October 31, 1968
The day the United States lost the Space Race
For over a decade, the Soviet and American space programs struggled to gain supremacy over the heavens. With the Soviets adding triumph after triumph—the first satellite in orbit, the first man in space—in the end, they declared victory in by landing a cosmonaut on the Moon, declaring victory in the Space Race and perhaps the Cold War itself.
In the wake of this devastating blow, the American investigative journalist Jack Schechter gets swept up in the intrigue of two rocket scientists communicating through the Iron Curtain, a Soviet diplomat’s cat and mouse game, and the lies that hold everything together.
An alternate history audio drama
Breaking news! The United States has lost the Space Race to the Soviet Union. On October 31, 1968, Americans received transmissions from Cosmonauts on the Lunar surface. Jack Schechter, host of WNYX’s news program The Friday Review brings on Natalia Gromyko, a Soviet diplomat, to discuss what this means for geopolitics and the future of the Cold War.
The Cosmonauts who landed on the Moon finish their world tour with a White House dinner. On the other side of the Iron Curtain, a Soviet rocket scientist named Nikolai has been sending postcards to Jacob, an American working at NASA. He brings the postcards to Jack at The Friday Review to find out why Nikolai has disappeared.
Jack seeks Natalia’s help in locating Nikolai, but she has a word of warning to share with the idealistic journalist. Meanwhile, in the midst of the dismantling of NASA’s Apollo Program, the Nixon administration doubles down on defense.
Broadcast from the snowy streets of Moscow, Jack teams up with Igor, a Soviet journalist, to try and locate Nikolai. What they find instead is even more troubling: a ransacked home, Moscow police hot on their tail, and a deepening of Cold War paranoia.
“Diogenes will know.” “Not enough.” The cryptic notes Nikolai left in the margin of a top secret document take Jack from Moscow to the Cosmodrome itself, halfway across the continent, to investigate the Soviet Space Program from within.
Four months after the world learned the truth of the Soviet Moon landing, Jack returns to The Friday Review following his leave of absence to file one last report amid growing global conflict.
If you like what you’ve heard, please consider leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice and telling a friend!
Pieces of a puzzle
Jacob and Nikolai have been pen pals for years. Despite working in competing space programs and living half a world away from one other, they find kinship in correspondence.
But when pressure comes down from high ranking Soviet officials, mistakes become commonplace. People begin disappearing mysteriously and Nikolai suspects something sinister. Now it is your job to uncover the truth . . . a truth hidden in the very messages you possess.
There is a password hidden in Nikolai’s messages. If you’ve found it, enter it above to access bonus story content from The Soyuz Files.
The Gromyko/Graves Debates – November 10, 1968
In the weeks following the Soviet Moon landing, the American Broadcasting Company hosted a series of live televised debates between Natalia Gromyko, special attachée to the Soviet Embassy, and Abner Graves, professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University. Their spirited debates covered topics ranging from the differences in quality of life between the USSR and USA, to whether a Moscow baseball team could compete in the World Series.
Announcement of Komarov's Death – April 28, 1967
Natalia Gromyko made a formal announcement of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov’s death during the Soyuz 1 mission in April, 1967. His was the first in-flight fatality of the Space Race.