Julie Spector (03/03/04)
I felt that Drs. Khruschev and Basilevsky's visit was infinitely valuable in a sense that pervades all our class discussion. Our discussion is generally outlined by a list of questions, further supplemented (and based on) the reading. Yet that reading is always biased; it comes with opinions, even if that opinion is subtle, such as in a “scientific” article. With that in mind, I turn to the main reading selection for this week, “The Soviet Manned Lunar Program”, by M. Lindroos. I felt there was an innuendo throughout the article: Khrushchev's backing of Chelomei, simply because Chelomei had hired Khrushchev's son, was “wrong”. It was not scientific, and had Kruschev provided Korolev with more support, the Soviets may have won the space race. This was never directly stated in the article, but I felt it was extremely implicit. I highly doubt it's correct (can anyone name a greater mystery than “what if…”?); rather, if the Soviet bureaucracy was more organized and acting as a cohesive unit, then they could have won the space race--the main point of the article in fact—seems much more valid.
Dr. Khrushchev's visit destroyed the implicit opinion in the article. The “good guy, bad guy” illusion, with Korolev as the good one and Chelomei as the bad one, was just that: an illusion. In the words of Kruschev, “money!!” prevented the manned-lunar program's success. Certainly bureaucracy organization and maintenance was a huge issue, but Khrushchev's visit illustrated the reality of the situation, transforming it from “he's good, he's bad” into a situation dominated by many complex factors, from the political standpoint of a country to personal feelings to monetary issues.
I enjoyed hearing Dr. Basilevsky describe how he initially didn't care about the space program. Perhaps it even helps illustrate the distinction between the highly successful automated program and the manned program: though the two were obviously related and built on each other, different “publicity” emphasis were placed on them: the Soviet's had so many technological firsts when it came to the moon, but the big one, getting humans up there, was the important one. The one people remember later on, if you will, even though that achievement's foundation is the technological firsts.