Lunar surface

This page on the BBC web site, reminds us that today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 10 mission, the penultimate mission before a lunar landing would be attempted.

"In May 1969, with only seven months to go before the end of the decade, the first Lunar Module to fly in orbit around the Moon was powered up and readied for undocking from the Command Module.

Astronauts Tom Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan were about to test out a technique for lunar landing which had first been proposed in 1916 by a Russian mechanic called Yuri Kondratyuk.

Kondratyuk's thesis described how a small landing craft could leave a mothership in lunar orbit to ferry its crew to the surface and back - a technique later referred to as Lunar Orbit Rendezvous or LOR."

Kondratyuk had a fascinating life, as the biography on Wikipedia reveals. Born Oleksandr Gnatovich Shargei, and having already escaped death once, he took the name and identity of the deceased Yuri Vasilievich Kondratyuk, following the Russian Revolution, to avoid being arrested as an enemy of the people.

His pioneering ideas on spaceflight had to be self-published after no publisher would accept them. Foregoing the chance to work with rocketry pioneer Sergei Korolev for fear of his real identity being discovered, Kondratyuk pioneered work on wind turbines, and died in 1941 while serving in the Soviet army. Fortuitously, his notes on space travel eventually found their way to the United States when a neighbour took them with him when escaping the Soviet Union after World War II.

The history of the Soviet space program is littered with fecund stories of human invention; paranoia, power and corruption; missed opportunities; epic failures; lost dreams and bitter tragedy. But it is also my hypothesis that it harbored the secret continuation of the Constructivist 'project' after Stalin's Socialist Realism became the only acceptable form of artistic expression. More to follow.