Friday, September 23, 2011

The Soviet Reach for the Moon

Even before the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite by the Soviet Union shocked the world, the fundamental foundation for manned space flight, with its ultimate ob jective of leaving the confines of the Earth for the Moon and more distant celestial bodies, had been laid. In 1903 Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), the father of Russian cosmonautics, published his landmark treatise on the technical requirements for space flight, Investigation of Cosmic Spaces by Reactive Devices. His pioneering work was supplemented by Tsander (1887-1933) and Kondratyuk (1897-1942). A scant half century later, Russian scientists and engineers began turning Tsiolkovsky's dream into reality By the time Yuri Gagarin marked a milestone of human evolution by becoming the first man in space, the seemingly impossible task of landing men on the Moon and returning them to Earth had been reduced to a technical and engineering challenge well within the grasp of the current generation.