Sputnikfest 2014


Rahr-West Art Museum - click HERE for more info!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father’s Day
As with most of mankind’s great achievements, many people played a role in Sputnik’s success, but Sergei Korolev has often been referred to as the “Father” of the Sputnik project.    
Sergei Korolev was a licensed pilot and an aircraft designer who excelled in the skills of design integration, organization and strategic planning.  He was the man behind the scenes responsible for much of the success of the Soviet space program. 

During Stalin's 1938 Great Purge, he was accused of plotting against the government and imprisoned in a Siberian gulag – a labor camp prison from which 30 percent of those imprisoned did not survive.  Korolev survived, but lost all of his teeth, suffered a broken jaw, and developed a heart condition. Eventually, he was moved from the manual labor camp to a special slave-labor camp where scientists and engineers worked on projects assigned by the communist party leadership.  Later he was discharged by special government decree and his prior convictions were dismissed.
Along with other experts, he worked to reverse engineer the German V-2 rocket technology after WWII.  His contributions to that effort led to the successful R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile, the workhorse of the Soviet space program.  Korolev played an active role in the Soviet space effort from the early days, right up through the manned program.
In his memoirs, Nikita Khrushchev’s son recalled how his father learned about the successful launch of Sputnik I.  The Soviet leader was having a late reception at the Mariinsky Palace, in Kiev, Ukraine, when an aide called him to the telephone.  Khrushchev reappeared minutes later, "with his face shining":
I can tell you some very pleasant and important news, Khrushchev said, Korolev just called (at this point he acquired a secretive look). He's one of our missile designers. Remember not to mention his name - it's classified. So, Korolev has just reported that today, a little while ago, an artificial satellite of the Earth was launched." Father looked triumphantly around at those present. Everyone smiled politely,
without understanding just what had happened."

Sergei Korolev died January 14, 1966 at the age of 59, of complications from ailments contracted during his incarceration at the gulag prison camp. 
Before his death he referred to publicly only as "Chief Designer" and his actual identity was kept secret.  This was partly because in the Soviet system all successes were to be seen as a product of a committee, rather than the contributions of any one man, and partly because the Soviets feared an attempt on his life by the CIA if his identity were revealed.  American intelligence did not learn his identity until about a year before he died – and his identity was not revealed publicly in the Soviet Union until after his death.
And Then We Have "Father Sputnik"
While researching this post I found a reference to a rather intriguing painting by California surrealist artist William Stoneham, titled "Father Sputnik, 2010" - here is a link to a website featuring some of his work.  Check the Sputnik logo on the car's hood - and the Sputniks falling from the sky and piled up in the background. 

Happy Father's Day - and see you for Sputnikfest on September 7, 2013!

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