Moonbase Alpha (Space: 1999)

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This article is about the setting of Space: 1999, a television series. For the NASA computer game, see Moonbase Alpha (video game).
Moonbase Alpha
Moon, Plato
Moonbase alpha.jpg
Moonbase Alpha
Coordinates Lunar 51.6° N, 9.3° W
Type Moon Base
Height Up to 1 kilometer
Site information
Controlled by ILFC
Site history
Built February 3, 1983
Built by International Lunar Finance Commission
In use 1983–present
Materials Quarried rock and ores
Events September 13, 1999 – Blasted out of Earth's orbit
Garrison information
Current
commander
Commander John Koenig
Past
commanders
Commander Anton Gorski ? – 1999
Commander John Koenig September 1999 –
Occupants Alphans (Humans from Earth)

Moonbase Alpha is a fictional Moon base and the main setting in the British science fiction television series Space: 1999 (1974–77).

Primarily a scientific research station, at the start of the series, Moonbase Alpha houses 311 personnel including scientists, astronauts, medical personnel, and security officers. It is under the command of John Koenig. Four kilometers wide and up to one kilometer deep, it is a totally self-sustaining facility, with the different areas connected by a series of high speed "travel tubes". Alpha also has a fleet of Eagle Transporter spaceships, used for a variety of purposes throughout the series, which are housed in underground bunkers and then raised on launch pads for take-off.

Buildings and structures[edit]

Moonbase Alpha[edit]

Located in the Moon crater Plato[1] and constructed out of quarried rock and ores, Moonbase Alpha is four kilometres in diameter and extends up to one kilometre in areas below the lunar surface.[2] The complex extends outward from the central Main Mission tower in a series of concentrically arranged curved structures connected by travel-tube transit tunnels. (The look is more than reminiscent of Clavius Base in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Apart from the central tower, the surface buildings are two to three storeys in height.

Originally, the base was designed to serve as both Earth's primary space research and exploration centre and a monitoring station coordinating the nuclear waste disposal areas on the Moon's far side. Construction began on 3 February 1983, but was briefly halted during the 1987 world war. Construction commenced afterwards under the auspices of the new World Space Commission. Though operational and occupied for years, final completion of the Alpha construction project occurred in 1997.[2]

Moonbase Alpha is totally self-sustaining. Power is generated by four nuclear reactors[3] and the accumulation of solar energy.[4] Earth-normal artificial gravity is generated by eight towers surrounding the complex.[5] Water is obtained from ice deposits under the lunar surface, recycled and purified. Nutritional requirements are met by a variety of familiar-appearing foodstuffs produced biochemically on Alpha [6] This diet was supplemented by frozen-food products imported from Earth [7] before all contact with home was severed in September 1999. (At the time of "Breakaway", about eighty percent of food and water products were produced chemically on Moonbase.)[8]

The expansive Main Mission, as viewed from the Command Office, was the primary control centre of Moonbase.

The international pooling of technical skill and resources after the War of 1987 resulted in the advanced construction of Moonbase Alpha. The operations and living areas are both functional and spacious (unlike early space capsules and Earth-orbiting stations). Main Mission, the control centre of the installation, is a massive, multi-leveled room. Opening into Main Mission from behind large sliding doors is the Command Office, which includes a large conference and conversation area. Corridors run eight feet wide throughout the base and the pipes and wiring trunks that festooned the walls of previous ocean-going military vessels and spacecraft are concealed behind four-foot-by-eight-foot modular panels.

All Alpha personnel have their own suite of rooms in the Residence Section with sitting room, sleeping alcove and private bathroom. Suites with a separate, larger bedroom are available to married staff members.[3] Personnel also have the option to live with a roommate if desired.[9] The Recreation Section boasts a gymnasium,[10] private work-out rooms,[11] a solarium with adjacent sauna and swimming pool,[3] bowling alley, performing-arts theatre and separate cinema[10] and a reference library with both real books and electronic equivalents.[11] Recreation lounges and restaurants are scattered throughout the complex.[12]

Several buildings are given over to research in a number of scientific fields including astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology and astrophysics.[10] Others are devoted to the Technical and Maintenance Sections and are responsible for the repair and upkeep of Moonbase and its many complex systems. The Eagle transporters and other ancillary craft are maintained and stored in an underground hangar complex.[13]

In contrast, Year Two revealed that an underground complex had been constructed and expanded upon between the two series and that the majority of Alpha's command, operations and living centres had been relocated there.[14] The vulnerable Main Mission had been abandoned in favour of the safer underground Command Centre, a smaller control room with many of the same features of Main Mission. The Medical Section once occupied an entire building on the Moon's surface and included several large wards, trauma, casualty and diagnostic units, intensive care wards and operating theatres. Underground, it was reduced to a few rooms, the main Medical Centre acting as a combination patient ward, examination room and surgery all in one.[15] Living quarters were now one small room which did not even appear to have a private bath.

Other facilities revealed in Series Two were a complement of offensive laser batteries which had been installed around the Moonbase complex (starting in "The Metamorph"). These large weapons were stored underground and raised to the surface when deployed. They had a range of at least forty-three thousand kilometres [16] and were controlled from the Weapons Section, a small, bunker-like room. In "The Exiles", the Golos cylinders were taken for examination in an 'underground research area', a laboratory facility constructed inside a lunar mountain on the rim of the crater containing Moonbase. This secure area, designed for the performance of potentially hazardous experiments, was connected to Alpha only by travel-tube and boasted its own Eagle landing pad.

Launch pads[edit]

One of Moonbase Alpha's Eagles preparing for lift-off from a Launch Pad. Note the Travel Tube top right of screen accessing the rest of the Moonbase

There are five launch pads visible around the base which have extending/retracting boarding tubes via the reception building for access to the Eagles and visiting spaceships. These launch pads are circular but have descending cross-platforms that lower the Eagles into underground hangars for storage and maintenance.

Travel tubes[edit]

Travel tubes provide rapid transit between the various sections of the base and to and from the launch pads via a cylindrical travel capsule which contains seating for either four or six passengers depending on the unit being used. Easy access to and from main corridors and reception areas is via double-sliding doors on either side of the capsule. Access to the launch pad is through the end door, which opens directly into the boarding tube connected to the Eagle. There is the capacity for the occupants to suspend motion in mid-travel with an emergency stop button.[17]

As would be expected, the use of the travel tube network requires a good deal of power; in the event of an energy crisis, travel-tube service is among the first systems suspended.[11] Despite expectations to the contrary, travel-tube tunnels are pressurised with normal Alpha atmosphere.[18]

Anti-gravity towers[edit]

There are eight anti-gravity towers surrounding the Alpha complex; the anti-gravity fields are used to boost the Moon's one-sixth gee gravity and stabilise it to a near one-gee Earth normal within the Moonbase structures.[5] These are also seen around other structures outside the main base such as Nuclear Disposal Area Two as well as other off-site research facilities.

The towers also contain generators and projectors for Alpha's radiation and meteorite defence screens.[19] In the episode "Black Sun", Victor Bergman formulated a way to increase the power of the anti-gravity generators in the towers to produce an enhanced anti-gravity forcefield effect. The drawback of the Bergman forcefield is that it requires more energy than the four main generators are designed to produce; the generators from the entire Eagle fleet are required to supplement the power supply in order to sustain it for any length of time.

Orbital satellite[edit]

A vital component in Moonbase's tracking and communications systems is its orbital satellite. Situated in a high lunar orbit, the satellite acts as a radar- and sensor-tracking station as well as a transmitter relay and observation platform. Like the Moonbase communications system, it can transmit on the powerful 'interstellar' frequency.[20] When the Moon was engulfed in a high-energy plasma cloud following the controlled destruction of an asteroid, the orbital satellite was used to triangulate the position of Alan Carter's missing Eagle using the interstellar-strength transmissions of the satellite, Alpha and Koenig's Rescue Eagle (after said Eagle was equipped with the proper transmitter).[20]

Nuclear Disposal Area One[edit]

Nuclear Disposal Area One and Navigation Beacon Delta

Due to Earth's reliance on nuclear power, atomic waste had accumulated to such a degree that it had become a major environmental problem. With the establishment of a permanent moonbase, Alpha served a dual function. In addition to being Earth's space control centre and space research area, it would also serve as the guardian of the nuclear waste that would be deposited there.

Nuclear Disposal Area One was established on the far side of the Moon and was used until 1994. The dump site consisted of a large number of concrete mounds set in an irregular pattern. Although no longer used, Area One was constantly monitored. The area was also notable for the presence of Navigation Beacon Delta, a tall mast which was one of the few permanent structures on the far side. Eagle pilots would use this as a landmark for their training flights, and also as a turning point for flights to Disposal Area Two.[21]

By the time of "Breakaway" there had been a significant number of problems that looked as if they were related to radiation leakage. The rogue planet Meta had been discovered as it passed through Earth's solar system and a flight crew for the long-range Meta Probe was conducting training exercises on the far side of the Moon in the vicinity of Area One. The two primary Meta Probe astronauts, Eric Sparkman and Frank Warren, displayed all the symptoms of radiation sickness—cerebral malignancy, disorientation, coma—and died. A number of workers at Disposal Area Two also died under similar circumstances.[21]

Commander John Koenig was sent to Moonbase Alpha with orders to get the Meta Probe launched. After learning that the 'virus infection' story being circulated was a fiction devised by Earth Command, he started an investigation into the cause of the deaths. This revealed that while the radiation levels at both sites were at normal levels, the levels of magnetic radiation were not. Monitor systems at Area One showed a tremendous and unexplained rise in heat levels. Koenig took an Eagle out to investigate and lost control due to interference from the magnetic radiation. Minutes after the crash, Area One erupted in a large magnetic sub-surface firestorm, burning itself out.[21]

Nuclear Disposal Area Two[edit]

An Eagle unloading Nuclear Waste at Nuclear Disposal Area Two

Nuclear Disposal Area Two was the second 'burial ground' for nuclear waste on the Moon and was far larger than its predecessor.[21]

The disposal area opened in 1994, taking over from the previous Nuclear Disposal Area One. Unlike the random appearance of Area One, Area two was more advanced as well as having a surrounding laser fence for security reasons. The laser barrier could be deactivated at one section by workers and other authorised personnel using CommLocks, granting them access. In the centre of the facility was a landing pad for the Eagle transporters that would be conveying batches of lead canisters of nuclear waste to the Moon. This was connected to a conveyor belt and an automatic lift system used to lower the waste canisters into the underground storage pits. According to Professor Victor Bergman, Area Two was considered to be safer for storage due to Synthocrete radiation covers used to seal the waste pits. These had not been invented when Area One was operational.[21] By September 1999, Area Two contained one hundred forty times the amount of atomic waste that had been stored in Area One in its forty-eight waste silos.

Area Two was completely destroyed when the magnetic radiation effect detonated the accumulated nuclear waste, despite an eleventh-hour plan to prevent the disaster where the waste pits were opened and the Eagle fleet attempted to disperse the waste canisters over a wide area to diminish the potential explosion. A large portion of the lunar surface was vaporised in the catastrophe.

Outside the secure area, there had been a circular building used as a monitoring station; an Eagle landing pad was connected to this facility. It, too, was lost in the disaster.

Other nuclear waste disposal sites[edit]

The Nuclear Waste Domes—three dome-like structures and a monitoring station—were seen only once in "The Bringers of Wonder" two-part story. Considering that Nuclear Disposal Area Two was active at the time of "Breakaway", it is unknown what role this area played, unless it had been set up after "Breakaway" to process waste from the Moonbase reactors. Oddly, they were designed to allow a portable canister of atomic fuel to be plugged into the core and detonate the waste area, destroying a significant portion of the Moon's surface.

Another waste site is seen in the episode "The Seance Spectre", consisting of 10,000-foot-deep (3,000 m) shafts into the lunar surface, each topped with a concrete cap. The site was deliberately detonated to shift the Moon from a collision course with Tora, a proto-planet still forming in the centre of a debris cloud. In dialogue trimmed from the final cut, this area was designated Disposal Site B-7, and was stated to have pre-dated even Area One. This area also contained the circular monitoring depot buildings seen at Area Two in "Breakaway".

Weapons and equipment[edit]

See article on the List of Space: 1999 weapons and equipment used by the Moonbase Alpha personnel such as the Spacesuit, CommLock and hand-held armament.

Spacecraft and vehicles[edit]

Eagle Tranporters[edit]

Laser tanks[edit]

Moon buggy[edit]

Moonbase sections[edit]

There are six Moonbase Sections to which personnel are assigned; these are identified by a colour code. Signage regarding these sections is printed in its appropriate colour, as is the left uniform sleeve of the assigned staff. They are: Command (Charcoal) Main Mission/Command Centre (Flame), Technical (Rust), Service (Yellow), Medical (White), Reconnaissance (Orange), and Security (Purple).

Some personnel are seen wearing different coloured sleeves throughout the series depending on their duty at that time. In addition, special teams and units also exist: the Science Board, the Radioactive Monitoring Team, Surface Exploration Teams, Mining Section and Rescue Units.

Visitors to Moonbase Alpha not assigned to duty do not have a colour-coded sleeve.

Command[edit]

Though not officially a military installation, Moonbase Alpha has one commanding officer, assigned by the World Space Commission, whose function is as administrator and co-ordinator of all operations in the facility. This commander has unlimited access to all areas of Moonbase.[7] Main Computer is programmed to accept and obey all Command orders from this individual[22] short of those instructions which would threaten the safety of Alpha.[23]

It is stated that John Koenig is the ninth commander of Alpha.[4] Only two commanders are ever named in the series: Anton Gorski, who served as commander during the Ultra Probe mission in 1996,[22] and as the commander being replaced by Koenig, who assumed command of Alpha on 9 September 1999.[21]

APOCRYPHA: A deleted scene from "Breakaway" indicates Koenig was also the first commander of Alpha. This is established by Commissioner Simmonds, who is giving an interview on Earth TV that Koenig is watching while on his way to Alpha. (Audio of the clip is available on YouTube in February 2011).

Main Mission/Command Centre[edit]

Main Mission personnel include the operations and administrative staff on Alpha. The second-in-command is designated 'Main Mission Controller' and functions as senior supervisor of the operatives assigned to the control centre. One may assume that there is also an administrative/office staff to perform the bureaucratic tasks that any organisation requires to function—human resources, paymaster (before the Moon's breakaway), record keeping, etc.

"Main Mission" itself is the command and control area for Moonbase Alpha during the first series. It is situated at the hub of Moonbase in a prominent tower structure some levels above the lunar surface. Main Mission was abandoned by the Alphans after it became apparent that it was vulnerable to damage from hostile aliens and forces mostly due to its above-ground location. The command staff later moved to the smaller but more protected 'Command Centre' in the underground levels of the base.

Technical Section[edit]

The largest department on Alpha, Technical encompasses the computing staff, technicians overseeing the functioning of the nuclear reactors and environmental systems, aerospace and rocket propulsion engineers, general maintenance crews, mining personnel and, as a sub-department, the Research Section's scientific staff. David Kano served as section chief before his unexplained disappearance at the beginning of Series Two. During the course of the first series, two chief engineers were mentioned: Smith (a.k.a. 'Smitty') who assisted Victor Bergman in the Main Power Unit when adapting the Moonbase anti-gravity generators into a defensive forcefield;[5] and Anderson, who was never seen, but mentioned by Sandra when co-ordinating damage reports during the encounter with the Triton space probe.[24] In the second series, "The Lambda Factor" introduced Chief Engineer Pete Garforth.

Service Section[edit]

Service encompasses data analysts, clerical staff, the botanists and technicians tending the hydroponic farms and botanical research units, as well as the never-seen kitchen, laundry and janitorial personnel. Throughout the series Sandra Benes appears to be the Service Section chief working from her station in Main Mission/Command Centre.

Reconnaissance Section[edit]

Reconnaissance Section astronauts fly the Eagles and other ancillary Moonbase craft. They also frequently operate in Main Mission/Command Centre as flight controllers during survey and reconnaissance missions. Reconnaissance works in conjunction with Technical Section to assure the Eagles transporters are constantly checked, maintained and on stand-by for immediate action. Chief Eagle Pilot Captain Alan Carter serves as section chief. In the days before the Moon's departure from Earth, Reconnaissance was responsible for all aspects of the deep-space flight missions deployed from Alpha (see the Uranus Expedition,[25] the Astro Seven Mission to Jupiter,[26] the Ultra Probe [22] and the Meta Probe [27] among others).

Medical Section[edit]

Medical encompasses the physician and nursing staff, plus medical orderlies and laboratory technicians—twenty-five persons in all.[28] (Scientific and support personnel can be drawn from the Research Section as needed.) The main tasks of Medical Section are: to maintain the physical and psychological health of all Alpha personnel and to carry out experimentation upon all factors affecting humans residing in space, i.e. human life-science and psychology experiments. The section chief is Doctor Helena Russell, assisted by Doctor Bob Mathias, Doctor Ben Vincent, Doctor Ed Spencer and Doctor Raul Nunez. As the practitioners of an isolated community, these five physcians have many specialities between them—space medicine,[27] psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology,[29] neurology and neurosurgery,[30] cardiology and cardiac-organ transplant,[31] infectious disease,[32] ophthalmology,[33] pathology,[34] emergency medicine and trauma surgery.

Medical maintains "stretcher teams"[16] for internal first aid emergencies, while "Medical Rescue Units"[35] perform the same function on space missions. There is also a "surgical team"[36] of doctors to deal with life-threatening injuries.

Central Computer monitors the physiological health of the entire Alpha population via wrist monitors worn by every individual staff member.[37] In the event of high physiological stress[22] or death [38] of a staff member, Computer will offer a verbal and hardcopy warning to the medical staff on duty.

Security Section[edit]

Security guards are on stand-by to control internal disciplinary problems, sentry duty at strategic or restricted areas, defense functions during survey and reconnaissance missions and search-and-rescue missions. All guards carry stun-guns and sometimes rifles or small missile launchers when the situation allows. They are trained as space arms specialists. Defense teams are deployed during red alerts to strategic areas throughout the complex and usually consist of two to four guards. Tony Verdeschi is head of Security, although he does not appear until Year Two of the series.

Defensive and offensive capabilities[edit]

One of Moonbase Alpha's Eagle craft, which serve as the base's main defensive capability
  • Each of Moonbase Alpha's five main launch pads houses an underground hangar which each store a number of Eagle Transporters. During Year One, only seven of Alpha's Eagles are armed,[4] though this changes later on.
  • Laser Tanks, which are converted construction vehicles, are also stored around the base in the hangars. Each of these vehicles is lightly armed.
  • Some time before "The Metamorph", Moonbase is armed with five large retractable offensive laser cannons.[39]
  • Meteorite and radiation defence screens[40] can also be used in a defensive capacity. The Bergman anti-gravity forcefield is the ultimate defence measure, but it cannot be used without advanced notice; its power requirements are enormous and the main unit generators must be supplemented with power generators stripped from all servicable Eagles for the shield to function for any length of time.[5]
  • Protective areas: although not a defense in and of itself, if an attack is imminent, nonessential personnel are evacuated to deep shelters forming the lowest levels of Alpha.[41] Much of this network of large underground bunkers was used for the construction of the underground Alpha seen in the second series.

Dark side of the Moon[edit]

The far side of the Moon is often improperly called the dark side of the Moon. The first scene of the show had a caption stating the location of the nuclear waste disposal storage being on the dark side of the Moon, although the caption also stated it was September 9, 1999, so the caption meant it was the dark side of the Moon on September 9 which is not inaccurate. It was also referred to as "the far side" by the character Ouma during the episode. The far side of the Moon, while always away from Earth, will still be illuminated by the sun, thus there is no area of the Moon that is permanently dark. This error was noted by Isaac Asimov, who wrote two articles on the scientific inaccuracies of the show.[42][43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Space: 1999 Official Handbook - ITC Entertainment
  2. ^ a b Moonbase Alpha Technical Notebook
  3. ^ a b c Space: 1999 episode "Force of Life"
  4. ^ a b c Space: 1999 episode "War Games"
  5. ^ a b c d Space: 1999 episode "Black Sun"
  6. ^ Yeast vats and algae tanks maintained in the underground recycling plants provide the raw materials for food synthesis along with fruit and vegetable products grown in the vast hydroponic farms. (In "Breakaway", a bowl of green 'Granny Smith' apples can be seen in Koenig's quarters; "Guardian of Piri" featured a punchbowl garnished with lemon slices. In "The Mark of Archanon" Alan Carter offered Etrec a hamburger made from hydroponic soya.)
  7. ^ a b Space: 1999 episode "Earthbound"
  8. ^ Series One Writer's Guide
  9. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Lambda Factor"
  10. ^ a b c The Moonbase Alpha Technical Manual
  11. ^ a b c Space: 1999 episode "The Testament of Arkadia"
  12. ^ The colourful travel-tube guide map of Alpha seen on the illuminated curved bulkheads near travel-tube reception areas indicated four restaurants in four different sections.
  13. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "Breakaway", "Earthbound", "Space Warp"
  14. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Metamorph". The Moonbase Alpha Technical Manual speculates that these areas were originally part of the "deep shelters" referred to in the first series episodes "War Games", "The Last Enemy" and "Space Brain"
  15. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Dorzak" is the prime example wherethe versatility of the main Medical Centre is shown.
  16. ^ a b Space: 1999 episode "The Beta Cloud"
  17. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Seance Spectre"
  18. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Space Warp"
  19. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Last Enemy"
  20. ^ a b Space: 1999 episode "Collision Course"
  21. ^ a b c d e f Space: 1999 episode "Breakaway"
  22. ^ a b c d Space: 1999 episode "Dragon's Domain"
  23. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Guardian of Piri"
  24. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Ring Around the Moon"
  25. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Death's Other Dominion"
  26. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Matter of Life and Death"
  27. ^ a b Space: 1999 episode "Breakaway"
  28. ^ Series One Writer's Bible 1973
  29. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Alpha Child"
  30. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Space Brain"
  31. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Catacombs of the Moon"
  32. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Mark of Archanon"
  33. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The End of Eternity"
  34. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "Matter of Life and Death", "Another Time, Another Place" and "The Full Circle"
  35. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "Devil's Planet" & The Bringers Of Wonder"
  36. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Seance Spectre"
  37. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "Guardian of Piri" and others.
  38. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "Force of Life" and others
  39. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Metamorph"
  40. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "Another Time, Another Place" and "Collision Course"
  41. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "War Games", "The Last Enemy", "Space Brain" and "The Dorcons"
  42. ^ Is 'Space 1999' More Fi Than Sci? - New York Times, September 28, 1975 By Isaac Asimov
  43. ^ An Expert's Verdict: 'Trek' Wins - Cue, December 20, 1975 By Isaac Asimov

External links[edit]