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Chelomey - Aelita Mars Mission

Losing hope of participating in the lunar race, general designer Vladimir Chelomey, decided to become the first on Mars. In accordance with the order of the Minister of General Mechanical Engineering S.A. Afanasyev, on 30 June 1969, within the framework of the theme "Aelita", the development of the project of the UR-700M launch vehicle and the MKS-700 Martian ship began.

AelitaDirected by Yakov Protazanov in the theatrical, futuristic constructivist style that Fritz Lang borrowed, Aelita tells the story of Los, an Earth engineer who builds a spaceship and travels to Mars to meet and fall in love with its queen. Aelita, begins in December of 1921 with the worldwide transmission of a cryptic message. Scientists and military men in different regions of the world – the Far East, the Middle East, and finally Russia – analyze a transmission that reads: “Anta… Odeli … Uta”. This scene, which serves as a prologue to the larger film, combines images of high-speed technology with foreign views to create an atmosphere of mystery and anticipation. Engineer Los (Nikolai Tsereteli) – the film’s hero – will become increasingly obsessed with decoding the meaning of the message, which he believes to originate from Mars.

Aelita is most widely remembered for being the first Russian science fiction film. No other film of early Soviet cinema was attacked as consistently or over so long a period as Aelita. From 1924 to 1928, it was a regular target for film critics and for the many social activists who felt that the film industry was not supporting Soviet interests. The message from Mars turns out to be a publicity stunt.

Alexei Tolstoy — author of the film's source novel — was a distant relative of both Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev. He has been described by his enemies as cynical, opportunistic and, later, totally in thrall to Stalin. His friends probably described him as a loyal party man. He is also credited with being the first to ascertain the Nazi's use of gas vans. One of the first full-length films about space travel, Aelita enabled ordinary Russians to imagine what may have seemed to them like the near future of Soviet technology.

Preliminary studies showed that the mass of the Martian expeditionary complex on the Earth's orbit should be at least 900-1000 tons, and even better 1200-1400 tons. The use of the UR-700 rocket would delay the assembly time, since it will take ten launches of such a huge missile. Therefore, the Chelomeevs considered several variants of giant rocket carriers. At the same time, Vladimir Chelomei used the same modular principle as the UR-700.

On the UR-700M (the same UR-900) carrying 240 tons, the first two stages formed a bundle of 9 blocks, each of which was supposed to have a RD-270 engine with a thrust of 640 tons of KB Energomash V.P. Glushko. However, all 29 attempts to start the engine during the fire tests ended in an explosion. The remaining copy of this engine is still stored in the museum "Energomash". At the fourth stage, it was intended to use the RD-0410 nuclear rocket engine.

A much heavier version of the UR-700M with a launch weight of 16,000 tons had a payload capacity of 750 tons. Most often this version of the carrier rocket was called the UR-900. To build the Martian ship it was enough to launch two such missiles. The layout of the UR-700M in general resembled the layout of the UR-700, but at the same time Chelomey moved away from his favorite, but poisonous fuel - heptyl. Oxygen and kerosene were chosen for the first and second stages, and oxygen and hydrogen for the third. Each of the blocks of the first stage had a diameter of 9 m and was equipped with 8 thrust engines of 600 t each designed by KB "Energomash" (oxygen-kerosene version RD-270). The central block of the second stage with a diameter of 12.5 m received 12 oxygen-kerosene engines with thrust of 600 tons. The third stage was put on the second stage. It had the same diameter - 12.5 m.

However, even when developing proposals for this program in the Kremlin, it was felt that the effect of the first person's flight to Mars on public opinion would be disproportionately small compared with material costs. According to various estimates, the Mars manned program would cost the Soviet Union 30-40 billion rubles, which is almost an order of magnitude higher than the cost of the Soviet lunar program H1-L3.

But to successfully answer the Soviet challenge, Westerners would have to arrange a manned flight to the moons of Jupiter, no less. Or build a research base on the moon.

Supporters of the flight to Mars did not immediately surrender. Trying to save his project, Chelomei proposed in 1974 an expedition with a simple flight of Mars. To do this, it would be sufficient to launch a launch vehicle UR-700M with a payload of a quarter of a thousand tons. At the same time, the upper stage would be equipped with the RD-0410 nuclear rocket engine. The crew of two astronauts was to conduct in zero gravity 730 days. However, this project was not seriously considered.

The Soviet leaders refused to fight for Mars. They changed the Soviet space mission. They say that in 1969 the famous academician Keldysh suggested returning to the program of TMK Gleb Maksimov, but he did not receive any support in the Kremlin.

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Page last modified: 22-03-2019 04:01:45 ZULU