Encyclopedia Astronautica
1968.12.30 - Meeting of the VPK Military-Industrial Commission to discuss how to beat the Americans to the lunar landing


Ustinov called the meeting to order. Mishin was 'sick' again -- Okhapkin represented TsKBEM and gave a summary of the programme to that date:

  • The project had only been authorised on 3 August 1964. It consisted of two parts, circumlunar flights using Chelomei's UR-500K booster and LK-1 spacecraft, and a lunar landing using Korolev's N1 booster and L3 spacecraft.
  • On 25 October 1965 the programme was redirected. Military support was ordered and the decision was made to cancel Chelomei's LK-1 spacecraft and instead use the L1 version of Korolev's Soyuz for the circumlunar flights. This was ordered by the resolution 'On organisation of construction units for support of rocket-space systems for the lunar flyby'. That resolution ordered a manned L1 flight by the end of 1967 or early 1968.
  • The program actually took three years to implement rather than the two planned. Nine launches of he L1 had been made since March 1967, but it had not been possible to man-rate the UR-500K/L1 booster/spacecraft combination due to failures in both the launch vehicle and spacecraft. Flight trials of the N1 booster had not even begun yet.

Keldysh proposed that further work on the L1 be abandoned, and Proton boosters instead be used to launch the Ye-8-5 lunar soil return robot spacecraft being developed by Babakin. Babakin had been accelerating this programme since the beginning of 1968 with the support of Keldysh, even though it would only return around 100 g of lunar soil, versus the tens of kilograms the Apollo manned flights would return. However it now offered an interesting possibility - he proposed obtaining lunar soil and returning it to earth before an American manned landing. The government's organs of mass communication would say that the Soviet Union's lunar program only consisted of robot probes, emphasising that his was much safer and that Russia would never risk it's citizen's lives for mere political sensation.

This seemed attractive, but how could the direction be changed? The L1 and L3 projects were enshrined and funded in the state's Five Year Plan, and could not be simply abandoned or altered. It would be necessary to obtain approval of the Central Committee, the Soviet Ministers, the Military-Industrial Commission, and other involved ministries. This was simply not possible, and it would be impossible to keep the planned deception secret. New decrees would have to be formulated and approved to change direction. This had been done before, by Korolev in 1961, but it was no simple task. Pilyugin again reiterated that all of the state's priorities in any case must remain on development of solid propellant ICBM's.

More... - Chronology...

Home - Browse - Contact
© / Conditions for Use