The Dark Cluster
The world of the Dark Cluster is very similar to ours. Virtually identical until the end of World War II. Cooler heads prevailed and Germany was not cut up by the Allies, in fact there were only light sanctions imposed on the broken Axis nations Provided that they, along with the Ally nations, became the founding members of the newly formed World Union. The League of Nations had failed to prevent WWII but the WU would not just act like a government, declarations and sanctions backed up by military force. The WU would use science, phycology, and predictive models to stop wars before they start. Founded in 1945, by 1950 most of the nations were members or were waiting for response from their applications for membership. Starting the year of its founding, the WU started several international projects both short and long term with an eye toward focusing the hearts, minds and finances of the world.
One such project is the Space Exploration Program. The SEP was founded on the idea that most wars really come down to space and resources, and if space and resources are in abundance… In 1955 a ship is completed, it is a marvel of technology. A trained 3 person crew, chosen from the best the world has to offer, prepares to launch.