Encyclopedia Astronautica
1968.01.23 - Three-launch Soviet lunar expedition pitched


The 'big' Soviet of Chief Designers meets and the three-launch landing concept developed a month earlier is presented in detail. Pilyugin pointed out that this was a typical contradiction. Mishin had just made a presentation to the expert commission justifying that the one-launch scheme was safe and reliable. Now they wanted to put forward a new scheme because the one-launch scheme was unsafe and unfeasible.

Glushko piled on by reiterating that the Kuznetsov engines for the N1 were rotten and the effective payload of the N1 was actually zero. The engineers had admitted as much by now saying they needed three launches to accomplish what they said could be done in one launch before. Chelomei was opposed to the new scheme as well. He did not want to see the subject of the design of the lunar spacecraft opened up again. Yangel was also not tempted by the scheme. All at the meeting agreed - Mishin was unable to cope with such development work.

Andrei Grechko was categorically against the three-launch scheme. There was no money in the budget of the Ministry of Defence for such an enterprise. It was only due the political machinations of Ustinov that the Ministry of Defence even ended up paying for such nonsense. This whole programme was a matter for the Academy of Sciences and their budget. The defence department had no need for the moon. He pointed out that here they were again, arguing about whether it was necessary to go to the moon or not - the same argument as five years ago with Khrushchev, and still not resolved. There was no money spent for the N1 until the end of 1964. Now the Ministry of Defence had built the rocket, the buildings, the spacecraft, and trained the astronauts -- and they were still arguing whether to go or not, together or alone, and asking now for even more money.

It was the same situation as with the ICBM's. Despite enormous efforts, the Americans still had more. Instead of building a single reliable model, they were now deadlocked, arguing whether to build Chelomei or Yangel missiles, and now Ustinov was supporting Nadiradze's designs! The decision to go to the moon or not, he declared, rests with Deputy Minister of Defence Andrei Grechko.

Tolubko, First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Missile Forces, said that the generals were exasperated. Here the Minister in charge of the Soviet ballistic rocket and space industries, Afanasyev, must decide first on these more pressing ICBM issues, and you're wasting your time talking about lunar problems. Let Keldysh fund this work himself from the Academy of Sciences budget. Keldysh should go and talk to the Politburo. The problem was not only technical, but political.

But who would want to be the bearer of such bad news? No one volunteered. The meeting was inconclusive but clearly showed the lunar program had no priority. Pilyugin was a creative individual, but he was concentrating on the Temp mobile ICBM, not the lunar project. Chelomei and Yangel both said that their ICBM projects were more important than the lunar program. The military had made it clear that the first priority at TsKBEM was the RT-2 ICBM, not the lunar program. This Nadiradze missile would be developed into a whole series of missiles that would serve Russian into the 21st Century - the Temp, Temp-2S, Pioner, Kuryer, Topol, and Topol-M. Pilyugin was under different reporting lines than the other designers. He was directly controlled by the Ministry of Defence with an absolute priority on missile guidance systems. Keldysh was preoccupied with the Sakharov issue and was working with Suslov to get Sakharov expelled from the Academy of Sciences. Such political issues had higher priority for him than the lunar program.

The meeting degenerated into a session where everyone harped on the failures of the L1 programme. Pilyugin pointed out his guidance system worked perfectly on Zond 6 - only to have the parachute fail at the end of a voyage to the moon and smash the capsule.

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