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GLIMPSES OF "DEEP POLITICS" DECISION-MAKING, SOVIET STYLE

To fully understand what the milieu was for Soviet activities and events in regards to the Moon race in the late 1960s, several major factors--that have been ignored for the most part by space historians-are the decision-making processes of the Kremlin, the state of the USSR's foreign relations at the time, and the influence of the KGB.

In the following sections, I will provide new information in a preliminary assessment of factors and influences upon the USSR's manned lunar projects, from a unique perspective. These are, indeed, "glimpses" of the topography beneath the heavy shroud of clouds (that represent insufficient information availability) that still impede Western space historians' efforts at achieving a full accounting of what actually happened in the Russians' race to the Moon. What follows is an initial foray to describe decision-making activities, and their potential linkages to intent.

The Lunar Cadre's Letter to the Kremlin

A good starting example is the now-confirmed letter (despite the comments of several Russia-based persons making the claim it doesn't exist) written and signed by the main members of the L-1 cadre to the Central Committee/Politburo to allow a manned circumlunar mission to take place in December 1968. (In my own correspondence efforts, I have had L-1 cosmonaut participants Valeriy Bykovskiy as well as Pyotr Klimuk deny that the letter was penned.[21,22]) However, Heinz-Eyermann--in personal conversations--got confirmatory information of the existence of this letter from cosmonauts Vitaliy Sevastyanov and Leonov, as well as engineer Boris Chertok.[23]

According to Heinz-Eyermann, the letter itself was written in Star City soon after the return of Zond 6 (and its parachute failure on descent).[23] Signatories included Leonov, Bykovskiy, Pavel Popovich, Sevastyanov, Oleg Markarov, Nikolai Rukavishnikov, Georgi Grechko, and so on. According to the original disclosures, the cosmonauts argued in the letter that the safety protocols would be improved across the board with a manned space ship over an uncrewed one.[24]

Leonov does make a mention of such a letter in Two Sides of the Moon. "I had appealed directly to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and the head of the military-industrial complex [probably either Dimitry F. Ustinov or Leonid V. Smirnov] that we be allowed to continue with our program. At first they agreed."[25]

However, Leonov's revelation is confusingly placed in the timeline-it seems from its present placement in the book that his "personal" letter was sent sometime in early 1969. So it could be (if there isn't some form of mis-recollection on the part of Leonov) that two epistles had been sent to Leonid Brezhnev and his colleagues to allow a circumlunar mission. But at the present time with the current evidence on hand, it seems that Leonov has incorrectly recalled the timeframe.

The significance of the November 1968 letter is that it graphically illustrates the apparently tacit acknowledgement that the power to approve or disapprove of a manned mission going forward lay solely with the Kremlin-either within the Central Committee, or in the more significant yet smaller grouping, the Politburo. This smaller grouping made recommendations to the Central Committee (and unlike the Central Committee, met weekly in their decision- making practices). The final decision in regards to manned Moon shots was apparently not made by TsKBEM director Mishin, nor with the Council of Chief Designers.

Our Russia-based colleagues need to track down in which National Archive in Moscow that this cosmonaut-composed letter resides. Additionally, every surviving member of the L-1 cadre needs to be questioned about this letter--such as to its exact contents--and learn from each individually what the final outcome was (and how that decision was transmitted).

Also, our Russia-based colleagues need to inquire into whether minutes of Central Committee CPSU decision-making for 1968 and 1969 exist in what National Archive in Moscow, and see if the space mission-related ones can be extracted from these archives.

Now that the cover has been lifted to an extent on the Kremlin's influence on specific manned space missions, what other actions were Russian policy officials engaged in during the late 1960s? Could there be trends from other foreign policy ventures that could provide a foreshadowing of what might have been done in the manned lunar projects?



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