Chronicle of Soviet-Russian space program
The theory of space exploration had a solid basis in the Russian Empire before the First World War with the writings of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), who published pioneering papers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and in 1929 introduced the concept of the multistaged rocket. Practical aspects built on early experiments carried out by members of the reactive propulsion study group, GIRD (founded in 1931) in the 1920s and 1930s, where such pioneers as Sergey Korolyov—who dreamed of traveling to Mars — and the German-Russian engineer Friedrich Zander worked. On August 18, 1933, GIRD launched the first Soviet liquid-fueled rocket Gird-09 and on November 25, 1933, the first hybrid-fueled rocket GIRD-X.
Over its sixty-year history, this primarily classified military program was responsible for a number of pioneering accomplishments in space flight, including the first intercontinental ballistic missile (1957), first satellite (Sputnik-1), first animal in space (the dog Laika on Sputnik 2), first human in space and Earth orbit (cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1), first woman in space and Earth orbit (cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova on Vostok 6), first spacewalk (cosmonaut Alexey Leonov on Voskhod 2), first Moon impact (Luna 2), first image of the far side of the moon (Luna 3) and unmanned lunar soft landing (Luna 9), first space rover, first space station, and first interplanetary probe.The rocket and space program of the USSR was performed by Soviet engineers and scientists after 1955, and was based on some unique Soviet and Russian theoretical developments, many derived by Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovskii, sometimes known as the father of theoretical astronautics. Sergey Korolyov (also transliterated as Korolev) was the head of the principal design group; his official title was “chief designer” (a standard title for similar positions in the USSR). Unlike its American competitor in the “space race”, which had NASA as a single coordinating agency, the USSR’s program was split among several competing design groups led by Korolyov, Mikhail Yangel, Valentin Glushko, and Vladimir Chelomei.
Because of the program’s classified statusannouncements of the outcomes of missions were delayed until success was certain, and failures were sometimes kept secret. Ultimately, as a result of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost in the 1980s, many facts about the space program were declassified. Notable setbacks included the deaths of Korolyov, Vladimir Komarov (in the Soyuz 1 crash), and Yuri Gagarin (on a routine fighter jet mission) between 1966 and 1968, and disastrous experiences with the huge N-1 rocket intended to power a manned lunar landing, and which exploded shortly after launch on each of four unmanned tests.After the fall of the Soviet Union Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) was established.
Sputnik and Vostok
The Vostok program was a Soviet human spaceflight project to put the first Soviet citizens into low Earth orbit and return them safely. It succeeded in placing the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space, in a single orbit in Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961.
The Vostok capsule was developed from the Zenit satellite project and adapted the Vostok launch rocket from the existing R-7 Semyorka missile design. The name “Vostok” was treated as classified information until Gagarin’s flight was first publicly disclosed to the world press.The programme carried out six manned spaceflights between 1961 and 1963. The longest flight lasted nearly five days, and the last four were launched in pairs, one day apart. This exceeded Project Mercury’s demonstrated capability of just over 34 hours longest flight, and single missions. Vostok was succeeded by two Voskhod programme flights in 1964 and 1965, which used three- and two-man modifications of the Vostok capsule and a larger launch rocket.
Cosmonaut selection and training
By January 1959, the Soviets had begun preparations for human spaceflight. Physicians from the Soviet Air Force insisted that the potential cosmonaut candidates be qualified Air Force pilots, arguing that they would have relevant skills such as exposure to higher g-forces, as well as ejection seat experience. The candidates had to be intelligent, comfortable in high-stress situations, and physically fit.
Chief designer of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolev, decided that the cosmonauts must be male, between 25 and 30 years old, no taller than 1.75 meters, and weigh no more than 72 kilograms. The final specifications for cosmonauts were approved in June 1959. By September interviews with potential cosmonauts had begun. Although the pilots were not told they might be flying into space, one of the physicians in charge of the selection process believed that some pilots had figured this out. Just over 200 candidates made it through the interview process, and by October a series of demanding physical tests were conducted on those remaining, such as exposure to low pressures, and a centrifuge test. By the end of 1959, 20 men had been selected. Of these 20, five were outside the desired age range; so the age requirement was relaxed. The Soviet spacecraft were more automated than the American counterparts, so significant piloting experience was not necessary.
On January 11, 1960, Soviet Chief Marshal of Aviation Konstantin Vershinin approved plans to establish the Cosmonaut Training Center, whose exclusive purpose would be to prepare the cosmonauts for their upcoming flights; initially the facility would have about 250 staff. Vershinin assigned the already famous aviator Nikolai Kamanin to supervise operations at the facility. By March, most of the cosmonauts had arrived at the training facility; on March 7 Vershinin gave a welcome speech, and those who were present were formally inducted into the cosmonaut group. By mid-June all twenty were permanently stationed at the center. In March the cosmonauts were started on a daily fitness regime, and were taught classes on topics such as rocket space systems, navigation, geophysics, and astronomy.
Due to the initial facility’s space limitations, the cosmonauts and staff were relocated to a new facility in Star City (then known as Zelenyy), which has been the home of Russia’s cosmonaut training program for over fifty years. The move officially took place on June 29, 1960.
The first manned spaceflight, Vostok 1 in April 1961, was preceded by several preparatory flights. In the summer of 1960, the Soviets learned that the Americans could launch a sub-orbital manned spaceflight as early as January 1961. Korolev saw this as an important deadline, and was determined to launch a manned orbital mission before the Americans launched their manned suborbital mission. By April 1960, designers at Sergei Korolev’s design bureau, then known as OKB-1, had completed a draft plan for the first Vostok spacecraft, called Vostok 1K. This design would be used for testing purposes; also in their plan was Vostok 2K and Vostok 3K, which would be used for all six manned Vostok missions.
Despite the very large geographical size of the Soviet Union, there were obvious limitations to monitoring orbital spaceflights from ground stations within the country. To remedy this, the Soviets stationed about 7 naval vessels, or tracking ships, around the world. For each ground station or tracking ship, the duration of communications with an orbiting spacecraft was limited to five to ten minutes.
First man in space
On April 12, 1961, the USSR opened the era of manned spaceflight, with the flight of the first cosmonaut (Russian name for space travelers), Yuri Gagarin. Gagarin’s flight, part of the Soviet Vostok space exploration program, took 108 minutes and consisted of a single orbit of the Earth.
On August 7, 1961, German Titov, another Soviet cosmonaut, became the second man in orbit during his Vostok 2 mission.
By June 16, 1962, the Union launched a total of six Vostok cosmonauts, two pairs of them flying concurrently, and accumulating a total of 260 cosmonaut-orbits and just over sixteen cosmonaut-days in space.
First woman in space
The first woman in space was former civilian parachutist Valentina Tereshkova, who entered orbit on June 16, 1963, aboard the Soviet mission Vostok 6. The chief Soviet spacecraft designer, Sergey Korolyov, conceived of the idea to recruit a female cosmonaut corps and launch two women concurrently on Vostok 5/6. However, his plan was changed to launch a male first in Vostok 5, followed shortly afterward by Tereshkova. Khrushchev personally spoke to Tereshkova by radio during her flight.
On November 3, 1963, Tereshkova married fellow cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev, who had previously flown on Vostok 3. On June 8, 1964, she gave birth to the first child conceived by two space travelers. The second woman to fly to space was aviator Svetlana Savitskaya, aboard Soyuz T-7 on August 18, 1982.
· 1957: First intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-7 “Semyorka”
· 1957: First satellite, Sputnik 1
· 1957: First animal in Earth orbit, the dog Laika on Sputnik 2
· 1959: First rocket ignition in Earth orbit, first man-made object to escape Earth’s gravity, Luna 1
· 1959: First data communications, or telemetry, to and from outer space, Luna 1.
· 1959: First man-made object to pass near the Moon, first man-made object in Heliocentric orbit, Luna 1
· 1959: First probe to impact the Moon, Luna 2
· 1959: First images of the moon’s far side, Luna 3
· 1960: First animals to safely return from Earth orbit, the dogs Belka and Strelka on Sputnik 5.
· 1961: First probe launched to Venus, Venera 1
· 1961: First person in space (International definition) and in Earth orbit, Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1, Vostok programme
· 1961: First person to spend over 24 hours in space Gherman Titov, Vostok 2 (also first person to sleep in space).
· 1962: First dual manned spaceflight, Vostok 3 and Vostok 4
· 1962: First probe launched to Mars, Mars 1
· 1963: First woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, Vostok 6
· 1964: First multi-person crew (3), Voskhod 1
· 1965: First extra-vehicular activity (EVA), by Aleksei Leonov, Voskhod 2
· 1965: First probe to hit another planet of the Solar system (Venus), Venera 3
· 1966: First probe to make a soft landing on and transmit from the surface of the moon, Luna 9
· 1966: First probe in lunar orbit, Luna 10
· 1967: First unmanned rendezvous and docking, Cosmos 186/Cosmos 188.
· 1968: First living beings to reach the Moon (circumlunar flights) and return unharmed to Earth, Russian tortoises on Zond 5
· 1969: First docking between two manned craft in Earth orbit and exchange of crews, Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5
· 1970: First soil samples automatically extracted and returned to Earth from another celestial body, Luna 16
· 1970: First robotic space rover, Lunokhod 1 on the Moon.
· 1970: First data received from the surface of another planet of the Solar system (Venus), Venera 7
· 1971: First space station, Salyut 1
· 1971: First probe to impact the surface of Mars, Mars 2
· 1971: First probe to land on Mars, Mars 3
· 1975: First probe to orbit Venus, to make soft landing on Venus, first photos from surface of Venus, Venera 9
· 1980: First Hispanic and Black person in space, Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez on Soyuz 38
· 1984: First woman to walk in space, Svetlana Savitskaya (Salyut 7 space station)
· 1986: First crew to visit two separate space stations (Mir and Salyut 7)
· 1986: First probes to deploy robotic balloons into Venus atmosphere and to return pictures of a comet during close flyby Vega 1, Vega 2
· 1986: First permanently manned space station, Mir, 1986–2001, with permanent presence on board (1989–1999)
· 1987: First crew to spend over one year in space, Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov on board of Soyuz TM-4 – Mir
The first Malaysian astronaut
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie bin Sheikh Mustapha is a Malaysian orthopaedic surgeon and the first Malaysian astronaut. He launched to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz TMA-11 with the Expedition 16 crew on 10 October 2007. Sheikh Muszaphar flew under an agreement with Russia through the Angkasawan program, and returned to Earth on 21 October 2007, aboard Soyuz TMA-10 with the Expedition 15 crew members, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov.