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Historical aspects of the early Soviet/Russian manned space program - page 5 / 12





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that this was the beginning of a new age when humans would enter space. Ehricke vividly describes the exhil- aration of the launch team following the first successful flight.

At the end of World War II, von Braun and several others from the Peenem ¨unde facility were transferred to the United States, where they played crucial roles in the development of the American space program. All that remained of the A4 rockets in Peenem ¨unde was systematically destroyed, but some of the remnants were studied by Soviet rocket experts. Here is a graphic description of what Boris Chertok, one of the engineers, found (Ref. 5, p. 65)

So I come into this hall. Several hours before me our engine man, Alexei Mikhailovich Isaev—one of the future stars of our rocket technology—was let in. I see the lower part of his body and his legs sticking out of the rocket engine nozzle, while his head is somewhere inside . . . . I approach Bolkhovitinov.

“What is this?” “This is what cannot be,” he replies . . . . Understand, one of our most talented aircraft designers simply did not believe that in wartime conditions it would be possible to develop such a huge and powerful rocket engine. We had at the time liquid engines of our exper- imental rocket planes with thrusts of hundreds of kilo- grams. One and one half tons was the limit of our dreams. Yet here we quickly calculated, based on the nozzle dimensions, that the engine thrust was at least 20 tons.

In fact, the A4 rocket had been redesignated as the V-2 (for Vengeance-2), and many were launched against London with terrifying results. The V-2 had a gross weight of nearly 13 tons and could carry a 1-met- ric-ton payload 200 km. It was the first missile to incorporate a cryogenic turbo pump and the first to use a sophisticated guidance system.

Fig. 4. Sergei Pavlovich Korolev (1907–1966) who was the Chief Designer of the early Soviet manned space program (from Ref. 14).




Sergei Pavlovich Korolev (1907–1966, Fig. 4) was the genius who achieved preeminence of the Soviet/ Russian manned space program from its beginning to the mid-1960s. He was born in Zhitomir in the Ukraine near Kiev, and, while in his teens, he built and flew gliders. In 1926, he enrolled in the Moscow Technical High School where one of his lecturers was Tupolev, the famous Russian aircraft designer. Korolev became interested in rocketry and in 1933 was responsible for the first flight of a liquid-fuelled rocket in the Soviet Union. During 1936–1938, Korolev and his talented colleague, Valentin Glushko, used rocket engines to propel gliders.

However, in 1938, disaster befell Korolev, and the subsequent story is one that could only have occurred in the Soviet Union. He was arrested by Stalin’s regime on a trumped-up charge as an “enemy of the people” and sentenced to 10 yr of hard labor. First, he was incarcerated in one of the most dreaded prisons, Kol- mya, in far eastern Siberia. He spent 5 mo in the winter, digging in a surface gold mine, and many of his

fellow prisoners died. Later, Korolev was moved to Moscow where he was held under house arrest in a prison for scientists known as a “sharaga,” where he was allowed to do some engineering design work. This was the type of institution described by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago (16). One of his fellow prisoners was Tupolev. Korolev was in prison for a total of about 7 yr but was eventually released after World War II when the Soviets recognized the impor- tance of developing a missile program and realized that he was one of their most talented rocket engineers. In 1944 Korolev was discharged from prison and his con- victions were expunged, and in 1945 he was commis- sioned as a colonel in the Red Army. Amazingly, he then continued to work until his death 21 yr later at breakneck speed and appeared to harbor no resent- ment toward the regime. On the contrary, according to a sequence in one of the television documentaries (11), he told Gagarin and Leonov shortly before his death of his complete loyalty and devotion to the Soviet Union. Initially, Korolev was asked by Stalin to build a replica of the German A4 rocket that had been devel- oped in Peenem ¨unde (Fig. 3). Korolev apparently ar- gued that he could come up with a better design, but

J Appl Physiol VOL 91 OCTOBER 2001 www.jap.org

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