El programa espacial ruso

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The Soviet manned lunar programme and its legacy

Phillip S. Clark
In the early 1960s the USSR was becoming used to being the first nation to accomplish a major goal in the field of space technology. In the first five years of the Space Age the Soviet 'firsts' included the first satellite in orbit, the first dog in orbit, the first lunar impact, the first photographs of the lunar far side, thefirst recovery of dogs from orbit, the first Venus probe launch, the first manned launch and the first Mars probe launch. As an answer to Gagarin's pioneer orbit around the Earth, President John F. Kennedy made his famous pledge that the USA should land a man on the Moon and safely return him to Earth 'before this decade is out'. On 21 July (British time) 1969 Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon,and what appeared to have been a one-horse race was over. It is only now, as Soviet historical information is being published and the bounds of cosmic glasnost are being tested, that the story of the USSR's aborted manned lunar programme is being made public. In fact, the USSR did not have a single manned lunar programme. During the era which saw Apollo 8 circle the Moon and Apollo 11 land therethe Soviets had two independent programmes underway: one was geared towards simply flying two men around the Moon, while the other called for the landing of one man on the Moon.

In the last two years the USSR has not only acknowledged publicly for the first time that It was trying to 'race' the USA to put the first man on the Moon, but they have finally given some details of the programme, theequipment and the political In-fighting which ensured that the programme was a failure. This arUcle traces the history of the Soviet manned lunar programme and also discusses the Implications for the future development of the Soviet manned programme of the giant N-1 booster's cancellation in 1974.

Phillip S. Clark is an independent consultant specializing in Soviet space activities, MolniyaSpace Consultancy, 30 Sonia Gardens, Heston, Middx TW5 0LZ, UK. The author would like to thank David Dugan at Windfall Films for allowing access to the unbroadcast material from the Red Star in Orbit television series: this has proved to be essential for filling in gaps in the story which could be told in the restricted time available in the television programmes. Additionally, he would like to thankRalph F. Gibbons for supplying the English translation of Mishin's booklet Pochemu Ma Ne S/etali Na Luni? (Why Didn't We Land on the Moon~ which again proved essential for the preparation of this article.

Dramatis personae
Before looking at the story of the hardware involved in the Soviet manned lunar programme, the major engineers and designers who guided it need to be introduced. The firstof these, of course, is Sergei P. Korolyov (1907-66), the legendary 'Chief Designer of Spacecraft' who was only identified by name after his death. Korolyov had been responsible for the design of the original R-7 missile which formed the basis of the Sputnik, Vostok and Soyuz launchers, as well as most of the spacecraft which gave the USSR its many space 'firsts'. It is possible that if he hadlived the USSR could have landed a man on the Moon, but not before Apollo. Vladimir N. Chelomei (1914-84) is usually portrayed as a rival to Korolyov, and he headed his own design burcau which seems to have specialized in the more 'military' side of the Soviet space programme: he

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The Soviet manned lunar programme and its legaO,had designed the Proton booster and the military Salyut manned orbital stations. The major rocket engine designer was Valentin P. Glushko (1906-89) who headed the Gas Dynamics Laboratory which provided the firststage engines for most of the Soviet satellite launch vehicles. The split between Glushko and Korolyov was probably a near-mortal wound for the manned lunar programme. Finally, there is...
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