A short story by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, set in the last days of the Soviet space program. Colonel Korolev, the first man on Mars, lives on the space station Kosmograd, unable to return to Earth after being crippled in an accident. Amidst the political intrigues, illicit liasons and illegal tapes of western TV enjoyed by the cosmonauts, the news arrives that the station will be "retired". The Soviet government has decided that a manned presence in space is costly and ideologically unneccessary. Some members of the crew rebel and decide to defect and land their Soyuzes in other countries, but Korolev must stay and face the fact that his government has altered his status from People's Hero to expendable fossil.

Written in the early 80's, RSWO projects the contemporary Soviet space effort into the very near future - now an alternate history! Of course, within a few years Russian communism was in its dying days, but the story's take on the dichotomy of exploring space versus exploiting space still applies to any government which contemplates labelling "the final frontier" as cost-ineffective. Originally appearing in "Omni" magazine, it was later published in an anthology of Gibson's short fiction, entitled "Burning Chrome".

(Addendum) Without giving away the ending, this story might also appeal to the individualists and open-source advocates out there in its other prediction about the future of space travel...

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