- For other uses, see Icarus.
During a flight in 1983, the orbiter opened its cargo bay doors for its mission, and inadvertently an alien microbe attached itself to the inside of the ship. After the orbiter landed and returned to the John F. Kennedy Space Center, the microbe triggered a plague, a horrific tragedy which killed half the population of Florida, about five million people.
In 2279, after spending months studying a way to avert the Icarus plague, Starfleet assigned the USS Enterprise to a time travel mission. After analyzing various strategies, the one they decided had the best chance of succeeding was for the Enterprise to return to 1983 to destroy the orbiter.
The Enterprise went back in time, but inadvertently ended up in an alternate timeline. In that timeline, microbes were located by sensors, but their lifespan was determined to be much shorter than in the Enterprise’s own timeline, and would die before the shuttle launched. No action was taken in that timeline. It was not known whether the Enterprise crew completed the mission once they returned to their own timeline. (TOS comic: "Getting Real")
If they did complete it, it was very likely they did not carry out the mission as directed. Originally James T. Kirk would have destroyed the orbiter with photon torpedoes. However, radar monitoring by NASA of such an attack would have provided concrete evidence to 1983 Earth governments and peoples of the existence of hostile interstellar spacecraft. Not only would it have changed the timeline for first contact on Earth and generated an immediate planet-wide reaction of hostility and panic, it would have dramatically altered future history. Certainly it would have had far more historical impact than the original Icarus plague disaster. Yet no evidence of such a change was evident, even a few short years later when the Enterprise crew time-traveled to Earth in 1986. (TOS movie: The Voyage Home)
- A much simpler strategy was most likely followed if the mission had been completed. The infecting microbes were detectable by sensors, since Captain Spock was able to find them and determine their life cycle six hours before the orbiter launched. Since sensors could locate them, if there was a large mass of them, why not blanket them with phaser fire? Or if that risked detection from Earth, then why not beam up the microbes? They could be beamed into a quarantined container on the Enterprise. Or they could be held in transit while the Enterprise traveled out of sight of the Earth, then beamed into space and destroyed as was done with Nomad in TOS episode: "The Changeling". These steps would safely prevent the plague and save millions of lives without destroying Icarus, killing its astronauts, or playing havoc with Earth’s history.
|United States space shuttles|
|Enterprise (OV-101) • Columbia (OV-102) • Challenger (OV-099) • Discovery (OV-103) • Atlantis (OV-104) • Endeavour (OV-105) • Icarus (prototype) • Renaissance (OV-165, 2nd gen.)|
|Ships named Icarus|
|United States, NASA||Icarus (space shuttle)|
|United Nations, UNSF||UNSS Icarus|
|Federation, Starfleet||starships: USS Icarus (23rd century) • USS Icarus (Excelsior-class) • USS Icarus (Steamrunner-class) • USS Icarus (NCC-74996, Prometheus-class) • small craft: Icarus (NCC-1701/3, F-class) • Icarus II • see also: Icarus-class|
- Florida’s population was 9,746,324 in 1980 and 12,937,926 in 1990. Assuming average growth each year, Florida’s population would have been about 10,134,462 people in 1983, and half its population would be about five million. (US Bureau of the Census, data for 1980 and 1990)
- While one space shuttle mission landed in White Sands, New Mexico prior to 1983, all of the other landings were at Edward Air Force Base in southern California. The first landing in Florida didn’t occur until February 1984. If Icarus landed at Edwards, it meant the microbe lay dormant and undetected until Icarus had been flown back to Florida, or else the microbe would have killed people in California.
- In 1983, NASA oversaw four shuttle flights. Those were Challenger’s first flight in April, Sally Ride’s trip as the first US female astronaut in June, Guion Bluford’s trip as the first African American astronaut in August, and the first Spacelab mission in November. Four to six astronauts manned the orbiter for each of these flights, and the cargo bay doors were opened each time, either for deploying satellites or for Spacelab tests. (Wikipedia)
- In our own timeline, the United States did not have an Icarus space shuttle. The shuttles were named Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery, Endeavour, and the prototype, Enterprise.