Monday, March 28, 2011

Soviet Space Program: Myth And Reality

A book about the Soviet space exploration program is coming out in Britain, telling of the Soviet space research effort and the cost at which these successes were achieved. Judging by newspaper reports, The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, to be published next month, is full of extraordinary revelations which were carefully concealed from the public for years.

The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin will see light in April, on the 50th anniversary of man's first space flight. On April 12th, 1961, the Earth's first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, for the first time ever saw the planet from outer space.

Since then the name of Gagarin became known across the globe and was immediately shrouded in myth and mystery. At times, it's hard to separate the truth from fiction. Whether the authors of the new book have managed to avoid garbling the facts for the sake of a sensation remains to be seen.

It looks like they haven't. The authors dwell at length on the failures of the Soviet space program, both before and after Gagarin's flight. The Daily Mail writes citing the book that the flight by Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov on April 23rd 1967 was doomed as the Soyuz-1 spacecraft was unfit for manned flight and unsafe to fly on. Reports published by The Independent quote the book as saying that there existed so-called "testers", people who were subjected to eyeball-popping, bone-jarring experiments with air pressure and G-forces to find the limits of a human's endurance in space.

These revelations have to be treated with caution. Naturally, thousands of experiments were carried out, first on animals, then on people, before sending a human into space. The "testers" agreed to those experiments of their own free will for the noble cause of space exploration. All experiments were scientifically justified. For this reason, there were not and could not be any casualties among Soviet cosmonauts on the Earth.

A reporter for The Independent goes on to say that 34-year-old Yuri Gagarin was a victim of his own ego and alcoholism. But the first Soviet cosmonaut was never spotted to have an addiction for alcohol or to indulge in self-importance.

As becomes clear from accounts by my fellow journalists who knew Gagarin personally, he was a moderate drinker, was not in the least spoilt by fame and was unpretentious, and even a bit shy to the last of his days.

As for reports that the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev danced on the table in celebration of Gagarin's flight, this sounds true, given Khrushchev's eccentricity and love of extravagant pranks. Leaders of many countries would be ready to dance too for the chance to be named the first nation to send a man into outer space. In this respect, the dance of the Soviet leader, though unconfirmed, was nothing unusual under the circumstances.

After the end of the Second World War the Soviet Union and the United States entered a cutthroat competition for leadership in space exploration. The two super powers poured billions of rubles and dollars into space exploration programs. The Soviet Union won the race - in October 1957 it launched the first artificial Earth satellite and in April 1961 it sent the first man into space.

Naturally, the Soviet Union had to make sacrifices to hit the targets and failures are only natural when one starts something new. Dozens of years later, space research is as prestigious as ever, particularly in light of many unsolved mysteries connected with outer space. For this reason, the names of space's first explorers Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov will go down in history for ever

No comments:

Post a Comment