Russian Space Web

In the process of reading SpaceRace, and searching the web for further resources and information, I came across Anatoly Zak’s incredible website, Russian Space Web. According to Zak’s site, “The mission of this site is to preserve and popularize the history of space exploration and to promote the cooperation in space.” And Anatoly Zak does an incredible job of documenting the history of Soviet/Russian space exploration, as well as the cooperation that has emerged as the Russia and America work together on the Space Station and other projects.

I recommned that you visit the site, and explore the photos, articles and history of space science.

The Race for Space: Launching a Satellite for the International Geophysical Year (1957)

The race for space for a long time was a dream of von Braun’s rocket scientists, and Sergei Korolev (Russian: Серге́й Па́влович Королёв) in Russia, but any of their hopes were dashed by the political forces, and the general feeling that building rockets for space exploration was a fantasy, and probably couldn’t be done.

However, things can take a U-turn, as the author of SpaceRace points out. Von Braun was struggling for recognition of his ideas, just as Korolev was in Russia. Von Braun, the former Nazi and SS officer, and Korolev, the former Gulag prisoner had their independent struggles, but kept their dream of using rockets for space, and tried, in their own way to make their views heard. In von Braun’s case, he finally authored a multi-piece article that was published in Collier’s magazine, and its publication was a sensation for the American public. And a bit of scare for the Russian Korolev, who now was convinced that the Americans were funding a space program. They weren’t. Korolev had the courage to present his ideas to Stalin, and was supported in building a very large rocket, that superceded anything that von Braun and his German scientists had accomplished.

Still, space exploration was not the motivation for rocket development. The delivery of thermonuclear weapons was!

However, things change. In 1956, both the Americans and the Soviets (in their separate and secret ways), decided that they should develop a rocket and use it to put a satellite in orbit in conjunction with the 1957 Geophysical Year, in which scientists from around the world were collaborating to study the Earth. Putting a satellite into orbit would establish either country as the master of space exploration.

The Americans set to work to put into orbit a small satellite; the Russians, on the other hand wanted to put a 5 ton satellite in space—of course it was the Soviet political and secret police that were behind such an idea. Korolev and his rocket scientist colleagues were shocked at this as they were constructing a rocket that would carry a 3 ton payload.

Well, we know that Korolev and his team put Sputnik into orbit on October 4, 1957 using the massive R-7 rocket. Korolev and his team waited for the satellite to pass over them after the first orbit listening for the beep, beep, beep…and the rest is history.

Korolev’s Massive R-7 Rocket, Sputnik at the top

The Race for Space–The American-Soviet Battle for Space

I am reading an exciting book entitled SpaceRace by D. Cadbury, Harper Collins, 2006. If you are interested in the space program, enjoy historical suspense, then this is a book for you.

The book weaves the story of the German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and the Soviet rocket expert Sergei Korolev. The story begins with von Braun and scientists who built the V-2 rocket used against London during WWII, and the secret development of the rocket at Peenemunde research facility, and the underground assembly facility manned by slave labor numbering in the thousands. The race the Americans, British and Soviets was on to capture von Braun and his team, and any of the rockets and blueprints (hidden by von Braun). The Soviet researcher, Korelev, who was convicted of trumped up charges that he was involved in anti-Soviet activities in the 1030’s, and then sent to the Gulag in Siberia for a ten year sentence, later reduced to 8 years. Korelev was recruited by Soviet leaders to head up the Soviet rocket program, and was sent to Germany in 1945 (one day after von Braun was on his way to America).

The book provides glimpses into the political and scientific struggles that the American and Soviet space programs endured, and how the German rocket research provided the baseline for further development.

Having traveled to the Soviet Union (and now Russia) for more than 20 years, and having a long time interest in the space program, the book is providing a unbelievable account of the struggle created by the political regime in Russia, and how the Soviets and Americans depended on the German program (in the beginning).

Evolution Enters The November Ballot Box

Evolution is an election issue in Ohio this year. Ninety percent of the science faculty at Case Western Reserve signed a letter endorsing the candidacy of Tom Sawyer for Ohio School Board. Sawyer is running against the incumbent Dr. D. Owens Fink, a professor of Marketing at the University of Akron. Fink supports I.D. and the insistence the the science curriculum standards include lessons in which evolution is singled out to be critically analyzed. The Ohio board voted against such an addition to the curriculum last year.

The organizer of the letter at Case Western Reserve is Lawrence Krause, professor of physics. Krause has been active in the I.D. and evolution debate, not only in Ohio, but in other parts of the country. Krause also wrote a letter to the Pope (July, 2005) in which he took issue with Cardinal Christoph SchÅ¡nborn, archbishop of Vienna who appeared to dangerously redefine the Church’s view on Evolution. According to Krause, the Cardinal dismissed the 1996 message of Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy, calling it “rather vague and unimportant”. Krause concluded his letter with this statement: “We are writing to you today to request that you clarify once again the Church’s position on Evolution and Science, that you reaffirm the remarkable statements of Pope John Paul II and the International Theological Commission, so that it will be clear that Cardinal SchÅ¡nborn’s remarks do not reflect the views of the Holy See.”

Krause also wrote to the U.S. Department of Education, and pointed out that Evolutionary Biology had been omitted from a list of majors eligible in the Education Department’s National Smart Grant Program.

The Shenandoah Valley

Drove today from Marietta to Dublin (VA) on our way to Lynchburg, about 400 miles. Most of the drive was in the gorgeous Shenadnoah Valley. I’ve written before about the Shenandoah Valley in an earlier post in a discussion of plate tectonics, and other matters geology.

Interstate 81 runs the length of the Valley, and from this vantage you can experience hundreds of miles of the valley from Tennessee to Pennsylvannia. On either side of I-81 you will see farms, now the autumn colors, rock strata exposed along the way, and the beautiful mountains of the Appalachians.