Paul Rosiak (03/03/04)
Class this past Monday, so far has been one of my favorites. It was an amazing opportunity to speak to two very important Soviet figures that took part in the Space Race that we hear so much about in the history books. My perspective, as expected, has changed greatly after listening to Dr. Sergei Khrushchev's and Dr. Basilevsky's side of the story. It is a lot different listening to them animatedly tell their side of the story than it is reading about it online as we had done in our readings.
My view of the Soviet's space program has changed dramatically. The history books make it seem (or at least the ones I read) that their program was more or less a complete failure and stood no chance against ours in the Space Race. It made it seem as if we dominated space exploration from the beginning, but obviously that is far from the truth. The Soviet's have been dominating space exploration far before we even started. Their lunar programs achieved record breaking feats and technology wise was much more advanced that our attempts at lunar satellites.
The history books were right in some aspects though, more of the political aspects to be more precise. The Soviet manned-moon exploration failed greatly in part of the Soviet political structure and the lack of money. It was hard to gain a centralized control over the program and as for money Dr. Khrushchev said it himself that if they had the funding they could have even made a manned exploration to Mars. This is crazy to think about, imagine in the sixties, a man on Mars? How would have that changed our space program today?
Another interesting topic of discussion was how both doctors explained how the cold war scare was on their part as well as ours. When we read about it, or as other's experienced it, we thought that the Soviets were the enemy, and trying to bomb our country. It's a different story when you hear Soviets now (no longer Soviets, I forgot the name now, but I know it's not Russia either) speak of how they were scared we were going to bomb them. It just illustrates how the competition came about in our space programs. We both felt that we needed to beat the enemy. The story that Dr. Basilevsky told about his friend tuning in to the American radio station that said we have orbited a manned spacecraft around earth, in correlation to Professor Head's story about hearing Sputnik fly overhead with the monotonous beeping (almost sounding like a bomb), completely exemplifies how both sides experienced the same thing, the same scare .
The competition was so great that it drove the Soviet's to do things that they really did not want to do. I understand now that it was not in their interest to send a man to the moon because it was much cheaper, more efficient, and more effective to send lunar probes to the moon instead. Maybe that had a great affect of why their moon missions did not work out? I also think it is very interesting that if it was not for Kennedy's promise of the US being the first to send a man to the moon, this competition may have never started. Kennedy just basically picked and started a fight and as Dr. Khrushchev said, them being the strong-willed and confident Soviets they are, were not going to back down.
It just amazes me to see how much was involved in the Space Race and how it was not just a race to be the first country to send a man to the moon. It was so many things lumped up in a time that was already revolutionary by itself, the sixty's. The fact that we, Americans, can talk to two previous great Soviet leaders that battled against us in the Space Race is simply awesome. The fact that we can discuss how both sides reacted to each other and the atmosphere of that past is great, but the sheer fact that we can talk about things that used to be top secret in both agencies is even more amazing because about 40 years prior, this would have never been possible.Some things I would probably like to discuss can probably be discussed next Monday during our dinner. I would just like to see what the atmosphere was actually like working on these probes in the Soviet labs and if they differed greatly than ours. I would also like to talk about the possibility that if the funding was right, we could have even sent a man to Mars in the sixties. Was it really possible? If so, how long would it take and how would it have been done? Technology was a lot different back then and it appears like we cannot even do it now. Does it appear that way only because we just are not receiving the funding and interest yet? How does this correlate with Bush's plan?