Showing posts with label personalities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personalities. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 June 2012


The Phobos-Grunt space probe that failed to leave Earth orbit was not recoverable and re-entered the atmosphere on 15 January of this year. Very disheartening! Though they apparently want to try again, from 2018 onwards.

Boris Chertok, the Russian rocket designer who worked with Sergei Korolyov, died on 14 December 2011; if he had made it to his next birthday (1 March) he would have been 100! Sadly he died while Russia’s program is moribund and no return to greatness in sight.

China launched its first woman, Liu Yang, (or Yang Liu in English order) into space last weekend on June 16. She was part of a crew of 3 on Shenzhou 9 (others were Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang). They docked with the mini-space lab Tiangong-1 (launched last September) two days later. More data at:, Xinhuanet Shenzhou 9 special, Spacefacts, Spaceflight Now, infographic, Wikipedia.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Heavenly bodies

The cause of the Soyuz rocket crash last month was given as being due to a clogged fuel line leading to a gas generator, thought to be human error rather than a design flaw. ( articles: 31/8, 15/9.) Crew launches on the Soyuz rocket have been delayed a little, and the next Progress launch (Progress M-13M/45P) is set for 30 October. Crew launches are on the Soyuz-FG, which has a modifed fuel injection system on the engines of the first and second stages, but it and the Soyuz-U have the same 11S510-PVB Blok-I third stage.

China is to launch the first module of its planned space station next week on a Long-March Ⅱ-F carrier rocket (MSNBC/Spacedaily articles). The module is called Tiangong 1, or “Heavenly Palace”. The module is to be used to practice rendezvous and docking, initially with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 that will be subsequently launched. If it is successful, it will be followed by Tiangong 2 and 3 space labs in a few years.

New Scientist magazine had an article about the support operations for the Mars-500 mission in its 17 September issue. (Text online here.)

The July and August issues of BIS Spaceflight magazine have a 2-part article on death in space. I am debating whether to buy the issues as the magazine is now quite expensive in Australia ($17) and hard to find. On browsing through the July issue in a newsagent, the first part was more speculation about various medical issues that might occur during a long spaceflight. A bit disappointing as I was hoping for an actual list of procedures from NASA, or whoever! The somewhat morbid topic has interested me for years, but there are no actual documents online, only occasional speculations on forums. I actually wrote out my own version of such a document in the style of other online ISS documents as part of a somewhat irreverent short story I did some years ago (“Houston, we have a corpse”) that included a space autopsy (“2001: a space autopsy” – I had some fun making up those headings :-):

Friday, 4 June 2010

Locked in

Mars-500 is officially underway as of yesterday, with the crew secluded until November 2011. It is disappointing, though, that no women are participating – “Discrimination row after Russia ‘bans’ women from 18-month mock mission to Mars” suggests that they were unofficially banned for fears of repeating the SFINCSS-99 experiment. The decision has received criticism from various experts.

“The absence of women in Mars-500 Project yet again proves the presence on old-fashioned Earthly gender stereotypes,” complained Mikhail Salkin of the Moscow Human Rights Protection Centre. “The organisers were likely set on choosing men from the start. We suspect the endurance tests they set were more suitable to men than women, and the results will be a biased judgement because it will only apply to males, so will not fit the full picture. “Women should have equal access to any job so we are ready to apply to the Russian General Prosecutor on this and ask him to investigate. The organisers have also forgotten the social tension they can face among six men which might have been softened by having a woman on board.”


Psychiatrist Egor Rozenkov warned single sex isolation was “more dangerous” than sending a mixed group. “There is a lot of psychological and psychiatric evidence about the social pathologies that develop in isolated male groups, like in jails, the army or schools. “And don’t forget about the danger of sexual inversion. From the point of view of the health of the crew it will be a huge mistake to ‘send’ not a mixed but an all-male crew.”

Soyuz TMA-17 landed on 2 June with ISS-22/23. TMA-19 will launch on 15 June with ISS-24/25.

U.K. Russian space expert Rex Hall died of cancer on 31 May aged 63. Tributes at CollectSPACE,

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Forward to Mars

I haven’t felt much like writing, so some catching-up to do.

“Sexual Discrimination in Space”, Roskosmos/Russia Today, 25/7. An interview with Svetlana Savitskaya, the second Russian woman in space and the first to do an EVA. Unfortunately there have been only 3 Russian women to fly in space to date (none currently in orbit), and there is still discrimination.

Russia Reveals Vision for Manned Spaceflight”, IEEE Spectrum, August 2009. Russia revealed yet another future vision at this year’s MAKS Airshow. The ultimate goal is to get to Mars first (hooray!). Of course they don’t have the budget, so they aim for international co-operation to share the load.

“I believe that we should move [straight] to Mars…as the moon cannot be a goal by itself,” says Vitaly Lopota, the head of RKK Energia. “Nevertheless, all the infrastructure that we are proposing for the Interplanetary Expeditionary Complex could be used for operations in Earth orbit, but also for the lunar exploration, if such goals emerge,” Lopota told IEEE Spectrum.

Anatoly Zak, the article’s author, will be following developments on his website.

NASA suggests teaming up with Russia for Mars flight”, RIAN, 25/8. Don’t know how serious this is! It generated the usual cynicism and paranoid patriotism on this thread at forum.

Some differing opinions via NK №803 on how far in the future a Mars mission might be – hopefully sooner than later! Nice to see that some in the industry want to go to Mars first. ( thread)

25/08/2009 / 20:07 – Manned expedition to Mars will not take place in less than a hundred years

In today’s economic and scientific situation, the prospect of sending a manned expedition to Mars is unprofitable, Boris Chertok – Chief Scientific Adviser, Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences – said today at the Sixth International Aerospace Congress.

“Until now, a manned mission not made the fundamental discoveries of such a level as unmanned,” he said. “It is therefore wiser to spend money on exploration of Mars machine than an expensive place to send an expedition, which will bring no more, and perhaps even less information.”

According to the academician, “the time for human flight to the Red Planet will come in a hundred years, at least fifty, while the same slogan of modern space must be “Forward to Mars!” And “Onward to the moon!” NASA is planning an expedition to Mars after 2020.

According to the scientist, “people must return to the moon not to promote the national image, but as a researcher, and must return there for a long time.” And Chertok sees a man not so much space explorers as “assembler, builder, and in the future – space tourist.”

28/08/2009 / 00:05 – A full-scale manned expedition to Mars could be realized in the years 2029-2031 – Academician at the RAS

A full-scale manned expedition to Mars could be realized in 2029-2031, respectively. This opinion was expressed in Moscow, at the Sixth International Aerospace Congress by Lev Zelenyi, Academician at the Russia Academy of Sciences, director of the RAS Space Research Institute.

He said the manned mission will be preceded by several preparatory steps. In the first stage, in the period from 2012 to 2020 an engineering model of the physical conditions in the flight path, around and on the surface of Mars will be created through a special program of automated scientific satellites, including meteorological conditions in the atmosphere. The rationale for the choice of a landing site will be made as well.

In the second stage, from 2018 to 2025, it is expected to work out the infrastructure elements of the Martian expedition.

For the third – from 2025 to 2028 – there will be implemented a piloted flight expedition to the placing of an inhabited spacecraft into orbit around Mars, with the possibility of controlling automatic moving vehicles on the Martian surface from orbit.

“A full-scale manned expedition to landing on the Martian surface can be realized in 2029-2031 years,” says Zelenyi. The Academician himself has no doubt that if you choose between a flight to the Moon and Mars, it is better to make a choice in favor of the red planet. “I belong to the ‘left’ faction, which believes that the study of Mars is more interesting than the Moon” – an insider joke, he said. “At Mars, we can expect great discoveries,” he suggests.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

What never was

From NK №796. Reminisces by Academican Mikhail Marov on why the USSR’s manned lunar program was unsuccessful, and of watching the Moon landing from TsUP.

21/07/2009/20:53 – The Soviet machines did as much science as the American “Apollo” – scientist

The Soviet program for the exploration of the Moon using robotic missions brought about the same amount of basic science knowledge as the U.S. “Apollo” manned missions, but were much cheaper, said Academician Mikhail Marov, who was one of the developers for the Soviet lunar program.

“I can say that we have got equivalent results, because we have sampled a substance, we investigated, and it was a major task. Moreover, we received very meaningful results from the automatic lunar rover or mobile devices, they worked on the surface for many months,” said the Agency representative.

However, he stressed that he does not want to minimize the scientific value of these flights. Marov recalled that one of the members of the Apollo expedition – Harrison Schmitt – a professional geologist: “And he walked on the moon with hammers, and, of course, he, being a professional, garnered much important geological information.”

“Man is a very important component, because he is much more able to multi-task, he is able to adapt to the challenges he poses for himself. But this in no way underestimates the role of machines as well,” said the Agency representative.

21/07/2009/20:53 – The Soviet moon landing program was prevented by the death of Korolyov – opinion

That the Soviet program of manned flights to the Moon did not take place is largely due to the sudden death of Chief Designer Sergei Korolyov, and also because of problems with the carrier – the N-1 rocket, said one of the participants of the Soviet lunar program, Academician Mikhail Marov.

Korolyov had always dreamed about exploring the Moon and, of course, it is surprising that less than two years after launching the first satellite we were able to implement the first launches to it, said Marov.

He recalled that the Soviet probe Luna-2 in September 1959 was the first one in the world to land on the lunar surface. Then this program was successfully developed, but in 1961, following the flight of Gagarin, the “Moon race” started – U.S. President John Kennedy's message to Congress set a target of within 10 years to plant people to the moon, and thus negate the achievements of Soviet space exploration.

“We could not surpass this, and our efforts at the Design Bureau Korolyov start the program to grow. But there were many difficulties, and the main difficulty was the development of the heavy vehicle N-1 – the equivalent of the American Saturn-5, with the help of which were carried out expeditions to the Moon,” said Marov. The N-1 heavy vehicle, which was to bring the Soviet L3 lunar spacecraft to the Moon, had suffered setbacks since the first launch in February 1969. All four test launches ended in disaster. The American lunar vehicle Saturn-5 first launched in November 1967.

“If you now look at the situation in retrospect, I believe that our failure to a very high degree was associated with the sudden death of Korolyov in January 1966, and this, of course, had very, very harmful consequences,” said the Academician. Korolyov died in January 1966, several days after a routine operation.

21/07/2009/20:53 – Soviet-era TsUP met the landing of Americans on the Moon with silence – Academician

The Soviet military, engineers and scientists, observing the disembarkation of American astronauts on the moon in the Mission Control Center near Moscow, responded to this event with silence, remembers one of the participants of the Soviet lunar program, academician Mikhail Marov.

Exactly 40 years ago, on 20 July 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the landing module Eagle and became the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface. “I watched this in the mission control center, Korolyov, Moscow. This information was not broadcast on normal television, but was broadcast on the big screen in TsUP. We observed all phases of flight carefully, but the culmination, of course, was the landing,” said Marov, who already in those years was one of the leading researchers of the Institute of Applied Mathematics, Keldysh, which was developed by the Soviet lunar program of study.

He remembers that he experienced contradictory feelings, which in his opinion, did not differ from those of colleagues.

“First – this is certainly admirable – I saw such a landmark event, which was a few years ago and the dream it was not easy. And, of course, I was delighted that this was realized in the lifetime of my generation when I could witness it,” said the scientist. “And the second feeling was, but why have we not done this. We are also able to do it.”

However, those assembled in TsUP did not express their emotions. “For the most part they were silent. At the time, space was controlled by the military to a very strong degree. There were a lot of military generals, conservative, tough-minded people. They were silent. There was admiration, applause,” remembers Marov. According to him, the professionals assembled understood what a colossal achievement this was, and how this was a great engineering achievement.

“Although later it became clear that Americans on several occasions were literally on the verge of breakdown, including the first flight, but they did have great flexibility in system management, and had superbly trained crew to ensure perfect execution of the program,” said the Academician.

Russia getting humans first to Mars would make up for the disappointment of missing out on the Moon.

Unraveling Russia’s moon riddles”, James Oberg,, 24/7. Many Soviet-era space artifacts ended up being auctioned off in the West, rather sadly, because those in the space program at the time needed money more.

Thursday, 4 October 2007


Today is 50 years since the launch of Sputnik.

In that BBC article it is noted that the Russian space program “have been given $12bn (£6bn) to spend over the next decade – a small amount compared with NASA’s budget but enough for the Russians to have ambitious plans.” NASA’s budget for one year is about $16 billion.

More articles from the past couple of weeks:

“Russia aims for new far east space launch pad by 2020”, The Raw Story, 21/9; RIAN 26/9.

From Novosti Kosmonavtiki news №655:

25/09/2007/00:01: The head of Roskosmos is convinced that it is necessary to more actively involve young cosmonauts from the Russian force

The leader of the Roskosmos Federal Space Agency, Anatolii Perminov, is convinced of the necessity of more actively involving young cosmonauts from the Russian force. About this he stated on Thursday during the traditional tea drinking with the prime and duplicating crews of the 16th Expedition to the ISS, reports ITAR- TASS.

After noting that the “Cosmonaut Training Center and Rocket & Space Corporation Energiya insure themselves by sending experienced cosmonauts into orbit,” Perminov added: “but I always support those who have yet to fly, since I have no doubts that the young will manage.”

In the Russian group about two dozen astronauts have sat “on the replacement bench” for 10 years or more. They are habitually refered to as “young”, but most of these guys are over 30 years old.

But this 16th expedition, which starts on 10 October, will be very difficult; therefore it is good that an experienced crew flies, Perminov believes.

The next paying space tourist to go up will be Richard Garriott, in October 2008. He has a rather formidable CV, and is the son of former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott. Though as pointed out by a NASA Watch reader, he will be the second 2nd-generation astronaut to launch – Sergei Volkov (son of Aleksandr) will launch in April 2008 – not the first as reported by Space Adventures. He is also the creator of a rather nice-looking MMORPG called Tabula Rasa (I have been admiring the graphics on the site and wishing I could design things like that).

Game guru going into space”, Cosmic Log entry, 28/9.

50 years after Sputnik, Russia revives space ambitions”, Space Daily, 30/9.

As Russia commemorates the 50th anniversary on Thursday of the launch of Sputnik 1 and the start of the Space Race, there is a sense of cautious optimism among its space scientists, says Igor Lysov, an expert with monthly magazine Space Industry News. Next year, state spending on space is projected to equal about 1.5 billion dollars (one billion euros). As Lysov observes: “That’s 11 times less than the financing for NASA but 10 times better than the financing for the Russian space programme a decade ago.”


Nonetheless, uncertainty remains due to funding problems and Russia’s difficulties countering a brain drain of its most talented scientists, says the head of spacecraft designer RKK Energia, Leonid Gorshkov. “Even if commercial projects help us survive, the development of the space programme is impossible without state support,” said Gorshkov.

The discovered space”, RIA Novosti, 3/10.

2007 sees four space related anniversaries: 150 years since the birth of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the theoretician of cosmonautics, who translated the bold dream of space flight into maths; 110 years since the birth of Alexander Chizhevsky, the founder of geliobiology, a new field of research into the influence of solar and geomagnetic activity on living beings; 100 years since the birth of Sergei Korolyov, who put cosmonautics on a practical plane, and 50 years since the start of the space era, ushered in by the launch of the Earth’s first artificial satellite.

Russian science to ride on NASA probes”,, 3/10. Plans for Russian science instruments to be installed on NASA probes to the Moon and Mars. The Russian unmanned exploration program seems to only exist in this form now – hitching rides on others’ spacecraft.

Found an article, “What’s Wrong With Libertarianism”, while wandering around the Hard Science Fiction site. There seem to be many people in the space community who proscribe these views (the ones who optimistically believe the private space industry will take over from governments in exploring space). I find Libertarianism a detestable philosophy – my view is that corporations and business cannot be trusted to ensure the public good – that is why we have governments.

An example of the space Libertarians is the Space Liberates Us! site (found via NASA Watch, who posted about a contributor who died). There is a place for private space exploration (mainly near-Earth space tourism), but I don’t believe it will ever replace government-funded programs.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

News tidbits

In Novosti Kosmonavtiki №605 Nikolai Sevast’yanov made some more pronouncements. Energiya proposes four phases of the Russian space program up to the year 2050:

  1. Modernization of the existing Soyuz transport ship by 2012 which would increase its load by 7-15 tons;
  2. Creation of the “Parom” ferry to replace the Progress cargo ship; it would increase the cargo weight carried into orbit from 2.5 to 15 tons;
  3. A piloted flight to the Moon by 2015 and an operational base by 2030;
  4. A mission to Mars by 2030 and colonization to begin by 2050.

All these plans and schemes seem to keep moving into the future like a mirage...I will be 60 in 2030 and 80 in 2050! Hopefully things will happen sooner than that!

Russia is also considering a longterm plan to keep the Station operational until 2025 (article also at RIA Novosti). NASA also has changed its mind about supporting the ISS; it initially planned to stop support after 2016 but now plans to extend space station support to 2020.

A page on the Energiya site commemorates the 100th anniversary of the practical cosmonautics founder, academician Sergei Pavlovich Korolyov.

Andrei Kislyakov on the 11 January destruction of a satellite by China: “Oriental satellite killer: case No. 1”: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Astronaut diaries used to study mood”,, 30/1. Unfortunately these diaries are not for public viewing! They would make interesting reading. The diaries posted at the NASA Astronaut Journal site are all cheery and perky, which can get a bit tedious.

A Sea Launch Zenit exploded on its pad destroying a communications satellite it was carrying. No one was injured. (Sea Launch site.) (There is an interesting post describing the Sea Launch procedures at

Vassili Petrovitch has posted an extensive collection of Aerospace Transport Systems: Book of Technical Papers on his Buran space shuttle site. It is an excellent resource for the Russian shuttle. I was interested in Buran until 2002 when the hangar collapsed in May, destroying the Buran orbiter that made it into orbit, and killing seven workers. Before that tragedy there seemed to be some hope of resurrecting the Russian shuttle, but it seems dead now, sadly.

Friday, 19 January 2007

A launch, and a reprimand

Progress M-59/24 P (24th Progress to the ISS) launched successfully on 18 January at 02:12:15 UTC. There are some nice snowy scenes (well, they look nice during a sweltering Australian summer) at the Energiya site of the launcher being rolled out to the launchpad on the 16th. I wish Energiya would post high-resolution versions of their photos! There are some also posted at the NASA Human Spaceflight Gallery: JSC2007-E-03078, 03079, 03080, 03801, 03802, 03803, 03804.

There was a portrait of Sergei Korolyov on the side of the Soyuz rocket as part of his 100th birthday celebrations (what would have been his 100th birthday). If he were still alive today, I wonder what he would think of the current Russian space program? Probably not much! I think he would be very annoyed at the rather dismal state it is in (though it is somewhat better than it was ten years ago). It is a pity he died so prematurely (during an operation).

(And “Darth Vader” mentioned it too ;-). More Sergei articles (his name is pronouced Korolyov, in Russian Королёв (like Sergei Krikalyov’s surname) (Korolyov means “king”, appropriately enough!):

Energiya president Nikolai Sevast’yanov was reprimanded by Roskosmos (По поводу «приступов лунатизма», “On the matter of ‘Lunar assaults’ ”) for his somewhat overenthusiastic proposals in the past year about going to the Moon!

Roskosmos has regretfully corrected the rhetoric, repeated by a number of mass-media, by the president, the general designer of Energiya N.N. Sevast’yanov, regarding the as yet-unformed program of Russia on flights on the Moon.

Roskosmos, together with other interested departments and organizations, works above a definition of the strategy of development of domestic astronautics, including in the piloted area. However, it is premature to speak about the existence of national decisions on the development of the Moon and other planets.

The desire of the parent organization Energiya to accept the most active participation in realization of such decisions will be necessarily accepted in attention as soon as decisions on a lunar theme are formulated.

More at Space Daily: “Russian Space Agency Irked By Moon Program Debate”. Perhaps though Roskosmos should be more ambitious – it would interest people more than the current rather limited program.

Mentioned in Novosti Kosmonavtiki news №602 is this new site, Федерации космонавтики России (Russian Cosmonautics Federation). But on following the link – yikes! The site design looks like something from ten years ago, complete with a garish animated starry background (reproduced below, in case they [hopefully!] change the design). The designer should pay a visit to Web Pages that Suck and take note!

Also from Novosti Kosmonavtiki news №602:

19/01/2007/00:08 RKK Energiya will develop a variant of the Soyuz spaceship for returning cargo from orbit

The Rocket & Space Corporation Energiya is preparing for Roskosmos a proposal for the creation of a variant of the Soyuz spacecraft, the РКК Energiya president, Nikolay Sevast’yanov, told journalists on Thursday. “Considering, that from 2010 the American shuttles will stop flying to the ISS, we are preparing the project “Reusable/revolving cargo Soyuz” (грузовозвращаемого «Союза»), explained N. Sevast’yanov.

As he said, the need for an additional vehicle for returning cargoes from an orbit will increase, as by 2010 the Station will be completed and will begin functioning at a high capacity, and on it the quantity of experiments will increase. It will be necessary to return results of experiments to Earth.

According to N. Sevast’yanov, the reusable cargo variant of Soyuz will differ in that the cosmonauts’ seats and other equipment will be removed. These Soyuz will then be able to return to the Earth in an automatic mode with up to 500 kg of various cargoes, reports Interfax.

Friday, 12 January 2007


Anik said in the forum that cosmonaut Sergei Treshchyov retired voluntarily on 30 November last year (2006). He will continue to work at RKK Energiya, in the 291st test department. Konstantin Kozeev and Aleksandr Lazutkin are also due to retire in the near future. Konstantin had some problems keeping his weight down (I can relate to that problem! But it seems an odd reason for retiring). Aleksandr had heart problems (faintness, a feeling of heartburn, chest pains) when he was in Houston on 1 August 2005 for training as part of the Expedition 12 backup crew. He was taken to hospital and an ECG revealed an abnormal heartbeat. He had a blockage in an artery, which was removed by the insertion of a catheter. He recovered well from the ordeal, but it effectively grounded him from spaceflight.

Another three experienced cosmonauts gone (well, one gone and two to depart soon); that will only leave thirteen with flight experience!

Russia kicks off big year for space history”, James Oberg,, 11/1. Tribute to Sergei Korolyov, who would have been 100 this year.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Energiya book to download

This post at FPSpace has a link to download the book ROCKET AND SPACE CORPORATION ENERGIA – The Legacy of S. P. Korolev in PDF format (and in English). It is a 13 MB download in a zipped file. If you don’t have the software to unzip the .rar file, try the open-source ZipGenius. This book was also published by Apogee Books; I saw it in a bookstore a few years ago for A$50! Don’t know how long the link will be available.

This site, Интернет-выставка: «К 100-летию С.П. Королёва», is an exhibition site (in Russian only) for the 100th anniversary of Sergei Korolyov’s birthday with lots of photos and images.

I miss my daily On-Orbit Status fix. :-( I have been following them since about 2002.