From the Earth to the Moon: New Heights of Human Achievement from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports
We’re approaching escape velocity from a variety of perspectives this month. Is it the Moon you’re wanting to visit, or would you be content with achieving a few Earth orbits to advance your country’s standing in the Space Race? June’s highlights are about flight—aspirational, actual, and perceptual.
A New Assault on the Moon is Coming Soon
The Space Race was in progress and the Russians were winning. Shortly before his death, President Kennedy had announced his intention to send Americans to the Moon. But the Soviet Union had already taken the first pictures of the Moon’s dark side and had executed a “hard landing” with telemetry, whereas all the United States had managed was the very hard landing of Ranger 6 with video inexplicably out of commission. Was the Moon covered with dust to the extent of several meters that would bury future landers—and astronauts—or was the surface more firm and amenable to unmanned and manned visitors? This brief report from Bulgaria shows how confident the Soviet Union was in its technological, and by extension, its political systems.
Diary of a Pilot-Cosmonaut
In 1963 the Soviets would put the first woman into space and send two spacecraft into orbit at the same time—twice—while the United States was working on sending two astronauts into space in the same capsule with Project Gemini. This 43-page report is a colloquial account of life as a Russian cosmonaut, enigmatically attributed to “K.” in the Russian title.
From Airplane to Spaceship: Notes of an Astronaut Flight Instructor
In the United States we have such persons as the test pilot Chuck Yeager, of The Right Stuff fame. Yeager never became an astronaut, but was essential in preparing those Americans who did. This report comes from Ye. Yevseyev, a Russian flight instructor and pilot of the Soviets’ first jet aircraft, who was similarly tasked with introducing candidate cosmonauts to the flight conditions they would likely face in space. Like Yeager, he was never selected to fly in space himself. The author clearly harbors some regret at his subsidiary status in “Star City,” although the tone is lightened by his account of a volleyball game during training in which the future- cosmonauts are soundly defeated by their more earth-bound compatriots.
Man and Technology
From the foregoing selections, the reader would be correct in concluding that this time period is replete with gripping accounts of “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines” (from the 1965 British comedy). But this report by B.F. Lomov lays the more sedate though no less important groundwork in “engineering psychology” necessary for humans to work well with the complex systems encountered in a spacecraft. At 311 pages long, it’s not light reading. But consider it by the author’s analogy of a pilot’s altered perception when travelling at Mach 3, whereby “the pilot sees objects which are 100 meters behind the airplane as though they were on an equal level…” At that rate you’ll literally be done before you know it.
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