Geo016 - Exploration of Mars

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Geo016 / Exploration of Mars / (M) 3:00-5:20 / Lincoln Field 105 / Prof. James Head

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Cindy Beavon (03/03/04)

I most enjoyed Sergei Kruschev's insights on not just what happened, but why they happened, and how they happened. For example, his testimony on Korolev's insistence on “beating” the Americans in lunar exploration was most illuminating. After the readings, it was my impression that Korolev was merely someone who was appointed by the Soviet government to oversee operations that had already been planned, not someone who had enough power to conceive, organize, and carry out entire missions. I was surprised by the implication that Korolev had basically started the space race with his insistence to continually push ahead faster and faster in response to American space program plans.

However, after his comment regarding the Soviets being the first to send an artificial satellite into orbit with Sputnik, when he said something to the effect of “the Soviets were ahead of the Americans in space exploration and we knew it had always been that way, perhaps always would be that way,” I was confused. I was under the impression that the Soviets had been behind to begin with. Were the Soviets really under the impression they were ahead of Americans in space technology? And did the Americans know this as well? I was also surprised by the relative unimportance of Sputnik to the Soviet people. If victories over the Americans were so few and far between, why didn't the Soviet government think to glamorize the event? I find it hard to believe Soviet pride over the event was solely sponsored by American paranoia and envy. I feel like the space race had already well begun by the time Sputnik was launched, and therefore should have had a much wider media appeal.

I especially interested in what would have had to happen for the Space Race to be about cooperation instead of competition. I was under the impression that during the Cold War, the Americans would never have wanted to act with the Soviets in any action. Both countries were in the process of continually building and aiming nuclear weapons at each other. Yet Kennedy extended the invitation to Kruschev to explore space together? I would like to know more about why Kruschev declined this invitation. It seems to make sense that two heads would have been better than one, and we can only speculate what progress the two countries could make working together, instead of against each other.

It would have been nice to hear more personal stories from Sasha and Sergei's time in the automated and manned lunar programs. We're all curious what it's like to be in the middle of all the action, and it would be fascinating to hear them recall specific things that were said or done during moments of triumph or failure.

One of the students asked Sergei about competition within the USSR while planning and building technology for the lunar missions. She was under the assumption that the competition hurt the effectiveness of the effectiveness of the overall program. I found it ironic that this competition was most likely more present in the United States during the time period, as in our capitalist system it is most effective for NASA to give planning and building rights to the highest bidder.



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