Rockets and Postage Stamps
Vladimir Lositsky, historian of Russian aviation and cosmonautics, director of the Cosmonaut Serebrov Foundation
Based on recollections of Korolev’s employees Nikolay Efremov (GIRD) and Arvid Pallo (Reaction Engine Institute)
At the beginning of the 20th century, there was no other person in Russia who was as obsessed with the idea of space expansion as Tsiolkovsky. He considered space settlement — population of outer space — the ultimate goal of the human race. What Tsiolkovsky called settlement was not the colonization of the surface of other planets, but rather the construction of giant inhabited space stations (ether cities) in interplanetary and interstellar space.
Until he was 39, Tsiolkovsky was hardly interested in rockets. As a writer and visionary, he concerned himself with space utopias, as a scientist, was engaged in aerodynamics and aeronautics. In 1896 a brochure by the Russian inventor Alexander Fedorov A New Principle of Aeronautics was published. It contained a description of a rocket engine that used the propulsion force of the exhaust gases to move the rocket ahead. After reading the book, Tsiolkovsky realized that rocket propulsion was the force that could be employed to carry out space projects.
On May 10, 1897, Tsiolkovsky derived a formula that bears his name today. It establishes the relationship between the speed of the rocket, velocity of the exhaust gases, weight of the rocket, and weight of the fuel. In 1903 he published his most famous book Exploration of Outer Space by Means of Reactive Devices where he quite accurately envisaged the outward appearance and some design features of future space rockets. Eight years later, in the second part of the book, Tsiolkovsky presented the calculation of the speed required for the rocket to overcome the earth’s gravity force.
In 1904, 17-year old Friedrich Zander, a final year student of the Riga Technical High School read the article by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Exploration of Outer Space by Means of Reactive Devices and on his own carried out trajectory calculations for a flight to Mars. Since then, he became totally absorbed by the idea of interplanetary flights.
In 1912, Zander was one of the first to invent a multi-stage rocket with detaching stages. He left a record of that in his diary, though it didn’t seem possible to transcribe the record until very recently.
At an inventors’ conference in 1921, Zander presented his design of an engine for an interplanetary spaceship. In 1924 he published his article «Flights to Other Planets» in the Technology and Life journal and lodged a patent on his invention, a winged rocket. By 1931 he built and tested his first veritable rocket engine.
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