The Space. Dreams and Politics. The 60th Anniversary of Gagarin’s flight


April 12, 1961, saw Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet citizen, pioneer a space flight, opening the way to the stars for the whole mankind.

The new joint exhibition of the Museum of Political History of Russia and the Moscow Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics suggests comprehending the topic of space exploration within the context of world political processes, where hostility and the clash of political ideologies fade into the background, giving way to progress and scientific innovation.

Practical ways of developing cosmonautics and rocketry were initially proposed by Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky, who elaborated a theory to prove the expediency of liquid propellants for rockets for interplanetary transportations. Thus, the corner stone of astronautics was laid down, which later developed into a set of efforts made by a number of sciences and technologies to enable the exploration of outer space. As early as 1921, the first Soviet research and development laboratory for rocketry was established in Moscow under the leadership of Nikolay I. Tikhomirov. In 1927, it was relocated to Leningrad and renamed the Gas-Dynamic Laboratory (GDL). Two years later, the GDL under the leadership of Valentin P. Glushko began the development of liquid-propellant rocket engines (LPRE). In 1932, the Moscow-based R&D Group for the Study of Reactive Motion was established (GIRD) under the leadership of Sergey P. Korolev. The first Soviet rocket scientists’ work was highly successful. However, a considerable part of their research was curtailed on the eve of World War II for a number of reasons. In particular, the main efforts were switched to address purely military tasks as the country standing on the verge of a major war, first of all, needed weapons. This approach had tangible results including the famous multiple rocket launcher (MRL) Katyusha, which became the best-known development of the Jet Research Institute (NII-3).

In 1946, as the Cold War started, the first stage of the space race began. The USSR’s and USA’s leading politicians, as well as space project managers of the two superpowers, differed in their evaluation of space exploration, regarding its importance, as well as in their concepts of national space programs in terms of their priorities, forms, and systems. At the same time, uncompromising rivalry for the position of the world’s first-ever “space power” had a pronounced military-political and ideological background, which is an indisputable fact.

On May 13, 1946, the Decree of the CPSU Central Committee and the Council of Ministers of the USSR “On the Questions of Jet Armament” was adopted, which predetermined the course and conditions for the development of the national rocket and space industry for several decades. Design bureaus and research institutes for rocketry began to be established in the country. The German models V-2, Wasserfall, Reintochter, Schmetterling were taken as a basis for the development of the missiles. And already in 1948, the first test launches of ballistic missiles assembled in the USSR, made entirely of domestic materials, were carried out at the Kapustin Yar test site. In 1957, the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile R-7 was produced under the guidance of Sergey Korolev, the Head of Special Design Bureau No. 1 (OKB-1) and Chief Designer.

The era of space exploration began on October 4, 1957, when the R-7 launch vehicle launched the world’s first artificial Earth satellite into low-Earth orbit. After the United States lost at the start of the space race, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). A series of successful launches of Soviet spacecraft, the triumphant flight of Yu. Gagarin in 1961, and later of other cosmonauts, consolidated the position of the USSR in the unofficial space race.

The programs for the development of long-term orbital stations of the Salyut type adopted in the late 1960s, became a scientific and technical basis for the orbital scientific research complex Mir, enabling the USSR to become the leader in the research related to the long-term presence of man in space. During that time, the United States was successfully implementing the space program of manned flights to the Moon.

In January 1967, the rival superpowers signed the Outer Space Treaty to ban stationing of WMD in space and on celestial bodies, which has remained the basis of international space law to this day.

On May 24, 1972, in Moscow, the USSR and the USA signed an Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes. July 15, 1975, saw a joint flight of the manned spacecraft Soyuz 19 and Apollo and their docking in orbit. This event, dubbed the “handshake in space”, demonstrated the Soviet-American rapprochement. The space flight under the Soyuz-Apollo program, which crowned the three-year efforts of scientists and engineers of the two countries, showed that the leading space powers were able to cast aside their political and economic contradictions and work together.

The relaxation of international tension turned out to be short-lived: outer space became engulfed by the Cold War realities. The topical slogan of the 1970-s reads: “The world belongs to those who own space!” In response to the US Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or the Star Wars program), the USSR began implementing the Energia- Buran space program. The 205-minute flight of Buran spacecraft on November 15, 1988, became the highest point in the trajectory of the Soviet cosmonautics development. The reusable space transport system Buran enabled the Soviet Union to become a leader in the “Star Wars”.

By 1991, the national cosmonautics had scored a number of major discoveries and completed programs: Venus - the launch of a number of interplanetary stations to Venus that landed successfully on the planet’s surface; Vega: the launch of two interplanetary missions to Venus and comet 1P/Halley, which took photographs of the space bodies. Mars: the launch of several missions to Mars, intended to identify the chemical composition of the atmosphere and take photos of the planet’s surface. A series of Salyut orbital stations and two series of Vostok and Voskhod spacecraft.

A number of the USSR’s significant developments in the field of space technology was inherited by modern Russian cosmonautics, which supports national standards with due competence, financing the development of breakthrough technologies in the field of space exploration. Our cosmonauts continue working on the International Space Station, while design engineers are elaborating more powerful launch vehicles. On March 9, 2021, Russia and China signed the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Russian Federation on the Construction of the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). The launch of the Luna-25 automatic station from the Vostochny Cosmodrome is scheduled for the autumn of 2021. Luna-25 will be modern Russia’s first domestic apparatus based on the natural satellite (sputnik).

Today, space exploration has reached the point at which no power is capable of making further significant progress singlehandedly. Space programs of different countries implementing common goals are intertwined. Whereas the space race is a thing of the past international cooperation in space continues.

Modern cosmonautics is the next stage in mankind’s development, the beginning of the noosphere, a new understanding of human place in the world where we live.

The State Museum of Political History of Russia expresses its appreciation of the following agencies for the materials provided:

The State Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics (Moscow),

The State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg,

The Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineering and Communications Forces of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation,

The Russian State Archives of Film and Photo Documents,

The Russian State Archives of the Economy,

The Archives of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

The Russian State Archives of Scientific and Technical Documentation,

The Russian State Archives of Contemporary History,

The Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History,

The Central Archives of the Federal Security Service of Russia.


Публикация от: 23.03.2021 12:28:37