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I realize this may belong over in SciFi & Fantasy, but it's Friday and maybe the experts here will humor me.

Imagine if you will that the Cold War never happened. Instead, after WWII the governments of the US and Soviet Union come to the mutual agreement that it is in humanity's best interest to make space exploration a top priority. The first satellite launch is a joint effort. The first space capsule to orbit the Earth carries an American and a Soviet. Inspired by these achievements, China avoids a cultural revolution and embarks on the "Glorious Path to the Stars", rapidly modernizing their space program and joining the burgeoning global space initiative. In 1969, the whole world celebrates when astronauts from six different nations step out of a shared lunar lander and walk on the Moon. From here on, billions of dollars that once supported war budgets are instead devoted to R&D for space exploration.

With that as the backdrop, here are my questions. What could be possible outcomes of this unified effort to explore space? What would mankind's presence in space be in 2015 if organizations like NASA had the full support of their governments? Would we have already colonized Mars and be moving to planets beyond, or is mankind's ingenuity hampered by technological constraints that make the outcome of an idealized alternate history like this not so much different from the current status of space exploration?

Thank you for your thoughts and time.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by kim holder, Russell Borogove, TildalWave Jun 26 '15 at 17:40

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi user18412. It's an interesting question, but unanswerable, even in the broadest terms. It isn't so different from asking what we could do, in the next 20 or 30 years, if we put great resources into the task. $\endgroup$ – kim holder Jun 26 '15 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ ...but it's Friday and maybe the experts here will humor me. Hehehe cute! Still, it would require too much speculation to answer. If you want my opinion, some few thousand rocket scientists and a few dozen thousand highly capable engineers would never have been sent to Siberian gulags. Conversely, one of the greatest Soviet rocket engineers / designers ever, Sergei Korolev, was first sent to a gulag and then pardoned because of the space race effort. So that's then about a few thousand / few dozen thousand (nobody knows real numbers) minus one. $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Jun 26 '15 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ "Imagine if you will that the Cold War never happened." Oops! We just lost the major motivation behind the moon landings. ;) $\endgroup$ – Andrew Thompson Jun 26 '15 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ Instead, after WWII the governments of the US and Soviet Union come to the mutual agreement that it is in humanity's best interest to make space exploration a top priority. Why in the world would they have done that? The only place where one can reasonably say that space exploration is in humanity's best interest is Earth observation satellites, communications satellites, and navigation satellites. Everything else in space has been politics, making other countries look stupid. There's a long-standing tradition for this, dating back to the Egyptians and their pyramids (maybe earlier). $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Jun 26 '15 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen, Yes you're right, but I wasn't being reasonable in my questions. ;) Adding a motive for the surge to space would've pushed it well over the line into SciFi territory. $\endgroup$ – user18412 Jun 26 '15 at 22:50
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There is a great example, of how the change from competition to international cooperation worked out.

Fusion research, when a competition between countries was competitively pursued, and progress was made. However when the agreement to work together on a very large single project was made, progress slowed down, as the large single project sucked all funding and researchers into it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point! Death by committee. $\endgroup$ – user18412 Jun 26 '15 at 22:42

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