Russian scientific journalist Vladimir Gubarev was given a rare opportunity to witness the life of the Soviet science from inside. Specifically, he watched the goings-on of the Soviet space exploration programs. He committed his experiences to paper and put out a book called “The Blueprints of Science Fiction” published by Akademkniga.
The American Mars Exploration Rover has covered the fist few dozen meters of Martian surface. The world is applauding wildly. Never before anything similar to a research of such complexity has been conducted on the Red Planet. The Americans take pride in displaying the first pictures taken by the rover. The European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft was the first to arrive to Martian orbit but the Beagle 2 lander was unfortunately lost during its descent to the surface. The Europeans carried out a number of unprecedented experiments in orbit, though.
In the meanwhile, all the Russian scientists including those who’re engaged in space exploration programs very indirectly seem to be searching an answer to the big question:
“Is Russia strong enough to continue being a space power and take part in the “Martian races?”
Questions and fears like that rest on good grounds. Many a space program was put on hold in the years of economic instability while the EU and USA were pushing forward making great effort and spending lots of money. The Russian Mars space exploration program was also earmarked for scrapping.
Now Russia seems to be hopelessly lagging behind and the government seems to have crossed long-term space exploration programs off the list. Scientists seem to have been given only the commercial projects to lay their hands on. Those were the projects destined to pay back fast profits. However, the latest reports on the subject say that the picture isn’t so bleak. Specific steps taken by President Putin and its government show an increasing interest toward the space industry, especially for fundamental space studies. Funds for target programs have been allocated and spending in general has been stepped up. New equipment has been delivered to the space ports. The issues relating to the launch pads are also drawing much more attention than before. The leasing of the Baikonur space port was extended through 2050.
Building a new space port at the equator in cooperation with foreign companies is on the agenda. The project seemed totally unrealistic just a few years ago. Now we can cast our fears aside and hope that this country won’t turn into a space ferry agency providing spacecraft for deploying other countries’ payload into orbit for the benefit of foreign science. More Russian readers find the space stories worthy of reading.
In view of the factors mentioned above, Vladimir Gubarev’s book came out right on time.
Here’s some basic facts and figures regarding the author. All his life he promoted the achievements of the Soviet and world science. In the recent years he’s been working on a series of books on the fate of science and scientists in Russia. His previous works landed him the USSR State prize, the Young Communist League prize and a number of other domestic and international rewards and prizes. In 2000, The Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences handed him out a prize for the books titled “The Farewell to 20th Century” and “The 20th Century. The Confessions.”
His latest book is a compilation of articles and interviews conducted by the author with some of the illustrious men of science. The first part of the book is called “The Space Trilogy”. It deals with the first Mars, Moon, and Venus research programs conducted by the Soviets. An accurate and painstaking account of the flights of Mars-3 and Mars-4 and an instructive and interesting report on the Mars-T flight preparations are the signs of progress made by our science in the study of the Red Planet.
The chapter called “The Venus Sky” offers a simple yet captivating description of research of the planet covered from the launch of Venus-5 through Venus-11.
The reports from the Ground Control Centers are combined with interviews of the chief designer of Venus-5 and excursions into the history of research of Venus.
The third chapter of the book details the movements of Lunaknod, Soviet Moon rover, on the lunar surface. It pictures how the tension was building up at the Ground Control Center as the rover ran into trouble due to unexpected technical faults, it vividly describes the moments of uncertainty and despair followed by joy when another obstacle was left behind. Aside from being moved to empathy, the reader could obtain some invaluable scientific insight that is impossible to incorporate in any feature movie. One can even start sympathizing with the American operators behind the controls of the Mars rover. The guys have just experienced the difficulties that the Soviets had been through in the past. And the signal travels from Mars down to Earth longer than it used to do from the Moon hence the task gets a lot more difficult.
Vladimir Gubarev has other interests apart from reporting on the study of the solar system. The second part of the book is titled “The Tea Parties at the Academy”. The interviews included in the book aren’t precisely interviews, they’re rather conversations between the author and some well-known Russian scientists. The writer merely directs the trail of thought of an interlocutor by asking questions. Every branch of science seems to be covered in the conversations. The reader can get a good understanding of a state of things in the Russian and world science after reading this part of the book. It can also shed some light on the way of thinking and human characteristics of the scientific luminaries.
The most enjoyable part of this marvelous book is titled “The Shield of Earth and Other Notes from the Academy” as far as I’m concerned. It concerns the latest research projects of the Russians and Americans. “The Thread Across the Ocean”, a better caption to describe the uniqueness of that work would be really hard to find. The man who watched the project being born out of the throes and arguments has a very interesting story to tell.
The title of the book says it all “The Blueprints of Science Fiction”.
The accomplishments of humanity in science and technology look quite fabulous though scientists already have the blueprints of the future sitting on their drawing boards.
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