The veracity of early rumors about Soviet
the first months of the space age Soviet media reported statements by various
officials about plans for future space missions. Below these reports are
examined in the light of historical facts that have now been revealed about
these early plans.
payload and launch date accurately reported in advance
7 October 1957
On 11 October 1957 a
telegram in Swedish daily "Dagens Nyheter" citing AP, UP and Reuters reported
In the Swedish Daily "Dagens
Nyheter" it was reported that sources in Moscow said that "The next
'Moon' would carry animals and instruments to record their reactions"
Swedish communist daily "Ny
Dag" carried a report from its Moscow correspondent Karl Staf: "...it
is said that future satellites will be powered by solar energy and be able
to return to earth after accomplishing their task.."
Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet:
The Soviet information bureau in Stockholm said that .. already the next
satellite will carry animals..".
It seems that Blagonravov was
describing Object D (the satellite that was orbited as Sputnik-3). He may
not have been informed of the details of the decision to launch the next
satellite with animals, or he was careful in only describing the space
science instruments of what became Sputnik-2. But - his prediction of the
launch date was absolutely correct - amazing!
"Lt. General Blagonravov
had said at the UN exhibition about the peaceful uses of nuclear power
that the next satellite would be launched in a month's time. It will be
equipped with instruments to detect cosmic rays, meteorites and such phenomena..."
These statements are indeed
interesting, because we have learned (1)
how everyone associated with the launch of Sputnik-1 were called back from
vacation after the Sputnik 1 triumph around October 11 to quickly lash
together the dog carrying Sputnik-2. Taken at face value, it now
seems that already the day after the launch of Sputnik-1 well informed
sources knew that a dog would go next and just a few days later even a
figurehead such as Blagonravov knew that the launch was to take place in
a month's time. This clearly points to substantial prior preparations for
Sputnik-2, but that the leadership decided within a few days of the launch
of Sputnik-1 to rush the launch of the next satellite. We also know that
the Sputnik-2 R-7 booster was sent to Tyuratam on October 18! (1).
See also my web article "Sputnik 2 -
was it really built in less than a month?"
mass correctly predicted in reports from Moscow
On 11 November 1957 the
Swedish evening paper "Aftonbladet" reported that:
Well, this report was absolutely
true in terms of the satellite mass (Sputnik-3 weighed 1327 kg), but the
satellite was not quite ready to be shipped to Baikonur for launch - which
was first attempted on April 27, 1958.
"Reports via London definitely
say that Sputnik III is ready to be launched. It weighs one ton and is
therefore the largest of the three Russian satellites.
probe project to blow up nuclear device on the Moon correctly reported
before submission to Central Committee
On 15 November 1957
a telegram in the Swedish daily "Dagens Nyheter" quoted UP and Reuters:
This is yet another fascinating
example of absolutely correct reporting. We know that this scheme was indeed
part of a plan for lunar exploration to submitted by Sergei Korolev and
Mstislav Keldysh to the Communist party Central Committee on 28 January
1958 (2), more than 2 months later!
"Professor Kiril Stanyoukovich
said in an interview in a Polish paper that the Soviet Union would launch
a rocket to the Moon within the next 18-24 months. He hinted that the first
rocket would be equipped with an explosive cargo, possibly a hydrogen bomb,
to detonate on the Moon and vaporize the top layer and it would be possible
to analyze spectroscopically from the Earth".
The reports from Soviet sources
seem quite accurate with only minor misunderstandings. It seems that persons
close to the space program were quite open about future plans. Perhaps
the information policy had not yet been formulated since some time later
strict secrecy seemed to have been enforced.
I Ostashov in the book ("Roads to Space") on p. 294
Zheleznyakov, "The E-4 project - exploding
a nuclear bomb on the Moon", available at this Web-site.
to "Space History Notes"