knew what today was all about. I thought it was about being first. Turns out the stakes are much bigger than that. Today is about the future of our country. The future of the world. Because if we fail in our mission today, the United States will turn away from space, turn away from the future. Bogged down by war, poverty, hatred. And the future? Well, the future will belong to the Soviet Union. They will be the ones reaching into space for all of mankind. Now, I want you all to think about that for a moment. What that means for the future, to look like "the Marxist-Leninist way of life." But if we succeed, if we succeed in putting Apollo 11 on the moon, we're still in this thing. Still in the race. The future will be ours to fight for and to win. We put a man on the moon today, I guarantee we are not stopping there. We're going to Mars, Saturn, the asteroids, the stars, deep space, the galaxy. And then, then we're getting answers to the big questions. Are we alone? Is there life out there? I am proud to be a member of this team, and I know that we will succeed today in our mission... in putting two Americans on the moon. Because in this room, in this agency, in this country... failure is not an option.
  • Satellite Character: Aleida, the daughter of a NASA janitor who becomes fascinated by the space program, eventually becomes Margo’s protege but still has yet to do anything significant by the end of Season 1. This is perhaps the clearest sign of Ron Moore planning out the entire story in advance. In Season 2, she is an engineer who helps develop the Apollo-Soyuz docking system, making her a character who works on satellites.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!:
    • Once the female astronauts have proven themselves, Deke is not going to cut them from the program just because it is now politically convenient to do so. He risks his career and directly disobeys Nixon to make sure that they are given a chance.
    • When it looks like Ellen might die in space, Karen brings Pam to the Mission Control family viewing area despite it being against all sorts of rules.
    • Margo finds out the Soviets have stolen NASA's rocket specs, but not the latest ones where they fixed a problem the O-rings have in cold weather (in real life, the cause of the Challenger disaster), which will naturally be a much bigger issue in Russia. She's ordered not to let the Soviets know as it could reveal America's spy operation, but she still drops some big hints while meeting with Sergei and he gets the message.
    • In the Season 2 finale, Danielle, having been ordered to return to Earth amidst deteriorating relations between the US and USSR, decides to go ahead with the Soyuz docking and handshake to promote a message of peace. Ellen gives her approval at the last second, in the same spirit.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When the southern United States is threatened by nuclear missiles in the middle of three separate situations in space, Margo tells mission control that anyone who wants to should leave for the bomb shelter. One man leaves.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Karen refuses to accept that her son is brain-dead so insists on a second opinion. As there's divided opinion over whether Ed should be told, given that he's alone on Jamestown, Karen is consulted over whether to do so. Karen refuses to allow this until the neurologist has examined her son, thinking he will come up with better news. This means that everyone lies to Ed and he ends up getting the news from the Soviets and suffering a Heroic BSoD.
  • Semper Fi: All Marines are riflemen first so all Marine aviators are trained and qualified for ground combat. When the US government decides to send armed astronauts to the moon, the Marines among the astronaut candidates are put at the top of the list since they will require the least extra training. This proves to be a mistake as "every Marine is a rifleman" is a nice slogan but is no substitute for specialized training needed to keep your head in a hostile, confusing environment like the moon.
  • Sex Sells: When the Soviets put the first woman on the Moon, the Nixon administration insists that NASA put their own woman up there, preferably someone pretty and blonde. They're not happy when Molly Cobb is selected, despite her being the best candidate.
  • Shellshocked Veteran: Clayton, Danielle's husband, has a hard time recovering from his experiences in Vietnam. His death in season 2 is implied to be a suicide or caused by addiction.
  • Shipper on Deck: Margo's assistant Emma tells her to wear a red blazer to her meeting with Sergei because he likes red. While Margo claims it doesn't matter what he likes, she wears it anyway and he immediately compliments her.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Gene Kranz says that failure is not an option, which he never said in real life but did in Apollo 13.
    • As you'd expect from Ron Moore there's the inevitable Star Trek reference when Gordo complains that they're babysitting the Moon Base instead of Boldly Going Where No Man Has Gone Before. There's also a mention of Bob Fiedler (Emil in the The Bob Newhart Show) also playing Hengist in the TOS episode "Wolf in the Fold".
    • Season 1 also makes use of the phrase "sometimes you gotta roll the hard six," used by Commander Bill Adama on Ron Moore's other big sci-fi series.
    • Danielle is a massive Trekkie. Before Apollo 75 launches, she quotes "A Taste of Armageddon" and calls her pilot Morrison "Mr. Sulu," telling him to "set course for Earth orbit." He responds, "Aye, aye, Captain."
  • Show Within a Show: VHS tapes of The Bob Newhart Show are given to the Jamestown Base to watch.
  • Silent Credits: Happens at the end of the episode "Rupture" in which Ed and Karen's son Shane, is rendered brain-dead.
  • Slave to PR:
    • Without the popularity bump of landing the first man on the moon, NASA and the White House scramble for any good publicity they can get. This means that female astronaut project is fast-tracked despite Deke Slayton's objections but also means that the White House cannot completely side step Slayton since his resignation would be a PR nightmare.
    • Ellen Waverly is regarded as the perfect face of the female astronaut program — beautiful, talented, at ease with the media, with a commanding presence that earns respect. As a result she can never tell anyone that she's gay as the adverse publicity would destroy everything she's worked for.
    • The US military overreacts to a solar flare and makes itself look too trigger happy with its nuclear arsenal. A joint US-Soviet space mission is proposed to help ease tensions and make it look like the US is seeking peaceful co-existence with the Soviets. The US government treats it as a publicity stunt and does not actually expect the Soviets to agree. When the Soviets agree to the mission, Ed suggest Danielle to lead it. The White House hates the idea but dares not reject her because it would make them look like sexists and racists.
    • Tracy was asked to join the astronaut program as a PR stunt and has spent years trying to build her own public image that separates her achievements from Gordo's. When Ed assigns Gordo to the next Jamestown mission, which will overlap with hers by two months, she is furious because this could erase all that work and she could once again be perceived by the public as just the "astro-wife".
  • Solar Flare Disaster: A large solar storm hits the Moon in the first episode of Season 2, bombarding the surface with radiation and causing the dust to move in ripples.
  • Sole Survivor: Ellen Wilson is the sole survivor of Apollo 24, with Liu killed instantly in the accidental engine burn, and Deke slowly bled out.
  • So Proud of You: After Tracy return back to Earth Gordo preempts the official award ceremony and gives her his own gold space wings to indicate how proud of her he is.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Invoked by Mikhail as a form of Loophole Abuse. International law treats space as it would an ocean. With an American ship in distress, Mikhail is legally obligated to help out no matter what the political situation is.
    Mikhail: We are on a dark ocean, together.
  • Space Marine: After the Soviets capture an American mining site on the Moon, NASA opts to send U.S. Marines to Jamestown to reclaim it, complete with white-painted M16s. In "Don't Be Cruel", they ride on the LSAM and drop right into the captured site, prompting the two Soviet cosmonauts to high-tail it out of there.
  • Space Plane: Season 2 involves Space Shuttles (but more of them) and a proper single-stage to orbit shuttle called Pathfinder. It is launched from the top of an aircraft and is powered by nuclear thermal rocket engines.
  • Space Trucker: By the ‘80s, a lot of the adventurous sheen has worn off of space travel and most of the Jamestown crew see the job as just another daily grind like they’d have on Earth. Tracy in particular is quite dismayed at the situation.
  • Stay in the Kitchen
    • When the news is announced that Tracy Stevens is going to become an astronaut, Ed takes it in stride whereas his wife is the one who is furious.
    • The female astronaut program becomes a rallying cry for supporters of Women's Rights, and T-shirts bearing the slogan "A woman's place is in space" become popular.
  • The Stoner: Molly and her husband Wayne are into marijuana. When Molly is chosen for Apollo 15, Wayne hits it even harder in a desperate attempt to stop his constant worrying that she won’t come back.
    • Karen begins to smoke pot with Wayne after Shane's death, and it becomes a bonding ritual between them.
  • Stunned Silence: Mission Control falls silent as the people working there realize that Apollo 23 has just exploded on the launch pad.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • After Red Moon, Slayton gives the astronauts the day off so they can indulge in Drowning My Sorrows and vent their anger in a way that will not impact their work. It is a good idea but it also means that you have a bunch of inebriated, pissed off astronauts who might not be careful about what they say to a reporter in a bar.
    • Astronaut training is dangerous and the female candidates lack the extra experience the men had. This results in Patty being killed in a training accident.
    • The US military leaders are extremely eager to have bases on the moon and then the engineers present them with the reality of the situation. It will take at least two years to have a bare bones base that could be placed on the moon and it will have to be mainly a test site for figuring out how humans can survive on the moon for long periods of time. Having a significant military presence on the moon is not realistic for a long time.
    • The Soviets try to beat the Americans to being the first to establish a base on the moon but appear to push their program beyond its limits and crash the lander.
    • Most of the male astronauts come from the military so their wives had to previously deal with the fact that their husband might not come back alive from a mission. To further deal with the stress of being an astronaut's spouse, the wives have developed a support network where they watch out for each other and give constant emotional support to each other. Molly's husband Wayne has no experience dealing with such stresses and as a man is treated as an outsider to the wives' support network. It's no wonder that when Molly goes into space, Wayne is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and is suffering from horrible nightmares.
    • NASA administrators are political appointees and the massive NASA budget is ripe for political maneuvering. So lucrative contracts might be awarded for political reasons even if the recipient of the contract is not up to the job. The manufacturing of a key valve component is moved to an Illinois plant to secure the governor's support of the Equal Rights Amendment. A defective valve causes Apollo 23 to blow up.
    • NASA astronauts are given rigorous psychological tests to make sure that they can perform under extreme stresses. However, being stuck on the moon for months in a cramped Moon Base provides its own set of unique stresses. Someone with a temperament that makes him an excellent combat and test pilot might not be best suited to a long period of boredom combined with the low level but constant stress of living in the hostile moon environment.
    • Astronauts brave extreme danger to go into space where any mistake can kill you. This makes it easy to forget that life for the people left on Earth can also be dangerous. A mistake on the moon can kill you in seconds but so can a distracted driver a block from your home.
    • For all that Gordo and Tracy seem to have patched things up at the end of Season 1, the beginning of Season 2 casually reveals that they divorced during the Time Skip, and are on bad enough terms that Tracy announces her remarriage on The Tonight Show without privately informing Gordon beforehand.
    • By the time Tracy gets to the moon, the entire spirit of adventure and awe has been largely sucked out, with Jamestown Base having long been established and its crew being little more than Space Truckers most of the time. She's climbing the walls just a month into her assignment.
    • You send a bunch of trained soldiers with weapons to the moon who do not speak Russian and are apparently about as Trigger Happy as the average American cop. What did you think would happen? Shoot Him! He Has a... Wallet! of course
    • As careful as Gordo and Tracy are and as many precautions as they take, no human can survive the vacuum of space. Fortunately they are able to accomplish their task.
  • Take a Third Option: Cut off from communication due to being on the remote side of the moon and forced to make a decision whether to shoot down Buran or potentially being shot at by Buran Ed Baldwin and Sally Ride get into a heated argument until Piscotty urges them both to, well, look for a third option. Ed does by shooting down Sea Dragon, defusing the tension.
  • Take That!: The show's crew clearly greatly enjoys taking real life Karma Houdini Wernher von Braun down a few pegs, even punctuating it with a clip of the Tom Lehrer song.
  • Tap on the Head: Shane Baldwin is hit by a car and sustains a head injury. He is taken to hospital but the damage is too severe and he never wakes up. A top neurosurgeon is flown in but all he can do is confirm that the patient is brain dead.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Apollo 15 crew during training. Ed isn't happy that Gordo has been replaced by Cobb, while Cobb is hardly a team player and doesn't like how the men are patronizing her even though she's been flying for longer than they have.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "Hi Bob" takes place around Thanksgiving in 1974, and was released Thanksgiving Day in 2019.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Apollo 23 exploded within minutes of the ERA passing. Illinois passed the amendment in time in part due to a NASA contract delivered to an aerospace company in Illinois; that company's manufacturing defects led to the explosion.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted. NASA has plenty of psychologists on staff but going to see one could be career ending for an astronaut. When Gordo decides that he needs to see a therapist, he picks one at random from the phone book and relies on doctor-patient confidentiality to keep it secret from NASA.
    • He has good reason to be worried; Ellen finds herself being interrogated by an FBI agent who is casually reading her supposedly confidential NASA psychiatric report.
  • Time Skip:
    • After the conclusion of the Apollo 15 mission, the story skips forward two years to the landing of the Jamestown Moon Base in 1973.
    • After the events of the Apollo 22-25 missions, the season one finale jumps to 1983.
    • After the events of the Jamestown arc through season two, the finale jumps to 1995.
  • Title Drop: The phrase "for all mankind" comes from the lunar plaque which was (in reality) left on the moon by Apollo 11. There's debate over what to be done with the plaque, now that the phrase "first set foot" no longer applies.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A person in a space suit who hasn't announced their visit and isn't radioing in to say "hello" walks up to your lunar base with a gun, what should you not do? Stare dumbfounded at the window as it gets shattered by bullets. What does our Red Shirt do? Well, precisely that.
  • Token Minority: Subverted. Danielle is claimed to be one when her name first comes up as a prospective candidate, but her science background, work at NASA, and piloting experience make her a qualified candidate.
    • But this is brought up again in the second season, almost a decade after she broke her arm deliberately to hide the fact that Gordo was not mentally well on Apollo 22. She feels that she needs to be the commander of a mission in order to not be seen as this.
  • Together in Death: Gordo and Tracy die in each other's arms after saving Jamestown from a nuclear disaster.
  • Training from Hell:
    • The astronaut training is unforgiving with candidates being constantly tested and ranked with those at the bottom of the ranking regularly cut from the program. Only ten female candidates make it to the desert survival test and only five make it to day 200 when the really difficult and dangerous training begins. Justified by the fact that outer space is an extremely unforgiving environment where the slightest error can kill you.
    • Played with in season 2 when Gordo puts himself through a series of exercises meant to help him to get over his fear of going back to the moon. They are pretty benign from an outsider's perspective but to Gordo they are psychological torture.
  • Traitor Shot: Ed accuses Soviet cosmonaut Mikhail of spying on him. After they work together to get the LSAM launched, there's a final shot of Mikhail turning to look at Jamestown Base, implying he did in fact do some snooping while it was abandoned. Season 2 reveals he planted a bug while Ed was rescuing Apollo 24.

    U-W 
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • When everyone thinks that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin died landing on the moon, Michael Collins refuses to leave lunar orbit.
      CAPCOM: Mike, I think we all understand how you feel, but...
      Collins: All due respect, Houston, I don't think you do understand. I decided a long time ago that if something like this were to happen, that I wasn't coming home alone. I'm staying right where I am. Columbia, out.
    • After Molly fixes Apollo 24’s booster, it immediately turns on, leaving her desperately clinging to the module while her tether drags Apollo 25 behind them. She cuts 25 free and shortly afterward loses her grip, and urges 25 to just leave her as they’ll barely be able to get back to Earth as it is. On the ground, Margo grudgingly agrees and gives the order, but Tracy refuses to leave her, and just barely manages to get her back on board.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Upon becoming President, Ted Kennedy cuts a deal to change the lucrative contract for building Saturn rockets to a company in Illinois to get a Republican senator from the state to change sides and get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. The new company promptly cuts a few corners and causes Apollo 23 to be an even worse disaster than Apollo 1, exploding during maintenance and killing twelve people including Gene Kranz, plus leaving the previous crew stuck at Jamestown much longer than intended.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Seeing a cosmonaut on the moon planting a Soviet flag.
    • The second episode ends with footage from the second Soviet mission revealing that one of the cosmonauts is a woman.
    • Gordo sees a massive smoke plume at the training ground, right after Tracy started training with the LEM and Ed reminds them of Neil Armstrong’s (real life) narrow escape from a fiery crash on this same test. This is actually just tricky editing, and it was Patty who was killed.
    • During a routine pre-flight prep when no-one is expecting trouble, Apollo 23 suddenly explodes on the launch pad, killing Gene Kranz and eleven ground crew.
    • Ed lets a cosmonaut in distress into the airlock of Jamestown, then once Mikhail has removed his spacesuit he pumps air out of the airlock.
    • While searching for the reason the Soviets were able to beat them to setting up a lithium mine, it turns out Mikhail actually put a bug in the overhead lights, and the Soviets have been listening to everything going on at Jamestown for the last nine years.
    • The techs on Jamestown Base are finally getting the reactor back online when one of them spots a cosmonaut outside the base. He pulls out a rifle, and then he fires.
    • The very last shot of Season 2 features another Time Skip to 1995, and the first manned mission to Mars.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • No one says anything, but the sentiment is all over the faces of the rest of Mission Control when Margo orders Molly to be abandoned to her death helplessly floating in space.
    • Tracy never got over the fact that Ed knew of Gordo's infidelities and did not tell her. She makes her feelings on this clear to him when he gets on her case for blindsiding Gordo on national TV.
    • Margo calls out Bradford and Ellen for hiding the second nuclear reactor on the Jamestown base from her and its purpose to build nuclear weapons, particularly since the safety of the base is her purview.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Bill vents to Margo how there's been little publicity given to the ground crew killed in the Apollo 23 disaster, as opposed to the months of publicity given to the Apollo One astronauts.
  • What You Are in the Dark: As deadly radiation from a solar flare approaches the Moon, Molly and another astronaut are caught far from Jamestown and have to take shelter in a lava tube. Molly makes it, but the other astronaut flips his rover and is knocked out. The radiation is about to arrive, he may already be dead anyway, and if Molly just stayed in the tube no one would ever know she might have been able to save him. But she still heads out and rescues him.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Danny Stevens and Shane Baldwin begin acting out while their fathers are stranded on Jamestown and Danny's mother Tracy is busy preparing for Apollo 25. Their principal even brings it up as a possible factor, but Karen refuses to discuss it.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: After Ed talks to a reporter without permission he is offered a chance to denounce the contents of the article as false. Ed is too honorable to do so since the reporter truthfully reported what Ed told him. Later Ed is given a chance to testify against von Braun in front of a congressional hearing and tell them that it was von Braun's fault that Apollo 10 did not land on the moon. In the last moment Ed concludes that he made the decision not to land on his own and he refuses to lie and place the blame on von Braun. Earlier, Karen lampshaded the fact that Ed is not the type of person to lie to save his own hide.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Gordo and Tracy during Season 2.
  • Witch Hunt:
    • After Apollo 23 blows up, the FBI starts an investigation into possible Soviet infiltration of NASA. Larry fears that if they do not find real spies, they will instead use the investigation to expose and persecute NASA's gay employees.
    • Aleida's father gets arrested because he's using a fake ID as an illegal immigrant and is found with pictures of the Saturn V rocket that he was bringing his daughter. It doesn't help that he's reluctant to say this for fear of ruining her chances. In the end he's only deported, but that means Aleida has no-one to look after her.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Danielle breaks her own arm in a fake accident so they will have an excuse to take a mentally unfit Gordo back to Earth without destroying his career.

    X-Z 
  • You Are Grounded!:
    • Occurs twice, once in Episode 6, and again in Episode 7, when Edward's son Shane becomes a much more unruly child, especially in his father's absence. This culminates in a blow-out argument between Shane and his mother, with her slapping him in the face, and him running away and getting involved in an accident.
    • When Aleida Rosales accuses her father of not knowing how things work in America, he proves otherwise by evoking this trope.
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