Russian Space Flight - Part One

>> Sunday, June 7, 2009

With all the talk about commercial spaceflight, Constellation (NASA's current exploration program), Chinese human spaceflight and Russia providing the bridge to the ISS after the Shuttle is retired, it's only natural that mention of NASA's crowning achievement come up, along with the reminder that it's not only an achievement no one else has made, but it's shouldn't be this big a deal to go back. I disagree with the latter and hope no one strives to go elsewhere until we've well and truly conquered the moon, but that's another set of blog topics.

The thing is it's easy to lose sight of all the Soviet/Russian human (and other) spaceflight programs have achieved. NASA definitely deserves kudos for the incredible task it did back in the 60's (notwithstanding the criticism that we've gone a long time living off that past glory, but, again, I digress), but I'd be a poor student of space history if I didn't acknowledge all the Russians/Soviets have done (I'm going to just say Russians from now on - I'm lazy) to further spaceflight. Someone said they were ahead of us technologically in the beginning. I say, not really - the playing field was actually pretty level with both of us working of the German designs. The Russians were driven by many different drives and had a different focus than we did. Not to say worse, not to say better, but different. And they had a number of tragic setbacks we managed to avoid. Even so, the list of achievements is long - I got this from Wikipedia and it may not be complete. I left the links in so that you can explore them and get comfortable with the notion that these are valid.

*On the "first EVA", it should be noted that it depends on the definition. Leonov never left the inflatable airlock but he definitely was suited and was exposed to vacuum outside his vehicle. Additionally, Leonov nearly was nearly trapped out there when his suit was too stiff to bend and drastically overheated (a chronic problem with early EVAs). He ended up bleeding air from his suit to get back inside. Pretty scary. The coolest EVA stories of all time can be found here.

It's a list that would do any country credit. Even today, there are things they do better than we do, like automated rendezvous. The Soyuz rocket has an admirable track record as well. Not that we don't have our own specialties and strengths, but that's a good thing. If we learn, shore up our weakness with learned strengths and do the same for others, it all brings us closer to a viable human space exploration.

And that, my friends, is for all mankind.

(I'm planning to write blogs on this topic most of the week. I don't know if I'll finish Russian spaceflight in the week, but I'll slip into next week if necessary).


  • flit

    I didn't know hardly any o' that...thanks for the primer!

    Hope you had a great weekend!

  • Mike

    Great job - thanks for the history lesson in Russian spaceflight - look forward to what you have coming in future posts.

  • The Mother

    I'm bookmarking this for future reference. I've had kids doing space projects in the past, and digging this stuff out isn't always easy (especially if you don't speak Russian).

  • Stephanie B

    There are tremendous resources available that weren't available the same way a few years ago. Wikipedia (I know, I know) is a great place to start if only because of the many many links, though they usually have the space stuff right as well.

    Another great source of data, especially about Russian space hardware and history is Encyclopedia Astronautica. Great stuff.

  • Bob Johnson

    Love these posts on Russian Space Flight, We only hear a lot about the American Efforts, but Russia was a key player, without them the Americans probably wouldn't have gone to the Moon, and what a shame and big mistake that would have been.

  • Stephanie B

    For most folks 'round here, the Russian just provided the Indians to our cowboys. Truth is, though, of course they did spur us with competition, they have achieved a great deal. I'm unsure what we accomplish by trumpeting how we won the space race. Acknowledging someone else's accomplishments hardly tarnishes our own.

  • Phyl

    I've been behind (again), but what a joy, to start catching up and find these posts about the Russian space program! I can't wait to read the rest. Thanks so much for doing these!

  • Aron Sora

    That is a great post series. When I ran my survey, American space programs were recognized more then Russians, even by people in Poland (half my sample was from Poland for some reason)

  • Stephanie B

    It's a sad commentary.

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