Problems in astronautics
So, you are sure that Russia is a leading space power. It puts into orbit satellites, manned spacecraft, and even space stations. Russia is going to fly to the moon, and then to Mars. In fact, the situation is slightly different. And you, most likely, guess about it. You are probably aware that the USSR launched the first satellite of the Earth into space, then the first man launched into space. In those years, he was noticeably ahead of the whole world in this direction. But then ... A strange thing started to happen. First, the USSR lost the US lunar race. The Apollo program has landed a man on our natural satellite. The USSR then limited itself to lunar rovers and lunar automatic stations, which made overflights and returned lunar soil. For many years it was denied that the Soviet Union was also going to send astronauts to the moon. It turns out he was going to. There was an N1 rocket, the lunar module was ready, even a squad of astronauts was assembled for the lunar program.
But the rocket turned out to be unsuccessful, regularly suffered accidents, the chief designer Sergey Pavlovich Korolev, who had a crushing authority in power, died unexpectedly. As a result, by the time almost everything was ready, the project was closed and the rocket was destroyed. The whole reserve was lost, except for the first-stage engine, which is still sometimes used on foreign missiles. Valentin Petrovich Glushko, who was the opponent of Korolev in the lunar project, actively participated in the defeat of the project. Since then, stagnation has begun. Station after station. "Salyut-1", "Salyut-2", "Salyut-3" ... Then "Mir", it seems like progress, you can connect the modules, but no, in the end it's almost the same. The same thing on TV all the time: astronauts fly on the Soyuz spacecraft to the station, then return by parachute. As a result, no one understood what they were doing there! They seemed to sit for a long time, and that’s it! Where is the breakthrough? Where are the flights to Mars, the moon, other planets? Orbital stations look the same. And satellites. A lot of satellites. Almost all the satellites were called "Cosmos", go figure out what it does! Information for specialists. They are launched into orbit with the Proton heavy rocket and the Soyuz medium rocket. There was also a Zenit rocket, also of the middle class, but it did not participate in the manned program. Light rocket "Molnyia". And that’s all! There were no projects and implementations of something more progressive? They were! The Chelomey Design Bureau designed the superheavy rocket UR-700 in addition to the UR-500 Proton, with characteristics no worse than the American Saturn-5, which was supposed to send the LK-700 ship to the moon.
They even worked out a variant of the UR-900 with a second-stage atomic engine sending astronauts to Mars, but ... these missiles were considered too dangerous due to toxic fuel. And the project was closed. It is interesting that the Proton is still flying on the same fuel. And with the Sergey Korolev N1 rocket did not work out. Also, for some reason. But then the people were waiting for this, that they were about to send astronauts to the moon, Mars, they would build lunar bases and orbital cities. Colorful illustrations in magazines of the time telling about how it would look. Television broadcasts, science fiction books and films. But no. Dull Soyuz and Salyut one by one. Not trying to do anything else? Tried! A new spacecraft was developed to replace the Soyuz, which was to be launched into orbit by the Zenit rocket. Did not take place. The project was closed. In parallel, work began on the domestic reusable ship "BOR" under the project Spiral.
The prototype has already flown, it remains a little and ... the project was closed. The remaining backlog from the BOR ship is now being used by the Americans as part of the Dream Chaser project. And this ship looks very similar to the former Soviet.
Maybe it will fly, but not at home. In short, they decided at the Soviet level, we need, like the Americans. Almost one to one. We are no worse! And, having abandoned all of their own, they began to make the ultra-expensive Energy-Buran project. No, they did it!
The Energia rocket was launched twice, both times successfully, once having launched the Buran spacecraft into orbit, an analogue of the American Shuttle, which successfully landed. It seemed a tremendous success, but ... everything. Even then, it became clear that the project is no longer interesting. Why ... perestroika, publicity. Ah, hell knows. Gorbachev decided so. The roof of the hangar fell on the last finished copy of the Energy rocket. No one had the idea of launching it with a payload! In this case, the ship Buran was killed. The remaining two finished copies of the ship were lying unattended until they were taken to museums. As a result, everything was closed, everyone was gouging, everyone was abandoned. Well, of course, Russian history began. There were many projects based on the Energia rocket, none of which took place. Not one decade they built the Angara rocket, in the end ... it does not fly. Either too expensive, or not done. They promised an analogue of the Zenit rocket to replace the Soyuz rocket, which they called the Soyuz-5.
But in general ... You yourself understand. In fact, it simply does not exist. They began to make a new reusable ship "Cliper", which even in the form of a model was taken abroad to the exhibition.
But ... it is clear that. A worthy place in the museum. Then they rushed to build a new ship, the Federation, an analogue of the American Orion, ours are no worse than them! Allegedly on the basis of widespread use, the backlog from the Cliper project, which in fact is not used at all, seems to be still being done. It seems to be. But under it, the Soyuz-5 rocket was planned, which is not there. In general, everything is clear. Again, all the same astronauts going to the Soyuz rocket, as they did 50 years ago.
Perhaps the Americans were doing better? Alas. After the Apollo program ended, which not everyone understood, decided to invest in the Space Shuttle project.
It was built, and for a long time it worked properly. But disappointment was caused not only by the low safety of the ship: two of them crashed with the death of the crew, but the limitations of the program itself. She did not go beyond the low Earth orbit, and closed mainly on the operation of satellites. There were flights with the Spacelab orbital module, but they were one-off. Neither a new program for long-range interplanetary flights, nor its long-term space station. But they announced with fanfare the large-scale program "Constellation", which promised flights to the moon and asteroids, the creation of a "space frontier" from inhabited vehicles. At the exit from it there was almost nothing left. They made a manned ship "Orion", which flew so far in unmanned mode. And ... in 2011, Shuttle flights stopped. Moreover, recent expeditions on it due to the collapsed support infrastructure have become quite a risky business. Replaced by a logical nothing. America, proud of its breakthrough in landing a man on the moon, was left without its own transport spacecraft. This caused a feeling of national shame, so immediately began four projects of such ships: Ilon Mask's Crew Dragon, Starliner from Boeing, Dream Chaser and Orion. Fourfold reservation! But such a breakthrough would be appreciated in the Soyuz-Apollo era, not now. An ordinary ordinary transport ship for delivering astronauts into orbit is slightly better than Soyuz.
They will tell me, what about the ISS? This is a huge orbital station! Such a large-scale project! Joint with Russia!
Everything is simple. Initially, a permanent composition of 12 crew members was planned on it. And large-scale research. But then something went wrong. As a result, 3 astronauts are sitting there, as on the Salyut in Soviet times. Sometimes 3 more arrive, but not for long. All the same that was in the 1980s in the Soviet space program, all the same stagnation. Again, no one understands what they are doing there! Many times the question was raised, stop the ISS program as unnecessary, and nothing! As a result, it is by and large no longer interesting to anyone and is spending budget money on the space program. It seems that this is generally the pinnacle of the development of mankind, it’s such a huge, era of stagnation, Salyut flying around the Earth, it is not clear why. And that’s all. Further they are not capable of anything. It seems that they now want to build an orbital station around the moon. I would welcome such a breakthrough with applause, but somehow I already have little faith. Break off many times. All the time, it would seem to be held ... But for some reason, problems again. It is necessary to throw everything away and start over.
Yeah, there is China with its great plans to land a man on the moon. But there's a problem. His manned space program is exactly repeating so far the USSR program of the 1980s. All the same "Salute", but called differently.
There is an edge question: where is the promise of this?
Okay, not to the stars, to the planets why not go? So much talk, and there’s nothing to come out of. It’s clear that it’s difficult. It’s clear that it’s expensive. But before, somehow it didn’t scare anyone. And did not stop. On the contrary, it seems to have spurred on! And now there is full realization that there is a deep stagnation from which no one can escape.
We finally come at all to the most important question often asked by ignorant people. Do we need a space program in general? Like, a human needs a human, and all that. In fact, of course, space exploration is an expensive and complex undertaking. And it is not always clear what is the specific benefit of this.
Firstly, it is an important and indicative symptom of the level of development of the people and the state. If there is a blockage in cosmonautics, then stagnation and decline in the state, which is very clearly seen on the example of the USSR.
Secondly, because space is interesting! On Earth, we have already visited everywhere, we have seen everything. And there are many things that none of us saw. You won’t meet this here! After all, brave people conquered the mountains, other continents, the north and south poles. For some reason it used to be! And now for some reason it is not necessary.
Thirdly, the direct benefits of space exploration may not yet be obvious. It was the same with the Arctic north of Russia, for example. Enthusiasts sought to go there, sometimes they died, often in terrible conditions. And nothing! Few people understood then how this could be beneficial. Driving simple curiosity. Then it turned out that a direct passage through the Northern Sea Route is more profitable than around India and China, and it is strategically important for the country. And later it became clear that the shelf is full of oil. The same thing can happen with space. Now it is not obvious why this is necessary, just curious.
Fourth, resources on Earth will sooner or later be depleted. Ecology is already deteriorating, and it may someday turn out that there is no way to live on this planet anymore. It’s necessary to relocate somewhere. But interstellar flights are a very difficult thing, and you have to start small, the sooner the greater the chance of success. In addition, there may be aliens with whom mutually beneficial contacts may arise.
But with this approach, it already seems that our civilization will not be able to go anywhere further than the Salyut program of various sizes. And there is simply no clear explanation for this.