Key events in the history of space exploration
4 October 1957: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1, the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite, igniting the space race. Sputnik’s radio signals continue for 22 days until the transmitter batteries run out. It burns up on 4 January 1958 as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere
3 November 1957: The dog Laika, the first living creature ever to orbit the earth, is launched aboard Sputnik II. Laika dies a few hours after launch, although this is kept secret until 2002. Instead, the Soviets claim she lived for several days
Read on for 30 more key events.
(Via The Telegraph)
Russia employs Arctic brigade to defend oil and gas reserves
The move follows a muscular series of comments from the deputy head of Russia’s Border Service Colonel-General Vycheslav Dorokhin who said the Kremlin planned to build up its forces in the region to better patrol its Arctic territorial waters.
The troops will be based in the far northern town of Pechenga on Russia’s Kola Peninsula close to the Norwegian and Finnish borders and will be combat-ready later this year.
Russian military planners said they had studied the way Arctic troops in Norway and Finland operated and had ordered in the necessary winterised clothing and arms for the new brigade which could number up to 8,000 troops.
In particular, he said Russia wanted to step up patrols of the strategically important North East shipping passage.
“Our potential there will be built up. We won’t let anyone feel themselves free (to move about as they please) in the Arctic.”
Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway are all locked in a race to grab a slice of the northern wilderness after US researchers predicted that global warming might leave the area ice-free, and therefore more easily navigable and explored, as early as 2030.
Experts say the region potentially contains one fifth of the world’s oil and gas reserves and that the swath of Arctic territory claimed specifically by Russia could be home to oil supplies double the size of Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves.
(Via The Telegraph; by the interesting journalist Andrew Osborn)
“Cinderella of the Stars” Valentina Tereshkova – First woman in Space
In June 1963, the whole world heard about the Russian “Chaika” (Seagull), Valentina Tereshkova’s call sign.
The first woman in space, ”Cinderella of the Stars” was born into a peasant family and worked at a textile factory after finishing evening school.
While working and earning an education at a technical school by correspondence, Valentina dreamed of the heavens. She learned how to skydive at a local aero-club, completing 163 jumps.
“There were only five women in our group, but the workload was more than the men’s,” Tereshkova explains, saying the training was extremely rough at that time. “But each of us was obsessed with the crazy idea of completing the training with brilliant results and of making a spaceflight.”
In 2000, Valentina Tereshkova was named “Greatest Woman Achiever of the Century” by the British Women of the Year Association.
(Via Ria Novosti)
Flying into history in 108 minutes
Fifty years ago on April 12, with a stirring cry of “Let’s Go!” (Poekhali), cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin raced on a Soviet rocket to become the first human to go into outer space. Launching in the Vostok spacecraft from Kazakhstan at 9.06 a.m. that radiant sunny day in 1961, the 27-year-old son of a carpenter circled the Earth once on a 108-minute space flight before parachuting safely to the ground in the Saratovregion of the U.S.S.R.
This short but epic foray into outer space inspired millions of people around the globe, and ignited a Cold War race between the superpowers for technological superiority.
Space exploration has, however, become increasingly cooperative since the end of the Cold War, especially with the ongoing assembly of the 18-country International Space Station (ISS). Amid the unfolding competition, one thing has not changed: on April 12, Russians everywhere honour the space odyssey legacy embodied by Gagarin. “Space will always remain a priority of ours. Russia is a world leader in the commercial satellite launch market, which helps to propel its space industry.
(Via Russia and India Today)
A Day That Shook The World: Chernobyl disaster
On 27 April 1986, the Chernobyl atomic power plant near Kiev in the USSR exploded in the world’s worst ever nuclear disaster.
The ensuing crisis was totally mismanaged by Soviet authorities, and spread radioactive material halfway around the world, causing untold harm – and the deaths of many of the workers battling to contain the meltdown.
The disaster would put the whole future of nuclear power in doubt across the world.
Watch original British footage from the disaster after the link.
(Via The Independent.Co.Uk
Fallout from Chernobyl in Poland
It is not uncommon today to read, or hear that the effects of the Chernobyl accident “have been greatly exaggerated” and that “only” 31 people died immediately when the disaster occurred (particularly as people rushed to minimize the dangers posed by Japanese Reactors following the recent earthquakes).
Naturally, the former Soviet republics of Belarus and Ukraine come to mind quickly. But what about other countries?
Poland was the third country profoundly affected by Chernobyl.
It was a glorious late-spring time, sunny, warm, blue sky, light breeze. On Sunday evening, April 27th, the wind became very strong and changed direction. Many people had similar feelings of sleeping badly that night, waking several times and sweating. “It must be that hot eastern wind”, people commented.
The sister of the journalist, aged 40 at the time, a scientist in the field of fishery and hydrobiology, spent the day working on lakes in north-east Poland, about 40 miles from the former USSR border. On April 29th, the evening news on Polish TV was interrupted by a special communiqué from Moscow. “There was an accident in Ukraine nuclear power-station. “Shortage of tincture of iodine, all sold out” – a perplexed, tired looking lady chemist announced. (Iodine tablets did not exist in Poland).
My parents had a small bottle of iodine tincture at home. Ten million Polish children continued their normal school routine getting plenty of “fresh air” in their usual sport and outdoor exercise activities.
March 18th 2011 marked the 10th anniversary of her death.
(via The Irish Times)
Rocket genius behind Russia’s triumph
Fifty years ago, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Sergei Korolev built the rocket that took him. In doing so, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to journey into space.
A gifted engineer and designer, Korolev developed the first intercontinental missile and then launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik 1.
Yuri Gagarin was born on March 9, 1934, in Klushino, in the Smolensk region, 160km west of Moscow. Twenty pilots were selected, but the early version of the Vostok capsule was so cramped, only those under 168cm could get in it. The slightly built Gagarin fitted in nicely.
Then it was announced Gagarin had landed safely. On January 14, 1966, Korolev died, aged 59, during routine surgery.
Yuri Gagarin’s famous flight came perilously close to disaster.
News of Gagarin’s flight swept round the globe. “Man in space!” the London Evening News announced. Next morning’s US headlines included the classic: “Soviets put man in space. Spokesman says US asleep.”
(Via NZ Herald)