For All Mankind: Home Again
November 22, 2019 8:55 AM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

A launchpad accident leads to delayed missions and FBI background checks.
posted by KTamas (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Overall, another strong episode. I'm not, like, a 100% happy with the whole Von Braun thing but I think it was done rather well overall. Wrenn Schmidt plays Margo really well.

Random thoughts:
- Will Gordo ever get at least a second dimension or will he just stay as a human stand-in for toxic masculinity? (this is likely a rhetorical question.)
- Only 37 states in this United States? Where did history split *that* much I wonder.
- The emotional abuse of the kids hits a bit too close to home, even as the show sells that as "well that was parenting in the 70s!" (and I mean, it probably was?)

P.S. I'm just gonna keep saying this in every thread until the end of the world, why does noone in this show talk about possible new lifeforms in the water they found on the moon. Why.
posted by KTamas at 9:02 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

A good 10-15 minute too long. They’ve gotta be more aggressive on editing this stuff down. Lots of speech-exposition, “as you know Bob”. Not the greatest ep but easy enough to watch.
posted by adrianhon at 10:20 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Only 37 states in this United States? Where did history split *that* much I wonder.

Constitutional Amendments require 3/4 of the states for ratification, or 38.
posted by sideshow at 11:29 AM on November 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

ha, thanks, sideshow. (I'm not American)
posted by KTamas at 1:37 PM on November 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

"...why does noone in this show talk about possible new lifeforms in the water they found on the moon. Why."

Water in the environmental conditions on the Moon doesn't amount to much. If you were to arrange all the planets, moons, and planetoids in the Solar System in order of most likely to support life to least likely, the Moon would be toward the bottom of the list. I'd almost expect a large comet with the right orbit to support (rudimentary, weird, hibernating) microscopic life more than I would the Moon. I'd expect one or more atmospheric layers of Jupiter and Saturn to support life than I would the Moon.

The reason we're so interested in Europa isn't just because there's (almost certainly) a layer of liquid water under its ice. It's because there is also a lot of organic chemicals and the environment is possibly dynamic in life-friendly ways. NASA puts it this way:
Europa is strongly believed to hide a deep ocean of salty liquid water beneath its icy shell. Whether the Jovian moon has the raw materials and chemical energy in the right proportions to support biology is a topic of intense scientific interest. The answer may hinge on whether Europa has environments where chemicals are matched in the right proportions to power biological processes. Life on Earth exploits such niches.
Additionally, planets and moons in the Solar System that don't have a rotating metallic core lack magnetospheres, which means that harmful solar and cosmic radiation isn't routed around the body and instead reaches the surface. This is a little-discussed but serious problem we'd have to solve if humans attempt to spend any significant time on Mars. This is a problem on the Moon; there's been discussion of this on the show both with regard to transit and the base.

Europa, though it probably doesn't have a significant magnetosphere (and, even if it did, Jupiter's intense radiation belts would make it insignificant) has that protective ice layer with the liquid layer underneath.

We don't know if there's volcanism on Europa, but there is on Io, another Jovian moon, and given those huge Jupiter tides, it's not unlikely that there'd be some on Europa, too. So: the ice both acts as a radiation shield and a source of oxidants (from the radiation bombardment), there are the organic molecules we're seeing all over the place (comets, even interstellar space) and liquid water and volcanism that might provide energy and power convective flows.

That is the sort of environment you expect to find life in. It's not just about water.

You need a lot more happening and the Moon is a place with not much stuff, radiation, extreme temperatures, and almost nothing ever happening. Water's there because it turns out that water's pretty much everywhere it hasn't been heated to vaporization, ionized, and blown into interplanetary space by the solar wind (which is what happened to Mars).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:17 PM on November 22, 2019 [9 favorites]

About the episode: the passage of the ERA made me very, very sad for our timeline. And angry. Also, my prediction of a major accident came true, except in the wrong way. Their risk-taking would have caused this long before a subcontractor's inadequate QC (although the two are related).

The left has always been really upset that Ford pardoned Nixon, but I think this show is correct in implying that almost every successive president would have done the same.

The description by Wernher von Braun to Margot about her father's work sounds like it might be the "Monte Carlo Method", famously invented by John von Neumann (as von Braun said) and Stanislaw Ulam. I don't think that implies that she's Ulam's daughter; there were other people involved. (Including a room full of women "calculators" throwing dice for long periods of time!)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:10 PM on November 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

Thanks, Ivan Fyodorovich.
posted by KTamas at 2:08 AM on November 23, 2019

It feels a little as if the writers have been mining Soviet space history for inspiration here. The Apollo 23 explosion seems like a combination of Soyuz T-10-1 (spacecraft crew barely escape via Launch Escape System when booster explodes on the pad) and the 1960 Nedelin Disaster (rocket explodes during work to rectify a fault, killing numerous launch pad personnel).

There was a little bit of dramatic licence here to allow Collins and the rest of the Apollo 23 crew - I don't think the others were named - to survive at all. The Apollo LES wasn't armed until the crew access arm and 'white room' were moved away from the booster about five minutes before launch. Up to that point the escape route was to unstrap, open the hatch, run along the crew access arm and then either (a) jump into a slide basket on a wire to a refuge point half a mile away, or (b) take a high-speed lift down to the pad base then jump down a chute to the 'rubber room', a spring-mounted bunker underneath the pad (more photos). Neither of these would really have been an option for a sudden catastrophic explosion.

In theory the LES should have taken the Command Module far enough off to the side to land in water, as in addition to the main escape tower rocket motor there was a sideways-firing smaller one intended to push the CM away to one side. (It can be seen firing in this picture of a 1965 'pad abort' test of the Apollo LES.) Perhaps this was another subsystem re-contracted to another supplier with poor quality control.

The subplot about the re-award of the valve contract for political reasons is reminiscent of the suggestion that pork-barrel politics led to the Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) contract being awarded to Thiokol in Utah, meaning that the SRBs had to be manfufacturerd in segments small enough for rail transport and bolted together at KSC, via joint seals of the kind that failed on STS-51L and destroyed Challenger. The reality was a bit more complicated than that (Thiokol was a long-standing manufacturer of solid-propellant rockets) but I can see where this plot idea came from.

It looks like the altercation between Gordo Stevens and Danielle Poole's husband had no lasting effects, as they're both together on Apollo 23, in which case I'm not quite sure what point that scene last episode served. Also, if Stevens and Poole were meant to be flying Apollo 18, then they got another flight again (as did Ed Baldwin) awfully quickly. By the time of Apollo 11, when FAM's timeline departs, NASA had something like 50 active astronauts, including the Group 6 'Excess Eleven', who in reality didn't get any missions until the Shuttle in the early 1980s. With the additional female astronaut group, it's unlikely Slayton would have had any shortage of astronauts to assign, but this is TV drama so we need a small cast of regular crew.

Talking of Slayton, another nod to real life in that he did of course assign himself to a space flight once he got his medical issues resolved, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975. Here he is in orbit with Alexei Leonov, who of course in FAM is the first human on the Moon.

Little details:
- Wayne Cobb's painting is hanging in the Baldwin house. That must have been an interesting conversation...
- The mid-70s NASA 'Worm' logo (as seen in that ASTP photo) appears, but, as with the 'Meatball', FAM uses a subtly different version.
posted by Major Clanger at 1:57 PM on November 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

Were the red lights at the end supposed to be the Soviet moon base? Surely the astronauts knew where it was located, so it wouldn't have been a surprise if he was walking in their direction. And NASA must have had frequent overflights with their survey satellites to track the Russian progress.

I also noticed the panther painting and wonder if it will come up again...
posted by autopilot at 7:41 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I assumed the lights were a Soviet vehicle – they mention the bases are eight miles apart, which is a bit far for a casual stroll.
posted by mikepop at 8:33 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

It looked like it came from a heavily shaded area that might rarely be visible from the usual survey overflights. That's a possibility -- except, of course, bright red blinking lights defeats the purpose of any subterfuge.

I wonder if he'll report this and no one will ever be able to confirm it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:11 AM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ivan Fyodorovich: About the episode: the passage of the ERA made me very, very sad for our timeline.

I wonder if this episode was produced before or after Democratic sweep in Virginia gives new life to the Equal Rights Amendment (CNN, November 6, 2019).

More national context: Why Virginia’s Election Results Mean the Equal Rights Amendment Could Finally Pass (Molly Olmstead for Slate, Nov. 06, 2019)
Democrats swept the election in Virginia on Tuesday, flipping the state Senate and House of Delegates and giving the state a fully Democratic-controlled government for the first time since 1993. The results quickly led to renewed conversation about a somewhat unexpected legislative goal: the Equal Rights Amendment.

autopilot: Were the red lights at the end supposed to be the Soviet moon base?

I'm expecting this will be explored or explained in the next episode (I'm almost caught up!), but I'm guessing this is much closer than the 8 mile gap stated earlier in the episode (when we saw Zvezda concept art with space tanks -- screencaps on Imgur).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2019

So Ted Kennedy being President is the result of Chappaquiddick incident not happening in this timeline, right? I recall there being a throwaway mention of him cancelling a party at Chappaquiddick as a result of the Russians getting to the moon first.
posted by nubs at 12:58 PM on April 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

The complaints about the effects were more noticeable here (notably, we don’t see the LES launch in the shot of the initial explosion, and the Jamestown base flyover looked like it came out of a Blender tutorial)

For an episode as long as this was, I also wish we got to see more of how the interpersonal dynamics are playing out on the moon base. (Surely Danielle is gritting her teeth through the unserious antics of her genuinely-terrible crewmates?)

I’m enjoying this a lot, but there are weird parts that aren’t quite clicking right, and it really feels like they would have been easy to fix.
posted by schmod at 9:52 PM on January 8

I will say that the queer storyline is a welcome inclusion, and was handled tactfully.

Representation matters (and, after all, it’s historically relevant - we only just learned that Sally Ride had a female partner after she passed away in 2012).
posted by schmod at 9:58 PM on January 8

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