What if… the Space Age started a hundred years early?
In an alternate history, "steam fusion" (a method of producing plentiful, extremely-high-pressure steam from seawater) was invented by Oliver Evans in the 1820s. The process was so simple, and the potential for development so great, that the inventor decided to give the plans for the process to the world at large. With cheap, plentiful, clean power, the Industrial Revolution took place decades before it did in our timeline, on a world-wide basis. The Civil War never took place; automation of unskilled farm labor freed the American slaves in the 1840s. A "Golden Age" of clean, cheap power and scientific advancement meant that the world became a place of (relative) peace and prosperity. With unlimited power, Babbage's Difference Engine brought the digital age a century before its time. The first heavier-than-air craft flew in 1841; the first trip into space took place in 1857.
By 1899, a thriving lunar colony, Moon Base Alpha, had been established in the crater Plato. A fleet of "Æther Eagles"- rugged, steam-powered flyers that could take off and land from any planetary or lunar surface- transported people and cargo between the Earth and Moon Base Alpha. The "Æther Eagles" had the capability to accelerate at a constant one-gee equivalent. Because of their rugged un-streamlined design, the ships kept to relatively slower speeds in Earth's lower atmosphere, then accelerated to orbital and trans-lunar speeds above an altitude of 60 miles.
The ship took off on its four lift engines, which doubled as landing supports. (A series of steam valves and exhausts were built into the landing legs.) The high-pressure "steam fusion" pressure bells were painted red as a warning sign- the volume of steam produced at launch was dangerous to anyone too close. Most of the volume of the "Æther Eagle" was made up of sea water holding tanks, heaters, and recirculating pumps, to keep the water from freezing or boiling away in space. Rust was a common problem with these spacecraft. A central pod could hold either cargo (as is the case with this model) or passengers.
On September 13, 1899, one hundred of the most intelligent, wealthiest, and most powerful people from all over the Earth were on hand at Moon Base Alpha, to watch the dawn of a new age. Nikola Tesla was about to demonstrate his Moon-based Power Transmission Tower, a giant structure which was to bring wireless transmitted electrical power to all of the people of Earth for free. However, as the last relays were thrown, the entire Moon was suffused with a violet glow... and disappeared, into parts unknown.
Can Commander Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt keep his crew and guests alive, as they pass through new and dangerous solar systems? Can Tesla somehow adjust his accidental space drive to bring them back to Earth orbit? What part did Thomas Edison's interference play in all of this? Stay tuned, to the next thrilling adventure of... "Space: 1899"!
This model was inspired by the Pegasus Models' "Chemical Plant Construction Set" and "Power Plant Construction Set". When I first saw these at Wonderfest a few years back, I immediately decided to see if I could make a spaceship out of these steampunk-y parts. It turns out that you can... as long as you have multiple kits to work with. Eventually, it took 3 "Chemical Plant Construction Sets" and 1 each of the "Power Plant Construction Set", "Hexagon Small Set", and "Syberclicks" sets, plus a spare AMT/Ertl/MPC "Space 1999" Eagle nosecone and a set of 1/144 Monogram Saturn V engines to get this done. (Other kits donated a few small parts, too- the Saturn V engines have inserts from the old Monogram "Battlestar Galactica" Viper, and the "toes" of the landing gear are the "toes" from the MPC/AMT/Ertl "Empire Strikes Back" AT-AT.)