Libmonster ID: RU-17164
Author(s) of the publication: Academician Lev ZELYONY

by Academician Lev ZELYONY, Director of the RAS Institute for Space Research, Olga ZAKUTNYAYA, Cand. Sc. (Phil.), chief specialist of the Press Service of the same institute

The Institute for Space Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences is situated not far from the Academician Keldysh Square in the south-west of Moscow: thus, in the capital's toponymy the name of the famous scientist is related to up-to-date potentialities of man in cognition of mysteries of the Universe. It is as it should be, as it was Keldysh who laid theoretical fundamentals of extraterrestrial flights and determined strategic missions for space studies.

Undoubtedly, it is impossible in a small journal article to describe in detail or even specify all achievements, which belong to this outstanding scientist. We shall cite only some statistics, which helps us estimate the scope of the USSR space program, namely, we shall specify a list of automatic space vehicles launched in a period from 1957 to 1978.

стр. 43

The lunar program* (Luna-1–Luna-24 and Zond-3, Zond-5–Zond-8); Martian studies** (Mars-l–Mars-7, Zond-2-Zond-3); and Venus exploration (Venus-1– Venus-10). The Kosmos satellite series for studies of different phenomena on near-earth orbits. The studies of near-earth space and radiation belts (Elektron-1-Elektron-4), cosmic rays (Proton-1–Proton-4), the Sun, solar-terrestrial relationship and the earth magnetos-phere (Prognoz-1–Prognoz-6). The Intercosmos-1– Intercosmos-17 joint testing programs with specialists of member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon).

We shall also mention the manned flights and biomedical studies started in 1961 and carried out on the Earth and orbital stations***. These works were and still are "a visiting card" of national cosmonautics, while the experience accumulated during decades is required now in the course of creation and operation of the International Space Station.

The above-mentioned achievements are largely due to academicians Sergei Korolyov and Mstislav Keldysh or, as they are called "the chief designer" and "the chief theorist" of Soviet cosmonautics****. Below we shall try to briefly outline the activities of Keldysh and mention his key decisions, which determined the progress of national space research.


As the head of the Jet-Propulsion Research Institute (today the Keldysh Research Center) and the head of the Applied Mathematics Department of Steklov Mathematical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences (abbreviated as AMD MIAS, today named after Keldysh), he pioneered mathematical support for space flights. The areas of his research included rocket dynamics and flight mechanics in airless space, ballistics, celestial mechanics, astronavigation and computing mathematics. For example, in 1953, staff members of the Applied Mathematics Department suggested for the first time a ballistic launching of a space vehicle from orbit to the Earth and proved that the said method could be used in manned flights. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin landed just in this way. In 1954, the first variant of the passive stabilization system of a man-made satellite was developed and theoretically substantiated at the same institute.

In 1954, Keldysh in cooperation with Korolyov and the designer Mikhail Tikhonravov, Dr. Sc. (Eng.), set forward a proposal for development of an artificial satellite***** drawn up in the form of a memorandum to the government. The country leaders approved the scientists' idea and appointed Keldysh chairman of a special commission of the USSR Academy of Sciences Presidium for a man-made satellite (the D-object commission). In fact it implied his personal responsibility for preparation of scientific equipment and a research program on the satellite's orbit.

Many research institutes, including those outside competence of the Academy of Sciences, were involved in the work. It should be noted that studies of upper layers of the atmosphere, cosmic rays, etc. by geophysical rockets was being carried out for a long time, namely, from the start of testing of the first models of ballistic rockets in Kapustin Yar****** in 1947. However, Keldysh faced a radically new problem, i.e. not only to draw up an experimental program for one space vehicle but also to outline development trends of science by means of cosmic vehicles.

Thus, Keldysh, already academician at that time, circulated a letter to the institutes potentially interested in the program, asking them to offer ideas of experiments to be carried out in the orbit. Later on, scientists discussed possibilities of conducting research work aboard a cosmic vehicle at his office. Their decisions served as a

See: Yu. Markov, "First Flight to the Moon", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2009.–Ed.

** See: I. Rezanov. "Searching for Life Within Mars", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2004; M. Litvak, I. Mitrofanov, "Martian Seasons", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2004.–Ed.

*** See: O. Gazenko et al., "Space  Medicine: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow", Science in Russia, Nos, 3, 4, 2006.–Ed.

**** See: N. Koroleva, "His Name and Cosmos Are Inseparable", Science in Russia, No.  1, 2007; N.  Sevastyanov,  "The Cause of Legendary Designer Lives On", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2007.–Ed.

***** See: B. Chertok, "The First Artificial Satellite", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2007.–Ed.

****** Kapustin Yar is a rocket firing range in the north-west part of the Astrakhan Region.–Ed.

стр. 44

Panoramic pictures of the surface of Venus, transmitted to the Earth by VENERA-9 and VENERA-10 probes.

Panoramic pictures of the surface of Venus, transmitted by VENERA-14 probe.

base for a research program of the D-object, which was destined to become the third artificial satellite launched on May 15, 1958.

The fact that preparatory works on the lunar program started prior to launching of the D-object is indicative of the extent Keldysh understood prospects for fundamental science, opened up by man-made satellites. Below we shall cite his observation from the report at the session of the Academy of Sciences Presidium on September 14, 1956.

"Of course, we cannot stop on the problem of creation of an artificial satellite. Naturally, we think of future problems concerning a space flight. Such problem, which, in my opinion, will be solved in this connection first of all, is a circumlunar mission and lunar photography of the side, which is always hidden from us. But I believe that these prospects are already not so far."


The scientist proved to be right, as already in 1958 specialists made several attempts to launch space vehicles to the Moon. On January 2, 1959, their efforts were rewarded, when Luna-1 satellite passed close by the Moon's surface. Though the scheduled objective (hitting the natural satellite of the Earth) had not been reached, nevertheless an "artificial planet", or a man-made object, placed in heliocentric orbit, was created for the first time in the history of mankind. In the world press Luna-1 is known under the name of Dream.

On September 12, 1959, there was launched Luna-2 vehicle, which succeeded in landing on the Moon and delivered there pendants with an image of the USSR Emblem. Less than a month later, on October 4, Luna-3 started from the Earth, which took the first-ever pictures of the reverse side of the Moon.

But Keldysh continued to work "ahead of schedule". In 1958-1959, before the start of Luna-2 and Luna-3, in the Applied Mathematics Department of the Mathematical Institute he in cooperation with Dmitry Okhotsim-sky, Dr. Sc. (Phys. & Math,), member of the RAS from 1991, Valentin Yershov and Timur Eneyev (Academician from 1992), both Cands. Sc. (Phys. & Math.), conducted theoretical studies of flight dynamics to Mars and Venus and substantiated a highly economical method of a space rocket acceleration with an intermediate placing of the fourth stage in the orbit of a man-made satellite.

In the same 1958 by resolution of the Soviet Government Keldysh was appointed chairman of the Interdepartmental Scientific and Technical Council for Space Exploration under the Academy of Sciences. Since then he incurred particular liability for fulfillment of the government space program. It should be noted that at the time Keldysh continued intensively his own scientific work and in 1961-1975 was responsible for the development of national science as a whole as President of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

The year 1961 was marked with several important events in his life. In February Venera-1 vehicle was launched (unfortunately, due to failure of flying control and radio systems, the communication with it was lost on the way to the planet). In April the legendary flight of Yuri Gagarin* took place on the Vostok spacecraft. Keldysh was awarded a title of Hero of Socialist Labor for the second time for his outstanding contribution to the development of rocket engineering, creation and successful launching of the first-ever manned spacecraft. In May 1961, Keldysh was elected President of the Academy of Sciences.

Considering space studies as one of the priorities of national science, Keldysh sent a letter "On a Space Research Plan for 1963-1964" to the Soviet policymaking bodies at the end of 1962. In this document he outlined those scientific and engineering problems, which, in his opinion, could be solved in the near future. The suggested two-year plan was to become a part of a more ambitious program of outer space exploration. Let us point out that many of the problems formulated in that small message have been solved. However, some

See: Yu. Orlov, "He Opened Window Into Space", Science in Russia. No. 4, 2004.–Ed.

стр. 45

objectives outlined by Keldysh are not yet resolved in our country. For example, no vehicle was developed for the interplanetary space research in a direction away from the ecliptic plane.


So, in his letter Keldysh mentioned the following problems: exploration of the Moon and circumlunar space, Solar system planets, interplanetary and near-Earth space. Today, after decades, we can state that the 1960s became the time of development and first revival of actually all trends of space studies. The first space vehicle started to Mars in November 1962. Its objective was to take pictures of the Red Planet during its flight not far from it. (Unfortunately, the communication with the vehicle was lost before it reached the target, and, therefore, no expected information was received). In the meantime, specialists continued lunar studies. After the successful photography of its reverse side, the next mission was soft landing and experimentation directly on the surface of the planet. Space vehicles were also sent to Venus, but unfortunately at first a major part of that program was unsuccessful. Only beginning from 1965 (from the start of Venera-2, which passed close by the planet), the Venus program started to gradually produce more and more tremendous results.

Alongside with the planetary projects, the near-Earth space was explored intensively in the USSR by the Kosmos series satellites starting from 1962. In 1964, the Elektron satellites carried out successful studies of the Earth radiation belts. In 1965-1968, specialists performed unique studies of primary cosmic rays by means of calorimeters on the Proton heavy satellites.

These studies, though not as successful as planetary studies, still turned out to be extremely important for understanding of processes, which take place close by the Earth and have a direct effect on it. It is the Kosmos series satellites, which have become the first solar and astro-physical observatories. These vehicles were actually the first system of standardized satellites, which allowed to reduce price and time of preparation for their launching.

Another important landmark was April 1964, when "Agreement on Cooperation in Exploration and Use of Cosmic Space for Peaceful Purposes", better known as the Intercosmos Program was approved. Later on, it included also piloted flights, designed by socialist member-countries and Cuba.

Such rapid development of cosmonautics made Keldysh think of a new institute called to unite all trends of space research by means of automatic space vehicles and become a leading agency, coordinating implementation of respective programs in the USSR.

By the way, the idea of such agency emerged long before. The memorandum to the government signed by Keldysh and Korolyov in 1959 included a proposal to create "a sufficiently developed research and design organization with an experimental production base and a complex of necessary laboratories and stand units". Its authors called it the Institute of Interplanetary Research and expected that socialist countries could participate officially in its activity. Besides, they believed that "such organization could become in future a scientific center of international importance for space research".

By that time the USA created a powerful base for the support of "civil outer space", namely, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). As Keldysh recognized the necessity of "opposing" a potentially comparable organization to the competing party, he often returned to his proposal concerning a single coordination center for a scientific space program of the USSR.


Thanks to the initiative of academicians Keldysh and Korolyov, the USSR AS Institute of Biomedical Studies, was established in Moscow in 1963 to implement research and development work on medical support of piloted space vehicles and to carry out appropriate fundamental research. The time came also for creation of an agency called to solve problems of unmanned cosmonautics. Keldysh believed that such agency should be a kind of a joint institute, which would direct activities of groups from different organizations practically already carrying out experiments in outer space.

"The prime objective of the institute will be systematic space exploration by standardized small (and later even heavier) satellites created by our industry," wrote Keldysh. "The institute will develop and produce scientific equipment, install it on serially produced flight vehicles, carry out the whole cycle of tests, prepare them for launching and participate in launching."

The scientist's idea was realized two years later, when the Institute for Space Research was created as a part of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Moscow by resolution of the government of May 15, 1965. Academician Georgy Petrov was appointed its first director.

Later on the national specialists conducted dozens of successful experiments: the first soft landing on the Moon, delivery of its soil to the Earth and work of research vehicles, and the exceptionally fruitful Venus research flights, which radically changed our perception of that planet. The flights to Mars were less successful, and the Soviet scientists were far inferior to the Americans in that field. Global competition between the two countries in cosmic space research was impossible for economic reasons, and Keldysh believed that our country should choose one rather narrow research trend

стр. 46

and concentrate efforts on it. Venus* became such dominant subject.

Keldysh supported the proposal of the Institute of Radioengineering and Electronics of the USSR Academy of Sciences to map the surface of this planet from the orbit of its man-made satellite by means of radar equipment. Unfortunately, Keldysh did not see results of that advanced experiment, carried out successfully in 1983-1984 by means of Venera-15 and Venera-16 space vehicles. Neither was he a witness of the successful VEGA project in 1986, which he supported to the utmost. The point is a joint research of Venus and Halley's comet, when two helium balloons were delivered to the planet, drifting in its atmosphere about 48 hours and transmitting a large volume of data on its sizes, pressure, speed and direction of wind.

Today, after a lapse of more than half a century from the start of space exploration by man, one may state that the development trends of national cosmonautics, especially research in the interests of fundamental sciences, outlined by Keldysh, proved to be efficient**. His main features–choice of clear-cut priorities in the conditions of limited resources and openness for international cooperation. Within the scope of this article we could not deal in detail with the Soyuz-Apollo program, joint flights of Soviet and foreign cosmonauts under the Inter-cosmos program and participation of foreign scientists in Soviet experiments, although that cooperation was very fruitful. But today, when the situation with financing of research (and space science, in particular) remains complicated, the discussed principles of work are topical as before.

At present several space projects are under way in Russia. Among them the "Phobos-Grunt" project*** holds a prominent place. Its mission is exploration of Phobos, the satellite of Mars and delivery of its substance to the Earth. The project makes it possible to solve several important scientific problems. First, we intend to define more exactly the Phobos structure and composition, which is important for understanding of its origin. Secondly, studies of this celestial body means an original opinion on the past of the Solar system. Most probably the Martian satellite consists of a relict substance, which formed its planets, but it actually did not change on the Phobos due to its small size. Finally, delivery of the Phobos substance to the Earth will be the first-ever method of contact soil sampling from the body of other planetary system. In other words, the "Phobos-Grunt" project is a complex experiment, which combines topicality of a scientific task and novelty of its technical realization. Specialists from Europe and China take an active part in the project.

We keep studying the Moon****, where water ice fields can be found according to the results of recent research. Besides, Russian scientists intend to send a long-living landing module to Venus, which allows to carry out measurements on the planet's surface during several hours. This project is called Venera-D.

We do not limit the scope of our research by "close neighbors" of the Earth. The project of a landing module to Europe, Jupiter's satellite, is now under way in Russia. The idea of creation of such space vehicles has been producing valuable results for almost 50 years, and implementation of our intention will be one more achievement on this way. On the other hand, implementation of this project will mark a brand new stage of national planetary programs.

In retrospect, we cannot but wonder, how rapid and fruitful the development of national cosmonautics was in the first decades of its formation! Unfortunately, recurrence of this "outburst" is impossible not only in our country but also anywhere in the world. The time of space age pathfinders is gradually passing away, and the age of systematic studies of the "territories" discovered by them is approaching. In this respect, the outstanding scientist Mstislav Keldysh is among those, who have brought us closer to understanding mysteries of the Universe.

See: O. Korablev, "Another Voyage to Venus", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2006.–Ed.

** See: L. Zelyony, Yu. Zaitsev, "Getting to Know the Universe", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2005; L. Zelyony, K. Pichkhadze, "From Magnetosphere of the Earth to Martian Satellite", Science in Russia, No. 5, 20O5.–Ed.

*** See: E. Galimov, "'Phobos-Grunt', the Russian Project", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2006.–Ed.

**** See: I. Mitrofanov, "Mastering the Moon", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2006.–Ed.


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