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Space

JULY 1969: CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER-"THE DOG DID BARK, AND THE CARAVAN STOPPED"

I have been looking at for some time the 1967 volume (published for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution) entitled "The Stars are Awaiting Us,"[85] an art book with vivid illustrations by Alexei Leonov and Andrei Sokolov. There is a section about the exploration of the Moon, with its depictions of a Soviet manned lunar landing and subsequent investigation of the lunar surface, as well as the construction of a lunar base. 

There is one particular illustration that continues to catch my notice.  It is a jointly-painted illustration (that was eventually turned into a popular postcard) entitled "In the Ocean of Storms" where a cosmonaut is gazing at the lunar probe Luna 9 and standing next to its terminal stage.  The description:  "He is overjoyed to discover in the Moon's Ocean of Storms the opened petals of the beautiful 'terrestrial flower'-the Soviet Luna 9, the first automatic station to soft-land on the Moon way back in 1966."[86] 

I continue to wonder:  How close was the USSR to realizing such a dream?

Pressure to Launch-Details from Russian Engineers, and the Logs of the Strategic Rocket Forces

If readers recall from my first section that cosmonaut Gorbatko felt that his compatriots would catch up to the Americans, I asked the rhetorical question where the cosmonaut's confidence came from.  Via Heinz-Eyermann's access to the Strategic Rocket Forces' logs, and his interviews with Russian space engineers, the acquired information provides the pathway-the USSR was going to throw personnel and money at the problem.

".The Kubuiyshev 'Progress' personnel worked around the clock in three shifts for three months at their Baikonur branch in order to carry through the necessary design changes on the second test rocket Izdeliye No. 5L [from what was learned on the launching of  3L].  The American Moon landing was imminent, and so they tried in double quick time to prepare a counterblow under strictest secrecy to fire their super rocket towards the Moon just in time ahead of the Apollo 11 mission.. In a parallel rehearsal with the N-1 mock-up No. 1M1, the No. 5L was tested on the pad, and made ready for lift-off by a hitherto unknown use of personnel within seven weeks.  More than 1.5 million engineer man-hours were devoted to preempting the Apollo 11 countdown.  A lift-off lead of just under three weeks was finally gained against the Moon landing of the Americans.  For a number of changes made in double quick time no exact construction drawings were made.  The 'Progress' personnel simply worked in accordance with rough sketches of the Korolev [construction bureau] designers.  Money flowed from the uncontrollable defense budget or from the special funds of the State Commission for Planning.."[7]

One of the most puzzling things to me relating to the N-1 program and 1969 is why the project was under so much pressure. The expected delays after a maiden in-flight launch failure of such a huge rocket under normal circumstances could have taken a very lengthy period, perhaps up to a year.  But in this case, they truncated the timetable delay, and had a rocket ready in little over four months for the next sequential firing-in what can perhaps be considered as a near-miracle feat in rocketry annals.

If, according to the present official Russian promulgations that there was not a contemporaneous competition with the American Apollo 11 mission timetable, then why the multitudinous signs everywhere that speak to pressure?  Some further uncomfortable questions:  Why was a launching scheduled for early July, that ultimately took place on July 3, 1969 (about two weeks prior to Apollo 11)--and not in August, or September, or in October 1969, or even later?  Why that month? 

An additional set of pertinent questions include whether the timetable (as described in the "Apollo VII Launch Plans" booklet) was indeed the official estimate that Soviet engineers worked with as they readied their own manned lunar-landing-mission test schedules, and if so, whether this timetable pacing could have been upset by the accelerating American momentum--exemplified by the continual three shifts mentioned by Heinz-Eyermann?

And if, as according to present official Russia-based histories say, that the payload was completely unable to host cosmonauts, then why the rush to send non-manrated equipment to selenocentric space ahead of Apollo 11?  There is an apparent distortion of the test schedule-what was it due to?

Furthermore, if we take as a "given" Heinz-Eyermann's notion that the USSR was involved in a "secret counterpunch," then the publicly viewable juxtaposition between an unmanned mission that would take pictures of potential landing sites from lunar orbit (as currently claimed by official Russian space histories) versus a manned lunar-surface expedition (of Apollo 11) doesn't compute.  Not only does this scenario not compute, it also doesn't make sense politically for the Kremlin-for the comparison would be blatantly unfavorable.

And it doesn't make sense because the information indicators-some recently uncovered, with others seeing print for the first time--point to the notion that is not what was planned.



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