Q: What was Taylor's original destination?
A: I believe that Taylor's original destination was Alpha Centauri and not "somewhere in Orion's Belt" as he states flippantly early in the movie.
Why Alpha Centauri?
Simple. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our own. It would seem logical that the first interstellar mission, the first manned interstellar mission to another star beyond our own would be undertaken to the closest star possible. This decision would be based not only on available knowledge of the star, but also funding and resources. Since Alpha Centauri is the closest star to our own in the terms of interstellar distance, why would we go anywhere else first? The well thought out plans behind our real world space program seems to bear out this line of reasoning as well. For example, when we first went to another planet in 1969, we did not go to Venus or Mars, we went to the Moon. Why? Because the Moon was the closest 'other planet' to us, and we knew more about the Moon than any other planet in the solar system simply due to its proximity. I really can't logically see any other star as being the destination of this first historic mission, a mission which would be one of, if not the, most important epochs in the history of Mankind. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our own, and would give us the best chance to study it at the greatest detail before planning and launching a mission.
Technology is also a guiding parameter in this line of reasoning. I doubt if our first chance, technology wise, to leave our solar system and travel to another star is going to be done in such a huge jump as the distance from Earth to some star in Orion's Belt, a distance of well over 500 and then some light years. 1969 technology, while good enough to land us on the Earth's moon, would at the same time not have been capable of carrying us to Mars. A mission to Alpha Centauri will, in all probabilities, not be advanced enough to carry us much past Alpha Centauri and certainly not be able to carry us distances of several hundred light years. We'll be doing good to go to Alpha Centauri, look around, and get back home again. If we are very, very lucky.
Alan Virdon's deep space mission (TV series) is sent to Alpha Centauri, so using that bit of canon evidence, we must assume that ANSA has, at that time in the series, not yet exhausted their flight technology potential, their dedicated budget, their resources, or more importantly, the patience of the tax payers, in sending manned interstellar exploration flights to the nearest star. Despite the failures of Taylor's mission and Brent and Skipper's follow-up rescue mission, we still have the popular confidence of the people, or at least enough of a political mandate to squeeze appropriations from the government to fund and launch Virdon and his crew. Virdon's ship also appears more technologically advanced than Taylor's; it is crewed by three astronauts and is much smaller than Taylor's original vessel, proving that technology marches on.
Another important question to ask is: If Taylor is going to 'somewhere in Orion's Belt', then why doesn't Virdon go out even farther? His is a later flight, launched almost 9 years after Taylor's mission, so you could reasonably assume that the later missions would go farther and farther out until we (the USA) either got tired of astronauts or expended our technology / funding potential. America has been to the Moon and today we are seriously looking at manned missions to Mars. In hindsight, we didn't go to Mars first, and then turn our attention back towards the Moon. So, why does Virdon go to the closest star in our stellar region last and Taylor go to the farthest star first? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, logically.
The answer is simple: Taylor didn't go to 'somewhere in Orion's Belt', he was headed for Alpha Centauri and he and his crew never made it (see the next topics for discussions). Virdon is perhaps, the last ANSA flight before the global nuclear war. When Virdon fails to report back, I doubt that any further missions outside the solar system would receive funding, let alone secure appropriations large enough to send a mission hundreds of light years away and thousands of years into the future.
It makes little sense to send the first manned interstellar mission to 'somewhere in Orion's Belt' (where exactly is 'somewhere', could we be any more vague?) when Alpha Centauri is much closer and (reasonably) within our grasp to reach, especially at high POTSOL velocities. I doubt we would know more about a star located 'somewhere in Orion's Belt' than we would about Alpha Centauri, a star just a little over a parsec away from us.
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