Senior veterans of the Soviet space program gather at the unveiling of a memorial
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|Senior veterans of the Soviet space program gather at the unveiling of a memorial
plaque in honor of Valentin Glushko at his former workplace in Building 65 at
NPO Energiya. From left to right are M. S. Khomyakov, V. M. Filin, A. I. Ostashev,
N. I. Zelenshchikov, B. Ye. Chertok, O. D. Baklanov, V. M. Karashtin, and M. N. Ivanov.
His illness progressed. He managed to ask Yaremich and Stanislav Petrovich
Bogdanovskiy, the director of Energomash’s Experimental Factory, who vis-
ited him six days before his death, that his body be cremated and his ashes be
delivered into space—to Mars or Venus. Glushko passed away on 10 January
1989. His request about the cremation raised no objections in the top-ranking
Party organs. But no one could fulfill his last wish. The urn containing his
ashes was buried at Novodevichye Cemetery. Fastened to his granite gravestone
was a stylized image of the last great creation of Soviet cosmonautics—the
launch vehicle Energiya gushing a fiery plume with the Buran orbital vehicle
perched on its back.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the main portion of its sci-
entific and technical inheritance and industrial potential of the rocket-space
sector remained in Russia. The mass breakdown of economic contacts with
the former Soviet republics and the actual loss of effective government sup-
port threatened the scientific and technological potential of domestic rocket
technology and cosmonautics.
History assigned a mission to the leaders of the rocket-space schools—
survive no matter what; preserve and pass on to new generations not only
Valentin Glushko, N-1, and NPO Energiya
technology, but also the best of the traditions and human aspirations that
united and contributed to the immensely rapid development of cosmonautics.
Fifty years after the launch of the first artificial satellite, the two leading space
powers, the United States of America and Russia, have no great strategic pro-
grams. Humankind really needs Korolev, Glushko, and von Braun. Hundreds
of modern-day managers will never replace them.
The world in the 21st century continues to change at a scorching pace.
Today’s reader working in any of the new fields of technology has very little
time for reading all four volumes of my memoirs. I am counting on the atten-
tion of those who were there at the turn of the millennium, who are trying to
make sense of the past and are not indifferent to the future.
The second half of the 20th century is replete with truly revolutionary
scientific research, discoveries, and engineering achievements. World War II
and the Cold War years gave rise to aerospace, nuclear, radio engineering,
and computer technologies, and they became a great material strength. Just
in the two decades after the war, space was transformed into a real necessity.
The race between the two great powers to explore space was more risky and
arduous than the rivalry between Spain, Portugal, and England during the
Age of Exploration.
In the 20th century the rate of scientific discoveries increased hundreds
of times. Historians believe that the total achievements of scientific and tech-
nical progress over the past 50 years have exceeded everything that was done
in the preceding 5,000 years. The “hot” and “cold” world wars have receded
into the past, but myriad local wars continue. They stimulate some fields of
science and technology, slow down others, and devour enormous resources,
which could be spent on further breakthroughs into the secrets of nature, on
discoveries, and on enriching human knowledge. The thirst for knowledge
did not die even in the darkest periods of human history. This is a powerful
driving force. I was one of the warriors at the very leading edge of scientific
and technical progress, and working there was enthralling. Writing memoirs
about this bustling time has proved more difficult than being directly involved
in the dynamics of the process.
I do not regret that I was born in the Russian Empire, grew up in Soviet
Russia, achieved a great deal in the Soviet Union, and continue to work in
Russia. Hundreds of thousands, even millions of my contemporaries lived
“not by bread alone.” Those who revile their native land’s past in pursuit of
big news stories and careers and try to trample underfoot everything that our
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
people have created forget that they owe their very existence here on Earth to a
heroic generation that saved human civilization. Yes, we made many mistakes.
But those who excel in the cynicism of subverting everything that happened
“after 1917,” under the cover of the hastily hammered together philosophy of
utilitarian pragmatism, will not shy away from the criminal plundering of the
riches created by the people for the sake of their own enrichment.
The most difficult thing for
me, the author of these memoirs,
was performing flight control on
an imaginary time machine. Where
and for how many lines should I
pause? What route shall I take next?
It is up to the reader to judge how
successful my choices have been.
Taking advantage of my rights as an
author, I would like to quickly sail
through the history of astronautics
in the second half of the 20th cen-
tury. In the process of this cursory
perusal I would like to show the
errors that we in the USSR, and in
Russia, and also that the Americans
made when producing space tech-
nology. At the beginning of the
Space Age, fully competent and
active developers of actual rocket-
space systems pondered over its
future, rather than outsider pundits. It is very interesting to contrast what
they dreamed of with what actually came about, what they worked on, and
what considerable funds were spent on. I will say, right off the bat, that both we
and the Americans were quite wrong in our predictions. We have a legitimate
excuse—the tragedy of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which protracted into
a 10-year permanent political, social, and economic crisis. The Americans had
no such legitimate excuses. It is all the more amazing that they made so many
more errors in their prognoses. Therefore, let’s start with them.
The United States entered the Space Age on 1 February 1958, when a
Jupiter-C launch vehicle (a modification of the Redstone combat missile)
inserted Explorer 1—a satellite with a mass of 14 kilograms—into low near-
Earth orbit. A group of German specialists headed by Wernher von Braun
developed the Redstone and Jupiter-C in the United States. I will remind the
reader that the Soviet Union inserted the world’s first artificial satellite (with
From the author’s archives.
a mass of 86 kilograms) into space and a second one carrying the famous dog
Layka in 1957. After the Redstone came modifications of American combat
missiles Thor, Atlas, and Titan II, which were used as space launch vehicles.
The first American Mercury single-seat spacecraft were inserted into ballistic
trajectories using the Redstone and into Earth orbits using Atlas-D launch
vehicles. Launches of Gemini two-seat spacecraft were the preparatory stage
of the Apollo program. The Titan II launch vehicle inserted these vehicles into
Earth orbit. The flight of the first U.S. astronaut [in orbit], John Glenn, took
place 10 months after the flight of Yuriy Gagarin. The new Saturn I, Saturn IB,
and Saturn V were designed from the very beginning as space launch vehicles
rather than strategic weapon delivery vehicles.
Rockets from the Saturn series were designed above all for the Apollo
program of piloted lunar vehicles. It was assumed that after the first lunar
expeditions were completed and the Saturn V launch vehicle was updated,
it would be used for new missions—the creation of a habitable base on the
Moon and the beginning of piloted flights to other planets. However, after
the conclusion of the Apollo program on 7 December 1972, the Saturn V was
used just one time, without its third stage, to insert the Skylab experimental
The Saturn IB completed its last flight in 1975 as part of the
After 1975, the United States abandoned piloted flights until the reusable
Space Shuttle space transport system was put into service. The Delta, Atlas-
Centaur, Titan II, and Titan III launch vehicles were subsequently used only
to insert unpiloted spacecraft of various applications. America’s rejection of
the tried-and-true, reliable Saturn V launch vehicle seemed strange. I believe
it was a mistake. American historians of astronautics whom I have met have
been unable to give a clear explanation as to why, despite previous plans, they
“laid to rest” the excellent Saturn V launch vehicle.
In 1965, the United States prepared a prognosis of the development of
astronautics until the year 2001. These data were presented at a high-level
symposium in March 1966 in Washington, DC. In 1967, we received the
opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the American plans in documents
classified “secret” or “for official use only,” despite the fact that in the United
States, materials from the symposium were available in open publications. The
majority of our specialists assessed the American prognoses as overly optimistic,
1. The final Apollo mission, Apollo 17, began on 7 December 1972. The crew of astronauts
Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt returned to Earth on 19
December 1972 after Cernan and Schmitt completed three extended excursions on the lunar
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
but no one dared call them absurd. The argument was primarily about the
reality of the dates. We believed that even working with us, the Americans
could fulfill a significant portion of these plans, but around five years later
than planned. And without us, one needed to add another five years or so.
As it is impossible to discuss in detail our rivals’ prognoses for all areas of
astronautics, I shall touch on the epochal ones. The Americans intended to
put small, continuously operating orbital laboratory stations (like our Salyuts)
into service in 1972; an orbital complex with chemical engines in 1973; ones
with nuclear engines in 1974; a large orbital research laboratory in 1976; a
piloted orbital global communications, information, and surveillance center in
geostationary orbit in 1984; and an orbital manufacturing complex in 1987.
Piloted flights to other planets would have begun with the landing of a human
being on the Moon in 1969. From 1975 to 1978, there were plans to create
a continuously operating lunar scientific station, a manufacturing base using
local resources, and a lunar interplanetary spaceport!
NASA managers, the directors and vice presidents of leading aerospace
corporations, reputable scientists, employees of the Department of Defense, and
even members of Congress delivered reports about the captivating prospects for
colonizing almost all of near-solar space. The boundaries of American interests
extended far beyond near-Earth space. He who masters space will master the
world—the prognoses of 1966 were built on this principle.
The Americans planned a heliocentric expeditionary flight using nuclear
rocket engines for 1981 and a Mars reconnaissance station, Mars surface land-
ing, and study and colonization of its satellites for 1984 to 1986. A piloted
flight with a possible landing on Venus was supposed to take place before 1988.
In 1966, American scientists still did not know what Venus’s atmosphere was
like and what the conditions of its surface were. Beginning in 1967, one Soviet
automatic Venera spacecraft after another reported that our idea of life was
not compatible with the conditions on Venus.
During the period from 1990 to 2000, they planned to create scientific
research stations on the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. They didn’t forget about
Mercury either. They planned to create a station on Mercury to study the Sun,
and by the end of the century—mines and enterprises to extract and process
metallic ores. Numerous flights of automatic vehicles—interplanetary recon-
naissance probes—were supposed to precede all of these piloted expeditions.
Now we know that this prognosis panned out only in terms of the first lunar
expeditions and automatic reconnaissance vehicles. The Americans fulfilled
President Kennedy’s national challenge to land on the Moon. The role of the
lunar expeditions for the United States consisted not just in gaining scientific
and technological priority, particularly over the Soviet Union. This red-letter
day rallied the nation as a unified sociocultural whole.
Examples of the flights of the first Soviet cosmonauts from 1961 to 1965
and of the American lunar expeditions from 1969 to 1972 graphically showed
that such achievements are truly a powerful stimulus for unifying society;
each citizen has the opportunity to be proud of the achievements of his or
her country. After such triumphant victories, public opinion magnanimously
pardons optimists for their prognostic errors.
The future programs of piloted orbital flights and exploration of the Moon
and planets depended on having a refined Saturn V launch vehicle by 1975,
bringing its payload mass to 160 tons, a launch vehicle successor to Saturn
with a payload mass of 320 to 640 tons (developed by 1989), and a reusable
aerospace delivery vehicle.
They intended to make broad use of impulse nuclear and thermonuclear
rocket engines as the primary propulsion systems. These would shorten the
flight time to planets severalfold compared with chemical fuel engines. Their
plans also called for prosaic near-Earth space systems for the purposes of
meteorology, communications, navigation, global surveillance, and monitor-
ing ecological safety.
To a great extent, the prognosis of 1966 panned out regarding the flights
of interplanetary automatic vehicles. American scientists made sensational
discoveries every year while studying Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, their moons, and
even the most distant planets of the solar system. In near-Earth space, new,
strictly utilitarian commercial benefits and prospects for achieving military
superiority in space were discovered. Fans of piloted flights to the planets had
to “come down to Earth.”
The situation during the years 1971 to 1973, when the Space Shuttle
program was being considered, required that the managers responsible for
decision-making carefully add up the total cost of the program and the annual
budgetary limits for the various attractive versions of reusable systems. Ten
years later, in 1976, the Americans once again mobilized scientists to draw up
a forecast for the development of space technology for the period from 1980
to 2000. This was a much more serious collective scientific work concerning
all areas of science and technology supporting the development of astronautics.
For piloted Earth-orbit flights, the idea of doing away with expendable
launch vehicles gained a foothold. The main difference in the plans and cor-
responding decisions of 1966 and 1975 was that in 1975 there was a much
more refined technical base, created for the Apollo program and for military
space, scientific, and economic programs over the past decade.
Citing the space successes of the USSR, the Pentagon demanded that more
funds be allocated to military space programs. They had yet to be formulated,
but ideas were already “in the air” regarding the future Strategic Defense
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
In 1975, the main criterion for selecting proposals based on prognoses
for all fields supporting the advancement of space technology was the cost
(in dollars) of inserting units of mass into low-Earth orbit. As far as delivery
vehicles were concerned, all subsequent decisions were made in favor of
the Space Shuttle. Moreover, it was assumed that it would be substantially
improved compared with the design that was already being implemented. All
plans were based on the overly optimistic estimates of the cost of inserting
a payload into space and also on the fact that the Space Shuttle would not
only insert but could also return expensive space hardware to the ground
for repair and relaunch.
NASA’s preliminary estimates showed that compared with an expendable
launch vehicle such as the Saturn IB, the cost of insertion into low-Earth orbit
decreased, at first threefold or fivefold, and then tenfold. While neglectful eco-
nomic estimates had been allowed in 1966, in the 1970s they were performed
more meticulously. It is all the more surprising that the Americans, knowing
how to count money much better than we, predicted a completely ridiculous
cost for the insertion of a unit of payload mass by the year 2000.
For various scenarios using the Space Shuttle, the cost vacillated in a range
from 90 to 330 dollars per kilogram. Moreover, it was assumed that the second-
generation Space Shuttle would make it possible to lower these numbers to 33
to 66 dollars per kilogram.
American economists erred by a factor of 60 to 100! Such mistakes are
simply inconceivable when calculating the technical parameters of space sys-
tems. If American economists could commit such mistakes, should one reproach
our domestic economist-reformers, who consider U.S. economists overly
authoritarian? Powerful modern computer technology has sharply increased
the confidence level and reliability of scientific and engineering calculations.
Sometimes practical results are even better than calculations because input data
with considerable margins have been loaded into the computer. Economic
calculations for large systems in principle will be erroneous if the main baseline
parameters are subjective considerations, the political situation, or an ad hoc
The American scientists’ prognoses in 1966 and 1967 for the piloted flight
programs proved true only with regard to the first lunar expeditions and the
creation of the Space Shuttle reusable piloted transport system. For the sake
of this system they didn’t just mothball the reliable Saturn V launch vehicles.
The launch complexes at Cape Canaveral and at the John F. Kennedy Space
Center were modified for the Shuttles, and they were no longer suitable for
Saturns. The actual dates for creating a lunar base and for an expedition to
Mars were moved far beyond the year 2001. The thrilling prospect of coloniz-
ing the planets of the solar system (before the end of the 20th century), which
was elaborated in detail in 1966, in my view, in the best-case scenario, needed
to be postponed to the second half of the 21st century.
The first flight of the Space Shuttle reusable space transport system took
place on Cosmonautics Day, 12 April 1981.
To be fair, I must say that in
terms of fundamental scientific research, the Americans surpassed their own
prognoses. After spending more than 2 billion dollars, they used the Space
Shuttle to insert the automatic Hubble satellite into space; this is a large, even
by Earth-based standards, telescope for astrophysical research. The information
obtained using the Hubble over the years of its service was many times greater
than the information that the field of astrophysics had possessed before this.
In the early 1970s, after six piloted lunar expeditions, the construction
of a permanently operating lunar base and an expedition to Mars before the
beginning of the 21st century seemed quite feasible not just to scientists, but
also to the clear-eyed managers of aerospace corporations. The main factor
precluding the implementation of even these two very realistic programs was
the turn of U.S. politics toward the militarization of space. Somewhat later,
the whole array of military space programs to intimidate a potential enemy
was called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The main objectives and
missions of the SDI program were considerably clearer and more necessary to
the Pentagon, to large corporations, and to the majority of Congress than was
the aspiration of romantic scientists for interplanetary travels.
In the late 1960s, the USSR and the United States adhered to doctrines of
nuclear deterrence. Their gist was based on the following concept: both sides
possess such means that if one of the sides were to use nuclear weapons first,
then the retaliatory strike would force the aggressor to incur exorbitantly high
expenses relative to the possible gain. Such a balance was based on the common
sense of the sides. Both great superpowers agreed in principle that deterrence
based on mutual vulnerability was not only expedient, but also necessary.
However, such an approach created a threat for the main producers of
combat missile systems, nuclear warheads, nuclear submarines, and airplanes
carrying nuclear weapons. Actually, if so much weaponry were produced
that by design each of the opposing sides knew it was capable of destroying
the other many times over, then the amount of orders, and consequently
the profits and super-profits, would decrease sharply in the near future.
Moreover, politicians who realized the senselessness of the continued buildup
of strategic weapons began negotiations to limit and reduce them. The Soviet
2. This was the STS-1 mission with astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen
piloting the Space Shuttle Columbia on a two-day mission.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
Union spent enormous resources and paid a high price to achieve quantitative
and qualitative parity with the strategic rocket forces of the United States.
American strategists, having realized that the Soviet Union had achieved
parity, discovered a way to inflict heavy economic damage on it without
resorting to nuclear attack. If there were more than enough intercontinental
rockets and nuclear warheads, then it was necessary to invest many billions of
dollars in creating an effective defense, rather than in the buildup of means for
nuclear missile attack. Theoretically it wasn’t difficult to justify the need for
creating fundamentally new systems to protect the United States. American
propaganda loudly declared that Soviet missile weaponry was creating an
increasingly greater threat to the viability of American forces of deterrence
and the structures controlling them.
At the same time that the United States was spending over 25 billion dollars
on the Apollo lunar program alone, the USSR continued to work intensively
on new types of intercontinental missiles and on the creation of new classes of
submarines equipped with state-of-the-art ballistic and cruise missiles.
The Pentagon exaggerated the achievements of our missile technology,
counting on securing a sharp increase in budgetary allocations for the SDI
program from Congress. They reported to Congress and to the President of
the United States that by the mid-1970s Soviet missiles had become con-
siderably more powerful and more accurate, which would enable them to
quickly and effectively undermine the capability of U.S. ground forces for a
retaliatory strike. According to the calculations of U.S. military economists (I
was unable to find our own authoritative data), on average, the Soviet Union
spent 40 billion dollars per year each on strategic offensive programs, and also
on active and passive defensive programs. This did not take into account the
many billions allocated for conventional armaments. In the Americans’ view,
the Russians, despite their peaceful assurances, were adhering to doctrines for
achieving their objectives by delivering a preemptive strike.
Given such a terrible prospect, could the United States allow itself to
invest funds in colonizing the Moon, Venus, Mars, Mercury, and the moons
of Saturn and Jupiter? It’s unclear when and what would happen there. But if,
instead of the fanciful plans of eggheads dreaming of strolling along the “dusty
lanes of distant planets,” you could mobilize scientists and industry, using the
very latest achievements of world science, to develop advanced technologies
and systems to protect against Soviet missiles, then you could kill three birds
with one stone:
USSR attacked first.
Second, draw the USSR into a new arms race—not of offensive weap-
ons, but defensive ones. This would require expenditures that the Soviet
economy would be unable to sustain, and the United States would win a
Third, rather than single one-of-a-kind space objects, create new types
of defensive weaponry that require the mass production of weaponry to
destroy the striking power of the attacking side. And this would require
enormous capital investments, as well as hundreds of thousands of new
jobs, and would bring enormous profits for companies capable of master-
ing very advanced technology.
The systemic concept of SDI looked very enticing. It called for the stage-
by-stage development and deployment of antiballistic missile complexes. It
all began with space systems for monitoring and tracking targets during the
powered flight segment, in space, and during entry into the atmosphere.
Each enemy missile flight segment requires the development of its own moni-
toring and striking systems, including space-based systems, exoatmospheric
interceptors, and ground-based antiballistic missiles. To destroy thousands of
missiles and warheads flying toward the United States, it was suggested that
conventional smart projectiles be used on the first stages, and thereafter a wide
array of all sorts of laser weaponry. For “death rays” they designed space-based
military neutral particle accelerators and space- and ground-based lasers.
They also proposed the creation of super-high-velocity guns, first based on
the ground and then in space. Engineer Garin, the main character of Aleksey
Tolstoy’s famous novel Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin, works alone to create a
portable device—the source of a beam that could burn through any obstacle
in its path.
Fifty years after the appearance of this talented science fiction
detective, it turned out that it was really possible to create such a beam. But
to do this required not one ingenious inventor, but thousands of engineers,
physicists, and the most sophisticated manufacturing technology. Automated
ground-based combat control and communication systems would be needed
to control thousands of automatic vehicles on duty in space and a multitude
of projectiles and combat platforms attacking the missiles of a potential enemy.
They must receive advance information from numerous ground-based radar
stations and surveillance satellites and, after processing the information, trans-
mit commands to the weapon.
The integrated systemic design called for the development of super-high-
speed computers, fundamentally new optical and microwave sensors to detect
and track targets, high-capacity nuclear power energy sources to supply power
3. Aleksey Tolstoy’s Giperboloid inzhener Garina was first published in serialized form from
1925 to 1927 in the journal Krasnaya nov [Red Virgin Soil].
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
to accelerators and lasers, space-based platforms with all kinds of projectiles,
and many other elements of new systems that were appealing to scientist-
inventors and engineers. For scientific creativity and corporate profitability,
prospects had been opened up that were beyond their wildest dreams in the
field of the peaceful exploration of space. Stunning “Star Wars” images filled
movie and television screens.
After achieving worldwide celebrity for the United States, the Saturn V
launch vehicle proved unnecessary for the SDI program. There were no payloads
for it. In the view of the SDI creators, the Shuttles could handle everything that
needed to be preliminarily inserted in space. Thus, the Americans themselves
closed the door on piloted flights to the Moon and planets. All the prognoses
and actual designs for this subject have been left for historians and posterity,
if they are lucky enough in the 21st century to bring back to life the attempts
to conduct interplanetary expeditions.
The new space initiative of President George W. Bush, made public in
expedition to Mars. The exact dates of the flight have not yet been mentioned,
but there is no place for an updated Saturn V and Space Shuttle in these pro-
spective programs. Space transport systems are once again under development
using the wealth of past experience.
After the collapse of the USSR and the signing of various international
agreements, the SDI program had to be curtailed. In any case, only scientific
research has been continued. However, the broad capabilities of space technol-
ogy have found practical application in local wars. If the main objective of the
space vehicles of the SDI program was to protect the territory of the United
States against Soviet missiles, then in the local wars in the Persian Gulf region
in 1991, during the NATO offensive in Yugoslavia in 1999, and in the war
in Iraq, space technology supported the conduct of combat actions in three
areas: on land, on the sea, and in the air.
According to the latest data, more than 100 automatic space vehicles
took part in the military operations in the Balkans. They conducted optical-
electronic, radar, and radio reconnaissance; provided navigational support for
4. Chertok means 2004.
5. President George W. Bush announced his Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) during a
speech given on 14 January 2004. According to the original plan, humans were to return to the
Moon by 2018 and set up a permanent base. Such a base could eventually be used for future
missions to Mars. A new, crewed space transportation system, known as Constellation, would
use elements of the Space Shuttle design. The Constellation program, however, was effectively
canceled by President Barack Obama, although some elements (such as the Orion vehicle) could
still be built.
combat aviation, and high-precision cruise missiles; and gave meteorological
support and communications for troop control at strategic and tactical levels.
At the end of the Cold War, the United States had achieved its primary
strategic objective: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the neutralization or
utilization for its own interests of Russia’s scientific and technical potential.
Having remained the sole superpower for a while, the United States is rushing
to turn our planet and near-Earth space into a zone of American interests.
Instead of resuscitating programs for interplanetary flights, NASA has
come up with the idea of creating a large near-Earth orbital station. Russia’s
indisputable achievements in this field were the reason for this. I wrote earlier
about how and why we got ahead of the Americans in the creation of Long-
Duration Orbital Stations.
Let’s return to the Soviet Union and have a look at what we planned
during the last years of Korolev’s life and the two decades after him. Unlike
the Americans, we did not predict the future until the year 2001; rather, we
began at once to design this future.
In 1959, the R-7 rocket had just learned how to fly. After many failures,
we finally delivered a pendant of the USSR to the Moon with a direct hit and
astounded the world, having transmitted the first authentic, if not very clear,
images of the far side of the Moon. That same year of 1959, with Korolev’s
approval, Mikhail Tikhonravov’s group, which included Maksimov, Dulnev,
Dashkov, and Kubasov, designed a heavy interplanetary spacecraft.
the design of a single-seat Vostok had just begun, and these zealots had already
designed the equipment layout for a three-seat vehicle weighing 75 tons, 12
meters long, and 6 meters in diameter. A year later they modified the design:
they added a nuclear reactor to the vehicle as a power source. After getting
involved in the design process, Feoktistov and Gorshkov increased the number
of crewmembers to six. Three or four people could land on the surface of Mars
and travel in special planetary rovers.
In 1964, on the advice of the chairman of the State Committee on
Defense Technology, Sergey Zverev, the Scientific-Research Institute of
Transport Machine Building (NIItransmash) became involved in the design
of planetary rovers.
The main specialty of this NII was tank building. Korolev
personally visited NIItransmash. Director Vladimir Stepanovich Starovoytov
6. The generic name of this project, which continued through the 1960s, 1970s, and
1980s, was Heavy Interplanetary Ship (TMK).
7. Sergey Alekseyevich Zverev (1912–1978) served as chairman of the State Committee
on Defense Technology from 1963 to 1965.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
introduced him to Aleksandr Levonovich Kemurdzhian, whom they asked
to switch from a tank to a planetary rover. Eight years later Kemurdzhian
had managed to create lunar rovers that could be controlled from Earth.
From 1970 to 1973, two lunar rovers traveled a total of 47 kilometers on
the surface of the Moon.
Work on the Mars expedition project continued after Korolev. Failed
launches of the N-1 rocket did not dampen the enthusiasm of Korolev’s
“Martians.” Mikhail Melnikov’s team, together with the organizations of the
Ministry of Medium Machine Building, achieved the first encouraging suc-
cesses in the development of space nuclear reactors as primary power sources.
Thermionic generators were sources of electric power for electric rocket engines,
which had a performance index five times greater than chemical engines. The
results of broad research on nuclear power sources and electric rocket engines
inspired confidence in the reality of interplanetary expeditions.
Glushko, who had come to lead Korolev’s team, rather than shut down
the project, supported Fridrikh Tsander’s rallying cry well known to the lead-
ing lights—“Onward to Mars!” Under Glushko, the Mars vehicle design was
enriched for reliability with a second nuclear reactor. After operations on the
N-1 and N-1M were shut down completely in 1976, Glushko insisted on
using the Vulkan launch vehicle, designed to insert a payload of up to 230
tons into near-Earth orbit.
The expedition project based on the Vulkan gave rise to acute “allergy”
attacks in our ministry and in the cabinets of the VPK. For this reason, the
planners of interplanetary expeditions switched to the Energiya launch vehicle,
capable of inserting up to 100 tons of payload into Earth orbit. The very exten-
sive experience of assembling large structures in space, which was accumulated
during the creation of orbital stations, inspired confidence that an expedition
could be assembled in Earth orbit in increments of 100 tons each, provided
with everything it needed, and sent to Mars.
Everyone who has returned from space talks about how beautiful our Earth
is. But both cosmonauts and unpiloted surveillance and reconnaissance satel-
lites see that on our blue planet, small wars continue unabated. Even without
space-based reconnaissance, it is well known that wars in Afghanistan and
Chechnya and the destruction in Yugoslavia and Iraq have cost tens of times
more money than needed for an expedition to Mars.
After the collapse of the USSR and the beginning of the implementation
of a “market economy” in Russia, cosmonautics not only lost government
support, but also encountered the concealed and open opposition of the
reformers who ended up in power. After the death of Valentin Glushko, from
1991 through 2005 Yuriy Semyonov occupied the post of general director
and general designer of NPO Energiya. In 1994, this state organization was
converted into the publicly traded corporation S. P. Korolev Energiya Rocket-
Unlike its predecessors, the managers of Russia’s rocket-space enterprises
had to work under “new economic conditions” and above all solve the problem
of survival. The chief and general designers had attained great achievements
during the epoch of the centralized mobilized economy. However, during that
time, not one of them had to fear for the very existence of the enterprise and
its staff. The omnipotent Central Committee could remove a chief designer
from the job and replace him with a more obedient one. As I recall, in the 45
years after the war this very seldom happened. But before 1992, no one even
dreamed that enormous staffs could be deprived of the means to sustain them
and pushed to the verge of a squalid existence. The struggle for survival—the
new sphere of business for the managers of all enterprises and organizations of
the once powerful military-industrial complex—demanded enormous efforts.
Not everyone managed to endure. Despite the fierce struggle for survival that
the management of RKK Energiya faced, the Mars expedition projects con-
tinued to be updated. True, this was only on paper.
Well, but what about the Moon? After the American expeditions to the
Moon we considered it quite realistic to even the score by establishing a per-
manently operating lunar base. Proposals for the delivery of a nuclear power
plant to the Moon seemed quite feasible. The plant would power a factory for
the production of oxygen from lunar rocks and provide life support for all the
systems for scientific research.
Back in Mishin’s time, the staff of TsKBEM and specialists under Barmin’s
supervision at KB OM had been working on the development of a design for
the lunar base relying on the N-1M launch vehicle.
Funding for these proj-
ects came from the budget of the Ministry of General Machine Building.
have already mentioned that Glushko objected to continuing these projects in
8. The S. P. Korolev Energiya Rocket-Space Corporation (Raketno-kosmicheskaya korporatsiya
‘Energiya’ imeni S. P. Koroleva, or RKK Energiya) was established by an order of the president
of the Russian Federation on 29 April 1994.
9. KB OM—Konstruktorskoye byuro obshchego mashinostroyeniya (Design Bureau of Machine
Building)—was the new designation for Barmin’s old design bureau, originally known as GSKB
Spetsmash. As of 2011, KB OM was known as the V. P. Barmin Scientific-Research Institute
of Launch Complexes, which is a branch of the larger TsENKI—Tsentr ekspluatatsii obyektov
Objects), the consolidated organization that manages all ground infrastructure for the Russian
10. The implication here is that the project was not funded by the primary clients of the
Soviet space program, the missile and space forces.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
Barmin’s shop and persuaded the ministry and the VPK to completely transfer
these projects to NPO Energiya.
Glushko entrusted the management for developing the Zvezda lunar
expedition complex to two quite distinguished figures of Korolev’s school.
Konstantin Bushuyev was in charge of developing vehicles for the flight to
the Moon and return to Earth, while Ivan Prudnikov was in charge of the
lunar village, which called for a habitation module, a nuclear power station, a
laboratory module, a factory module, and a driver-operated lunar rover with
an operating radius of up to 200 kilometers.
Bushuyev, who held the high-
activity post of director of the Soviet part of the Apollo-Soyuz program, had
a difficult time making the transition to the placid design work on the lunar
base after the program’s brilliant conclusion in 1975.
During this period I was so loaded down with updates on the Soyuzes
and off-nominal situations on the Salyuts that I didn’t have time to respond to
Bushuyev’s and Prudnikov’s requests to delve into the details of their projects
and render active assistance in designing the control and electric power systems.
In the winter of 1977, during one of our “nightcap” strolls along
Academician Korolev Street shrouded in a frosty fog, Bushuyev complained
that he didn’t believe in his current design for the lunar expedition complex.
“No one but Valentin Glushko is interested in this work,” said Bushuyev.
“The ministry and the VPK say that we need to catch up with the Americans
in terms of a reusable transport system. With [Yuriy] Semyonov in charge,
you all don’t have time for anything but orbital stations and Soyuzes. Igor
Sadovskiy has gotten carried away with the Soviet version of the Shuttle and
considers our work on the Moon to be frivolous. The Central Committee
wants to perform as many piloted launches as possible in order to outdo the
Americans in terms of the number of cosmonauts. We are planning an expe-
dition counting on having at least 60 tons in lunar orbit and landing cargoes
of 22 tons each on the surface of the Moon. If we hadn’t stopped upgrading
the N-1, we would have optimized the hydrogen Block S
instead of Blocks
G and D. Then two launches for such a payload would have been sufficient.
In all: 8 to 10 launches of the upgraded N-1—and we would have a base for
six persons on the Moon.”
The next morning, I dropped everything and I went to Bushuyev’s office
and listened to his comments on the wall charts and diagrams of the lunar
11. Ivan Savelyevich Prudnikov (1919–) served as chief designer at NPO Energiya from
1974 to 1982, specializing in human lunar spacecraft.
From the author’s archives.
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