Military Review

Peaceful space


Having curtailed its lunar program, the United States declared to the world: it’s too early for humans to aspire to other planets

The creator of the first Vostok spacecraft, Konstantin Feoktistov, has come a long way from an ardent enthusiast of manned flights to their implacable enemy. His last thoughts to supporters of progress could seem seditious. “The place of man is on Earth. There is no sense in his presence in space, ”said the famous designer in an interview with Newsweek several years ago. “Only automatic probes should be sent there.” Last November, Feoktistov passed away. After only two months, his unpopular idea suddenly found very strong allies.

“We don’t know where this great journey will end,” said President Bush Jr. in 2004, presenting an ambitious space exploration program. He really could not have imagined that the journey would end at the same place where it had begun — in the White House, and that this would happen in six years. In early February, President Obama struck out the NASA program “Constellation”, burying plans for returning to the moon and conquering Mars. All development, for which the space agency has already spent $ 9 billion, will be discontinued. Another $ 2 billion will be paid as penalties to corporations that participated in the project. Shame, disaster - Obama's opponents in Congress resent. “If the“ Constellation ”is closed, a man’s flight into space will probably come to an end,” fears Congressman Pete Olson. He and his supporters are trying to argue with the president, but their chances are slim.

But in Russia, Obama’s decisions seemed eagerly awaited. Roscosmos immediately stated: Washington’s decision is in complete agreement with the “Russian vision of the prospects for space activities.” The prospects actually look foggy: both the United States and Russia are going to return to the issue of flights to the Moon and Mars in 20 years. The outpost of man in space is still the International Space Station, which can stop working in 10 years. Now shuttles and Soyuzs fly there, but very soon the shuttles will go to museums according to plan, and there will be nothing to replace them. Obama calls on the aid of private companies - they say, even if they build ships for flights to the ISS, and then they take money for the "cart".

In order to maintain the rhythm of the space race and fly farther and farther, a political incentive is needed. It seems that it is no longer there, and manned cosmonautics is doomed to become part of the market. This market is unlikely to accept distant expeditions with human participation - it is simply unprofitable. If their not always justified ambitions return to space powers, man will not stick his nose out of the limits of near-earth orbit for a very long time. Someone will say that this is a tragedy. In the market, this is called disposing of non-core assets.


Back in 2004, when George W. Bush unveiled his “space initiative,” it was clear that the White House chose not the easiest way to raise the president’s rating. NASA was set to re-send astronauts to the moon and do it in 15 years. To solve this problem, they began to develop the program "Constellation". The project involved the creation of two devices at once. The Orion spacecraft was supposed to deliver astronauts to the moon, and the Altair landing module would provide their landing on the satellite surface. The Agency planned to launch all of these vehicles into space with the help of two new launch vehicles - the heavy Ares I and the super heavy Ares V.

Problems with the developers of "Constellation" began long before Barack Obama. Estimates of the program grew in the eyes, and the timing of the first tests were constantly shifted. For all the punctures, the previous chapter of NASA, physicist Michael Griffin, had to take the rap, who defended the project until the very end of his powers. However, under George W. Bush, this was not difficult. But soon he was replaced by a real skeptic.

First of all, Barack Obama requested a report that summarized all the failures of the developers. The special commission published it in September last year, and these findings did not at all please the supporters of the "Constellation". Experts did not deny the very possibility of flying to the moon with the help of new spacecraft, but at the same time indicated that the program would require a sharp increase in costs. A month after the report, the first test of the Ares I rocket prototype took place. It was completed successfully, but it did not matter. In NASA, rumors began to circulate: in any case, the project would be put under the knife. In February, these rumors were confirmed.

Obama’s ambitious project is not only an economic claim. The presidential administration is annoyed by the very concept of reviving the old lunar program. Technically, the "Constellation" really resembles the legendary project "Apollo". Obama has enough like-minded people inside NASA itself. “Such a lunar program was not needed from the very beginning,” argues Vyacheslav Turischev, senior research scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “Putting the same goal in front of the designers twice is at least strange.”

Approximately the same thing is criticized in "Constellation" in Russia. “I have repeatedly argued with the previous head of NASA, Griffin, about the goals of the American project,” recalls the Deputy General Designer of RSC Energia Alexander Derechin. - Returning to the moon has no scientific meaning. For the next goal - a flight to Mars - it will still require completely different technologies. ”

He cites radiation protection as an example - she was not given special attention in the framework of the "Constellation". A flight to the Red Planet will take at least 500 days, most of the time the ship will be outside the Earth’s magnetic field, which means it will become very vulnerable to radiation. To argue Griffin Derechin did not succeed. All arguments caused only irritation from the past NASA head. He himself believed that the new space program will allow in the future to solve a variety of tasks. For example, he said, it will be possible to land not only on the Moon, but also on some asteroid. This man has never done.

"The lunar program was a well-thought-out and very feasible project," says Scott Paice, director of the Space Policy Institute, Newsweek. “And the developers did not rely on new technologies to finish everything as soon as possible.” A few years ago, Pace headed NASA's analytical department. Now his former colleagues will not be easy - the agency has lost not only the lunar program. The Orion spacecraft was also supposed to deliver cargo and crews to the ISS. Aging shuttles stop their flights this year, and now there is nothing to replace them. However, Obama is not very confused. He is confident that private companies will be able to solve the problem.


The idea to attract "private traders" was suggested by the NASA managers themselves. Four years ago, the agency announced a competition among companies. Its winners received the right to full participation in space programs. They had to build their own spacecraft and lease them to NASA. Michael Griffin thought it would free up resources for working on the Constellation project. He did not even suspect that he was preparing a replacement for his own child.

From willing to participate in the competition there was no end. The SpaceX company reached the final with the project of the Dragon ship and the Orbital Sciences corporation with their cargo Cygnus. At the same time they pledged to develop their own launch vehicles. The approximate date of commencement of flights with confidence is still called only in SpaceX. The company's founder Elon Musk promises that his Dragon will begin to make the first commercial flights into orbit in three years. This spacecraft will be able to deliver to the ISS not only cargo, but also the crew. And quite inexpensively - SpaceX promises to send astronauts to the station at the price of $ 20 million per person. This is 2,5 times cheaper than the Russian "tariff" for the delivery of NASA astronauts on the "Unions".

Scott Pace considers Mask a big optimist. “I'm not sure that the company will meet in three years,” says the former deputy director of NASA. “It’s not enough to develop a ship for manned flights, it is necessary to go through a complicated procedure of its certification — it can easily take several more years.” Alexander Derechin to the development of small private companies, too, is suspicious: "While this is only a game in space." Probably, this thought was visited by Barack Obama. Immediately after the project was closed, NASA insured itself and connected a new player, the United Launch Alliance, to the commercial flight program.

This company is formed by two aerospace giants - Boeing and Lockheed Martin. It is quite possible to create a manned vehicle for such an alliance, but it still cannot replace the Orion in everything. All the spaceships Obama has bet on will not fly farther than near-earth orbit. And this is quite logical, said Andrei Ionin, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. “This is a serious review of the attitude towards astronautics,” he says. “NASA deliberately relegates manned programs to the background.” In America, the expert suggests, they finally stopped considering space as a political resource. From now on, NASA will be engaged in pure science. And here you can perfectly do without people in space suits.

“Now man in space has nothing to do,” agrees Vyacheslav Turischev from JPL. “No, for tourists, money is for God's sake, but from the point of view of science, it is a waste of money.” Soon, most people associated with astronautics will argue this way, Andrei Ionin is sure. “America accounts for 75 – 80% of the global space budget. When a player of such a scale changes his plans, this cannot but affect the behavior of all other market participants, ”he says.

Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Alexander Zheleznyakov fears that other space powers will also begin to curtail their manned projects, and humanity will remain with the ISS alone. Just a few years ago, Roscosmos proudly announced the upcoming flights to Mars and the Moon. Now they prefer not to recall this.

It is quite another thing - India and China, which have not yet recovered from manned flights. “For these countries, the issue of national prestige is acute,” says Ionin. China is not the first time announcing its views on the moon, and it is quite possible that the flag of this country will be hoisted next on its surface. If the Chinese, of course, do not overtake the iron astronaut. Above the prototype of such a robot, General Motors is now working with NASA. “Robots are the inevitable way of developing cosmonautics,” said Konstantin Feoktistov to Newsweek. It seems that here he was again right.
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  1. Kostya
    Kostya 22 December 2010 19: 00
    "The creator of the first spacecraft" Vostok "Konstantin Feoktistov" - Who was Korolev?
  2. Phoma
    Phoma 22 December 2010 19: 18
    Another argument that they were never there on the moon
  3. Kadrik
    Kadrik 24 December 2010 16: 44
    Will the Americans fly to the moon?
    Fly of course, when it will be profitable. Politically or economically, it's all the same.
    But ours will not be there for another 100 years, that's for sure.
    Well, the Chinese, with their cosmic ambitions, I think they can fly, but repetition is only repetition.
    But in general, economics is the engine of science. It needs to be !!!
  4. Honory
    Honory 25 August 2012 12: 47
    The space race was caused by the Cold War. The USSR collapsed and the USA no longer has an incentive to send people into space. I’m not saying that it is insanely expensive and very dangerous. Well, as the author has already written, it’s devoid of any practical meaning. Space flights of people seem to be stay for a long time in science fiction films.