Geoffrey Stetson (03/03/04)
First of all, I am not a history buff by any means, but being in class with men of that stature was quite an amazing experience. I mean, the son of the Russian Premier during the cold war and the space race. That would be like, have Chelsea Clinton in class, except a lot cooler, a lot smarter and with a lot better stuff to say. And Dr. Basilevsky was no slouch himself, having been in charge of the unmanned lunar expeditions, that were so technologically advanced that we cannot even produce the same results today. It was an honor to be in the presence of such historical figures.
Other than that it was interesting to hear what they had to say. Most interesting to me was the political background going on during the space race. Dr. Khrushchev gave me a very good look into politics of Russia during that time, and it changed my perceptions completely. My opinion and the opinion of many other uneducated people like myself, is that the USSR was a complete dictatorship and the Premier was the one in charge of everything, giving orders and telling people what to do. Sergei (easier than his last name) gave me a new outlook, more closely related to our own political action. Groups would petition for funding from the government and depending on whether the government believed it to be a good cause, would fund accordingly. This was interesting, because when I had thought it was mainly the head governmental people driving the space race. It turns out that it was the scientists that really were the ones driving to be the first in space. Also, his explanation of the newspaper was interesting. It seems that the space race didn't really begin until the US reacted to Sputnik being launched. It wasn't even a big thing to the Russians when it happened, but the media buzz threw it into a frenzy that consumed both countries. The propaganda was the reason everything blew up. I remember reading something somewhere that people thought that the Russians were spying on Americans using Sputnik. It must have also been very scary considering the cold war and the fear from missles and seeing something from your enemy country, flying overhead.
Dr. Basilevsky had a very short time to speak but said some remarkable things. The most interesting to me was how technologically advanced their lunar rover was. He said that their rover went as far in 1 day as the mars lander that is there now has gone in the whole time since it landed.
From these discussions I developed 3 questions:
What made the lunar lander so technologically advanced, and why can't we produce something better?
Was there any hesitance in using a radioactive substance to keep the lunar lander warm over night?
Would Dr. Khrushchev have preferred working under his father or someone else?