Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sputnik at 50

"At that moment we couldn't fully understand what we had done," Chertok recalled. "We felt ecstatic about it only later, when the entire world ran amok. Only four or five days later did we realize that it was a turning point in the history of civilization."

The surviving key men of the Soviet space program are finally free to speak. Secrecy related to nuclear and missile matters was so extreme in the Soviet Union that not only were the names of key designers a secret, but they had to design their missiles without any clear idea of the size and weight of the nuclear warheads they were destined to carry, so apparently they built them with an emphasis on throw-weight rather than durability, survivability, or ease of deployment. Which made them comparitively crummy weapons, but mighty good satellite launchers.

I also note that their testimony confirms GRU defector Viktor Suvorov's contention that the USSR lost the race to the Moon because their electronics were inferior. Unlike Suvorov, however, the rocketmen claim that the moon-race was Brezhnev's idea, not Khrushchev's.

That better explains what Henry Kissinger described as the Russians' superstitious awe of American technological superiority: Brezhnev had tried and failed, whereas the U.S. succeeded. Perhaps America's success at reaching the Moon was the key reason why Brezhnev signed so many strategic arms agreements with the Soviet Union's ideological enemy, the United States of America.

See also: On Gamma-Ray Astronomy and Nuclear War

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