FINAL QUARTER 1968: DOCUMENTATION, REPORTAGE, AND US/SOVIET ACTIONS BELIE RUSSIAN CLAIMS OF "NON-EVENT" IN DECEMBER 1968
Currently, nearly all Russian-centric publications unequivocally promulgate the notion that there were no concrete Soviet manned lunar mission plans for December 1968 (despite Sevastyanov's statement in Zemliyai Vselennaya ("Earth and Universe") from 1993 of L-1 cosmonauts being at Tyuratam in early December for the express purpose of such a mission ). I think that the materials of this section may go some way in providing a quite noticeable alteration of this official viewpoint and claim.
On November 26, 1968, a report from Moscow was distributed via the UPI wire:
"The Soviet Union is preparing to launch its most spectacular manned space flight by dispatching shortly at least two, and probably three, men on a circumlunar flight.. The Moon flight, sources said today, may be undertaken before the launching of the American manned craft, Apollo 8, set for Dec. 21.. Officially the Russians are denying that they are racing anybody to the Moon. But the Russians as a people are no less nationally ambitious than anyone else and from all the talk heard in circles close to where space policy is set, they are determined to beat the United States to the Moon, if possible."
Does the material mentioning "three men" indicate the "Podsadka" two-craft transfer mission scenario? This "leak" came late enough for decision makers to have taken into consideration the import of Zond 6's parachute failure. This report was also "book-ended" by official TASS reports about the Zond lunar series being tests of a manned spacecraft precursor, as well as stating that Zond 6 would have safely carried occupants around the Moon despite concerns about space radiation.[42-44]
The above news posting was written by Henry Shapiro-please see the side bar article entitled "Reporting on the Moon race 'from Moscow'"--for more about space journalism in Russia, this specific news item in question, as well as further information about what the Russians were officially talking about in regards to a manned circumlunar attempt in December 1968.
Furthermore, it is quite interesting to note that the UPI story mentioned that there was a determination "in circles close to where space policy is set" to beat Apollo 8. And as we know, that policy was ultimately set in the Central Committee/Politburo. (And it may be additionally instructive to recall that--in Mishin's technical notations of November 28, 1968--that a ranked, categorical list was made of the three three-person crews training for L-1. There remains a question in my mind as to whether the "third man" in the three-man crewings as listed was perhaps due to their participation in the "Podsadka" mission scenario, and not due to their claimed role as Commander back-ups as presently accepted.)
What did the American government and its intelligence analysis organs think of all this?
Did they think that the Soviets were ready and capable of sending cosmonauts around the Moon in December 1968? New information, being published here for the first time in the next sections, is a resounding yes.
But prior to the missions of Zond 6 and Proton 4 in November 1968, both the Americans and Russians evaluated each other's chances of getting to the Moon first.
"Great Expectations" in Autumn 1968: Newly Uncovered Documents Reveal Both US and Soviet Perceptions of Their Competition in the Moon Race
Until recently, there has been a dearth of released materials specifically about space events of late 1968, particularly of the perceived lunar achievements and plans of the US by USSR government-related entities, as well as vice versa. Fortunately, I have been able to newly obtain two reports that are among the first to aid in the "filling in" of this historiographical discontinuity.
The two documents-one a declassified memorandum from the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, while the other being an event booklet sent to me via a colleague in Korolev, Russia-describe in some detail what each Super Power knew about what their competitor was doing at the time of issuance, as well as reveal what they were most concerned about and interested in.[46, 47] The dates of creation for the two documents are significant, in that one (the American) was created while Zond 5 was on its way to the Moon in mid-September 1968; the other (the Russian booklet) was issued soon after the exact launch time was announced for Apollo 7's mission in early October.
Interestingly, both of these documents appear to be issued as a result of a demand for as much detailed information as possible-not only about the current space event that may have inspired the creation of the materials, but also for timely projections of future events in the near term as well (that the targeted audiences of these may have also requested). These might also have been produced in an atmosphere of political pressure and tumult, as the ante of the manned lunar competition was being ratcheted upwards in the final months of 1968.
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