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A Few Notes About

Transliteration and Translation

consists 



T

he Russian language is written using the Cyrillic alphabet, which 

of 33 letters. While some of the sounds that these letters symbolize 

have equivalents in the English language, many have no equivalent, and two 

of the letters have no sound of their own, but instead “soften” or “harden” the 

preceding letter. Because of the lack of direct correlation, a number of systems 

for transliterating Russian (i.e., rendering words using the Latin alphabet), 

have been devised, all of them different.



Russian

Alphabet

Pronunciation

U.S. Board on

Geographic Names

Library of

Congress

ă

a



a

b

b



b

v

v



v

g

d



g

d

g



d

ye



zh

ye* / e


ye* / e

¨ ¨


zh

e

ë



zh

z

z



z

ē

i



i

shortened ē

k

y

k



i

˘

k



l

l

l



m

m

m



n

n

n



o

o

o



p

p

p



r

r

r



s

s

s



t

t

t



ū

u

u



f

f

f



kh

kh

kh



ts

ts

ts



ch

ch

ch



sh

sh

sh



shch

shch


shch

(hard sign)

guttural ē

(soft sign)

e

˘



y

e



y



i

˘



yu

ya



iu

ia

*Initially and after vowels



xxxiii

Rockets and People: The Moon Race

For this series, editor Asif Siddiqi selected a modification of the U.S. Board 

on Geographic Names system, also known as the University of Chicago system, 

as he felt it better suited for a memoir such as Chertok’s, where the intricacies 

of the Russian language are less important than accessibility to the reader. The 

modifications are as follows:



The Russian letters “Ь” and “Ъ” are not transliterated, in order to make 



reading easier.

Russian letter “ё” is denoted by the English “e” (or “ye” initially and after 

vowels)—hence, the transliteration “Korolev,” though it is pronounced 

“Korolyov”.

The reader may find some familiar names to be rendered in an unfamiliar 

way. This occurs when a name has become known under its phonetic spelling, 

such as “Yuri” versus the transliterated “Yuriy,” or under a different translitera-

tion system, such as “Baikonur” (LoC) versus “Baykonur” (USBGN).

In translating Rakety i lyudi, we on the TTI team strove to find the balance 

between faithfulness to the original text and clear, idiomatic English. For issues 

of technical nomenclature, we consulted with Asif Siddiqi to determine the 

standards for this series. The cultural references, linguistic nuances, and “old 

sayings” Chertok uses in his memoirs required a different approach from the 

technical passages. They cannot be translated literally: the favorite saying of 

Flight Mechanic Nikolay Godovikov (Vol. 1, Chapter 7) would mean nothing 

to an English speaker if given as “There was a ball, there is no ball” but makes 

perfect sense when translated as “Now you see it, now you don’t.” The jargon 

used by aircraft engineers and rocket engine developers in the 1930s and 1940s 

posed yet another challenge. At times, we had to do linguistic detective work 

to come up with a translation that conveyed both the idea and the “flavor” 

of the original. Puns and plays on words are explained in footnotes. Rakety i 

lyudi has been a very interesting project, and we have enjoyed the challenge 

of bringing Chertok’s voice to the English-speaking world.

TTI translation team

Houston, TX

October 2004

xxxiv


List of Abbreviations

AAP 


Apollo Applications Project

ABM 


antiballistic missile

ABMA 


Army Ballistic Missile Agency

AFU 


antenna feeder unit

APAS 


Androgynous-Peripheral Docking Assembly

APO 


emergency spacecraft destruction

APR 


emergency missile destruction system

ARS 


emergency x-ray system

ASTP 


Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

ATG 


autonomous turbo generator

ATV 


Automated Transfer Vehicle

AVD 


emergency engine shutdown

BINS 


strapdown inertial navigation system

BO 


Living Compartment

BTsVM 


on-board digital computing machine

BUS 


rendezvous control unit

BV DPO 


ignition assembly for approach and attitude-control engines

CEP 


circular error probability

ChP 


emergency event

CSM 


Command and Service Module

DARPA 


Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

DO 


control engine

DOS 


Long-Duration Orbital Station

DP 


remote switch

DRS 


remote radio communications system

DUS 


angular rate sensor

DZZ 


Remote Sensing of Earth

EIIM 


equivalent isotropically radiated power

EKhG 


electrochemical generator

EO 


Primary Expeditions

xxxv


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

EPAS 


Experimental Apollo-Soyuz Flight

ERD 


electric rocket engine

ESTEC 


European Space Research and Technology Center

EU 


power plant

EYaRD 


electric nuclear rocket engine

GAI 


State Automobile Inspectorate

GDL 


Gas Dynamics Laboratory

GEO 


geostationary Earth orbit

GKNII VVS 

Air Force State Red Banner Scientific-Research Institute

GKNPTs 


State Space Scientific-Production Center

GKOT 


State Committee on Defense Technology

GKRE 


State Committee on Radio Electronics

GLONASS 


Global Navigation Satellite System

GMKS 


Global Meteorological Space System

GOGU 


Main Operations Control Group

Gossnab 

State Committee for Logistics

GP 

State Enterprise



GPS 

Global Positioning System

GR 

Global Rocket



GRTs 

State Rocket Center

GRU 

Main Intelligence Directorate



GSKB 

State Union Design Bureau

GSKB Spetsmash  State Union Design Bureau of Special Machine Building

GTsP 


State Central Firing Range

GUKOS 


Main Directorate of Space Assets

GURVO 


Main Directorate of Missile Armaments

HEO 


Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate

ICBM 


intercontinental ballistic missile

IKI 


Institute of Space Research

IKV 


infrared vertical

ILS 


International Launch Services

IPM 


Institute of Applied Mathematics

IS 


Satellite Fighter

ISS 


International Space Station

ITMiVT 


Institute of Precision Mechanics and Computer Technology

KB 


Design Bureau

KB Khimmash 

Design Bureau of Chemical Machine Building

KB Transmash 

Design Bureau for Transport Machine Building

KB OM 


Design Bureau of General Machine Building

KDU 


correction engine unit

KGB 


Committee for State Security

xxxvi


List of Abbreviations

KIK 


Command-Measurement Complex

KIS 


monitoring and testing station

KLA 


heavy space vehicle

KONRID 


Engine Performance Monitoring System

KORD 


Engine Operation Monitoring

KP 


command post

KPP 


airfield checkpoint

KRL 


command radio link

KTDU 


correcting braking engine unit

KV shortwave

KVO 

circular probable deviation



kW kilowatt

LII 


Flight-Research Institute

LK 


Lunar Vehicle

LKI 


flight-developmental testing

LM 


Lunar Module

LOK 


Lunar Orbital Vehicle

LV 


Lunar Vehicle

MAI 


Moscow Aviation Institute

MAP 


Ministry of the Aviation Industry

MFTI 


Moscow Physics and Technology Institute

MGU 


Moscow State University

MIAN 


Mathematics Institute of the Academy of Sciences

MIIGAiK 


Moscow Institute of Engineers of Geodesy, Aerial 

Photography, and Mapping

MIK 

Assembly and Testing Building



MIK KO 

Assembly and Testing Building for Spacecraft



Minobshchemash  Ministry of General Machine Building

Minsredmash 

Ministry of Medium Machine Building

MIRV 

multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle



MIT 

Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology

MKAD 

Moscow Automobile Ring Road



MKB 

Machine Building Design Bureau

MKB Fakel 

Torch Machine Building Design Bureau

MKBS 

Multipurpose Base/Station



MKTS 

reusable space transportation system

MNTS-KI 

Interdepartmental Scientific-Technical Council on Space 

Research

MO 


Ministry of Defense

MOK 


Multipurpose Orbital Complex

MOM 


Ministry of General Machine Building

xxxvii


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

MOP 


Ministry of the Defense Industry

MPSS 


Ministry of the Communications Equipment Industry

MSM 


Ministry of Medium Machine Building

MV Mars-Venera

MVTU 

Moscow Higher Technical School



NACA 

National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics

NASA 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration



NATO 

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NII 

Scientific-Research Institute



NII IT 

Scientific-Research Institute of Measurement Technology

NIIAP 

Scientific-Research Institute of Automatics and Instrument 



Building

NIIERAT 


Scientific-Research Institute for the Operation and Repair 

of Aviation Technology

NIIKP 

Scientific-Research Institute of Space Instrumentation 



Building

NIIP 


Scientific-Research and Testing Range

NIISchetmash 

Scientific-Research Institute of Calculating Machines

NIITP 


Scientific-Research Institute of Thermal Processes/

Scientific-Research Institute of Precision Instruments

NIItransmash 

Scientific-Research Institute of Transport Machine Building

NIIYaF 

Scientific-Research Institute of Nuclear Physics



NIOKR 

scientific-research and experimental-design work

NIP 

Ground Tracking Station



NIP-15 

Ussuriysk tracking station

NIP-16 

Center for Deep Space Communications



NITsEVT 

Scientific-Research Center for Electronic Computer 

Technology

NKVD 


People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs

NPO 


Scientific-Production Association

NPO Geofizika 

Geophysics Scientific-Production Association

NPO PM 


Scientific-Production Association of Applied Mechanics

NPP 


Scientific-Production Enterprise

NS-BS 


normal stabilization-lateral stabilization

NZ 


emergency supply

OAO 


Joint-Stock Company

OKB 


Experimental-Design Bureau

OKB MEI 


Special Design Bureau of the Moscow Power Institute

OKB SD 


Experimental Design Bureau for Special Engines

OPM 


Department of Applied Mathematics

OPS 


Orbital Piloted Station

xxxviii


List of Abbreviations

OTI 


technological firing test

OTR 


operational and technical management

PAO 


Instrumentation System Compartment

PELSHO 


enamel-, lacquer- and silk-coated winding wire

PKO 


antispace defense

PO 


Production Association

POS 


Permanent Orbital Station

PRO 


antimissile defense

PUNA 


science equipment control console

PVO 


antiaircraft defense

PVO Strany 

National Air Defense Forces

PVU 


programmable timing instrument

p/ya 


post office box

RKK 


rocket-space complex

RKK 


Rocket-Space Corporation

RLA 


rocket flying apparatus

RNII 


Reactive Scientific-Research Institute

RORSAT 


Radar Ocean Reconnaissance Satellite

RSFSR 


Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic

RVSN 


Strategic Rocket Forces

SA 


Descent Module

SALT 


Strategic Arms Limitations Talks

SAS 


emergency rescue system

SDI 


Strategic Defense Initiative

ShPU 


silo launch unit

SIO 


effector system

SKD 


rendezvous and correction engine

SKDU 


approach and correction engine unit

SKTDU 


approach and correction braking engine unit

SLBM 


submarine-launched ballistic missile

SOI 


Strategic Defense Initiative

SOUD 


orientation and motion control system

Sovnarkhoz 

Council of the National Economy

SSVP 

docking and internal transfer system



STR 

thermal control system

SUBK 

on-board complex control system



SUS 

descent control system

TASS 

Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union



TE 

fuel cell

TKS 

Transport-Supply Ship



TMK 

Heavy Interplanetary Ship

xxxix


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

TNA 


turbopump assembly

TP 


engineering facility

TsAGI 


Central Aerohydrodynamics Institute

TsENKI 


Center for the Operation of Ground Space Infrastructure 

Objects


TsIAM 

Central Institute of Aviation Engine Building

TsKB 

Central Design Bureau



TsKBEM 

Central Design Bureau of Experimental Machine Building

TsKBM 

Central Design Bureau of Machine Building



TsNIIKS 

Central Scientific-Research Institute of Space Assets

TsNIImash 

Central Scientific-Research Institute of Machine Building

TsSKB 

Central Specialized Design Bureau



TsUKOS 

Central Directorate of Space Assets

TsUP 

Flight Control Center/Mission Control Center



UKP 

universal space platform

UKSS 

Universal Rig-Launch Complex



UNKS 

Directorate of the Chief of Space Assets

US 

Controlled Satellite



VA 

Return Vehicle

VAB 

Vehicle Assembly Building



VDNKh 

Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy

VLKSM 

All-Union Leninist Communist Union of Youth



VMF 

the Soviet Navy

VNII 

All-Union Scientific-Research Institute



VNIIEM 

All-Union Scientific-Research Institute of Electromechanics

VNIIT 

All-Union Scientific-Research Institute of Television 



Technology

VNIIT 


All-Union Scientific-Research Institute of Current Sources

VPK 


Military-Industrial Commission/Military-Industrial 

Corporation

VSE 

Vision for Space Exploration



VSK 

cosmonaut’s special visor/sight

VSNKh 

Supreme Council of the National Economy



VVS 

the Soviet Air Force

YaRD 

nuclear rocket engine



ZAS 

encrypted/secure communications system

ZEM 

Factory of Experimental Machine Building



ZhRD 

liquid-propellant rocket engine

ZIKh 

M. V. Khrunichev Factory



ZIS 

Stalin Factory

ZOMZ 

Zagorsk Optical-Mechanical Factory



xl

Introduction

Voice of the People…

On 20 July 1969, the first human being from the planet Earth set foot 

on the surface of the Moon. This person was a citizen of the United States of 

America.


“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”—Neil 

Armstrong’s words flew around the entire world beneath the Moon.

In August 1969, getting into a taxi, I told the driver my home address: 

“Academician Korolev Street.”

1

 En route, the elderly taxi driver let me know 



that he was aware of who lived in the “Korolev” apartments. Evidently he 

decided that it was all right to tell me what the “man on the street” was think-

ing: “Korolev is not with us anymore and the Americans have become the first 

to land on the Moon. Does that mean that they haven’t found another mind 

like his among us?”

Until 1964, Nikita Khrushchev was so active that people associated our 

triumphant victories in space with his name. In January 1966, the world 

discovered that our success was primarily the result of the creative work of 

Academician Sergey Pavlovich Korolev. But after Korolev’s death, once again 

everything happened “under the wise leadership of the Communist Party 

Central Committee.”

For our people, who had grown accustomed to the cascade of achievements 

in Soviet cosmonautics, the Americans’ brilliant success was a complete surprise. 

During the Cold War, the Soviet mass media made no mention of our work 

on a human lunar program. All of this was strictly classified. Reports on the 

Americans’ outstanding space achievements were also more than modest, but 

not because they were classified. Television coverage of the first lunar landing in 

the history of humankind was broadcast worldwide, with the exception of the 

USSR and the People’s Republic of China. In order to see the U.S. broadcast 

 

1.  The original 3rd Ostankino Street in Moscow was renamed Academician Korolev Street 



in January 1967, the first anniversary of Korolev’s death.

xli


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

that was available to the entire world, we had to drive over to NII-88 [the main 

Soviet missile and space research institute], which received the television foot-

age via cable from the television center.

2

 The television center in turn received 



the footage via the Eurovision channel, but a live broadcast was forbidden. 

Later, one of the television employees said that their request for a live broadcast 

had passed through the entire hierarchy, but eventually Central Committee 

Secretary Suslov had put a stop to it.

3

For those of us involved in the Soviet lunar program, the Americans’ 



achievements were not surprising. The open press wasn’t our only source of 

information about the progress of the Americans’ projects. After the death of our 

cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov on Soyuz-1 in April 1967, we had an 18-month 

break in piloted flights.

4

 During this interval, the Americans completed their 



first piloted flight of the Apollo program.

5

 Our Soyuz launches resumed with 



maximum intensity. Three piloted Soyuzes lifted off before July 1969.

6

 Our 



newspapers tried to write up these flights as enthusiastically as those of the first 

cosmonauts, beginning with Yuriy Gagarin. From 1961 through 1965, this 

enthusiasm was genuine and sincere. It emanated from our national soul and 

touched all social strata. The populace attributed the tragic death of Komarov 

in April 1967 to the death of Chief Designer Korolev. No one knew who 

was actually in charge of our space programs now. Only insiders were aware 

that thousands of our specialists at secret enterprises and at the now-famous 

Baykonur complex were preparing for a landing expedition to the Moon.

From 1957 through 1967, the Soviet Union was the clear leader in all 

space endeavors and had achieved universally recognized superiority in piloted 

space programs.

7

 During the first decade of the Space Age, the Soviet Union’s 



intellectual, industrial, and organizational potential enabled it to solve such 

top-priority challenges as developing the world’s first intercontinental ballistic 

missile; launching the first artificial satellites; delivering to the Moon the first 

object from Earth (a pendant inscribed with the emblem of the Soviet Union); 

photographing the far side of the Moon; being the first to launch a human 

 

2. NII—Nauchno-issledovatelskiy institut (Scientific-Research Institute).



 

3. Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov (1902–1982) was a powerful Soviet Politburo member 

responsible for ideological policing during the late Soviet era.

 

4.  For the Soyuz-1 disaster, see Boris Chertok, Rockets and People, Vol. III: Hot Days of the 



Cold War, ed. Asif A. Siddiqi (Washington, DC: NASA-SP-2009-4110, 2009), Chapter 20. 

The first Soviet human space mission after Soyuz-1 was Soyuz-3 in October 1968.

 

5.  This was the Apollo 8 mission in October 1968.



 

6.  These were Soyuz-3-4, and -5.

 

7.  Most historians would argue that the lead tipped in favor of the United States sometime 



in 1966 with the achievements of the Gemini program.

xlii


Voice of the People…

being (Yuriy Gagarin) into space; being the first to launch a woman (Valentina 

Tereshkova) into space; conducting Aleksey Leonov’s spacewalk; executing the 

soft landing of an automatic station on the Moon; televising the transmission 

to Earth of a panoramic shot of the lunar surface; achieving the first penetra-

tion into the atmosphere of Venus; and completing the world’s first automatic 

docking of spacecraft. This list of our “firsts” is described in detail in numerous 

publications, in the memoirs of those involved, and in historical works.

After such a storybook succession of cosmic breakthroughs, it seemed com-

pletely natural that the next conquest to shake the imagination of Earthlings 

would be the landing of Soviet cosmonauts on the surface of the Moon and 

their safe return to Earth. But Americans turned out to be the first Earthlings 

on the Moon. Today, few are aware that it was not until 1964 that the top 

political leaders of the Soviet Union resolved to consider the landing of Soviet 

cosmonauts on the Moon no later than 1968 a task of utmost importance. 

The Soviet expedition to the Moon, which was conceived in Korolev’s lifetime 

and supported by Khrushchev, simply never took place. Work on the Soviet 

N1-L3 program—the piloted landing expedition to the Moon—ended in 1974.

Everything that had to do with the N1-L3 program remained a secret 

until the late 1980s. The first publications, which primarily looked into the 

technical problems of this program, appeared in the early 1990s.

8

 As for other 



aspects of the “Moon race,” the authors of the majority of the publications I 

have read greatly simplified or distorted the actual situation in an attempt at a 

sensational revelation of secrets. And today, 40 years later, for many it remains 

an unanswered question: “Why wasn’t there a Soviet person on the Moon?”

9

In Volume III of my memoirs, the chapter “The Hard Road to a Soft 



Landing” provides insight into the initial phase of lunar exploration involv-

ing the Ye-6 program, the world’s first soft landing of an automatic spacecraft 

on the lunar surface.

10

 In this volume, I continue my story with the Soviet 



human lunar expedition programs. In the process, I attempt to weave my nar-

rative over the background of the general history of the development of rocket 

and space technology, cosmonautics, and the military and political rivalry of 

the two superpowers. During the 20th century, the USSR and United States 

implemented global military technical programs on an unprecedented scale. 

 

8.  The first articles in the Soviet media confirming a human lunar landing program appeared 



in the summer of 1989. See Lev Kamanin, “S zemli na lunu i obratno” [“From the Earth to the 

Moon and Back”], Poisk no. 12 (July 1989): 7–8; Sergey Leskov, “Kak my ne sletali na lunu” 

[“How We Didn’t Go to the Moon”], Izvestiya (18 August 1989): 3.

 

9.  Chertok wrote this introduction in 2009.



 10.  See Chertok, Rockets and People, Vol. III, Chapters 13 and 14.

xliii


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

For this reason, a considerable portion of this volume is spent reminiscing 

about events that took place at the same time as the N1-L3 lunar program. 

Unfortunately, professional Moscow taxi drivers who are capable of expressing 

the opinion of the “man on the street” are a thing of the past, too.

xliv


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