James Kytta (03/03/04)
It was very exciting to be able to sit down and hear two of the primary individuals of the Russian space program from the space race era share their thoughts on the events of the time and how they unfolded. Some ideas were surprising, and somewhat disheartening, but for the most part it was an unbelievable experience to be able to hear “the other side of the story” from those who helped write it.
An idea that continually recurred in the discussion but for which I have some contempt is the idea that money dictated the course of events so heavily. We've all heard too many times that money makes the world go round, and as every chemical reaction has a limiting agent, money limits the possible outcomes of any program of exploration. It's rough to think that science and discovery is controlled by whether or not a politician finds it beneficial to place the program on his/her agenda. Science and technology are heavily put in check by this abuse of the system, I feel.
The power of propaganda was mentioned by Mr. Khruschev and I find this to be fascinating, but not necessarily surprising. Mr. Khruschev discussed how the launching of the first satellite was not a major event in the USSR when it happened, but as soon as the hysterical reactions to being beaten were played out in the United States it became front-page news in the Soviet Union. This just goes to show that space exploration is another issue that politicians and other social organizations and institutions can and will use to further their own agendas. This was even further confirmed by incumbent President Bush's space plan unveiled recently. I wouldn't call either of the speakers Monday cautious in their remarks that they find Bush's words likely hollow and don't believe that anything will come of his great plan for exploring outer space.Hearing a story from another perspective that is not afraid to highly criticize your own beliefs is one of the most constructive experiences one can undergo. I am very pleased that the views of the two great men, Sergei Khruschev and Alexander Basilevsky, were able to be represented in our discussions of the former Soviet space program.