Russia Declassifies Remarkable Never Seen Before Documents About the Space Race

  • The second launch allowed the Soviets to take an emblem to the moon.
  • The Soviet Government ordered Project E (the moon launch) and it was approved by the Politburo on March 20, 1958 under the code number 343-166.
  • Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, while visiting the US, gifted US President Dwight Eisenhower with a copy of the emblem that was taken to the moon.

The Soviet/Russian space agency Roscosmos has declassified important documents containing information about the race to the moon. The release is timed to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first trip to the moon.  The never seen before documentation contains engine specifications and analysis as well as the original thoughts and data of the Soviet engineers and designers.

The first apparatus launched on January 2, 1959 was “Luna 1.” That was followed by the launch of “Luna 2” on September 12, 1959. The second launch allowed the Soviets to take an emblem to the moon.

Sergei Korolev was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer during the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. He wrote, “Our plans for the Moon research are enormous. We plan in the near future to launch a permanent automatic research station, which will be able to maintain contact with the Earth, as well as sending a man to the moon. [translated]”

The Soviet Government ordered Project E (the moon launch) and it was approved by the Politburo on March 20, 1958 under the code number 343-166. Soviet engineers were given a hard deadline to launch by October, 1958.

The mission was accomplished and Yuri Gagarin was the man sent to the moon. Gagarin was a Soviet Air Force pilot and cosmonaut who became the first human to journey into outer space, achieving a major milestone in the Space Race.

A declassified letter containing the design characteristics references the 8K71 base. The version of the R-7 rocket that was destined to carry the first satellite into orbit was designated 8K71PS. Nevertheless, two designs were developed for the carrier and they had two different engine models.

Additional details include original flawed calculations and recalculations of the flight dynamics, as well as concerns about the flight trajectory around the moon and a collection of images of the moon.

The document release contains a thesis entitled “Sample project of the rocket” authored by Sergei Korolev that includes engine variants, technical specification issues and descriptions of the research equipment.

The Soviet government also issued an order dated October 9, 1958 under the code N1127-544. It included:

  • Approval of using the R-7;
  • The date of October 12, 1958 for launch of Project E;
  • Preparation for the third Project E launch in November, 1958;
  • A December, 1958 launch of 2 to 3 R-7 rockets and one Project E, if needed;
  • An outline of the importance of responsibilities between government entities for the launch sections and the infrastructure.

There is also a first report after the launch from January 17, 1959. Soviet engineers sent up apparatus E-1 which was a sphere container with equipment inside to measure the pressure of the magnetic field, the intensity of the cosmic radiation (gamma), the components of gases, and to register micro meteors.

A letter dated November 26, 1959 outlines projects for further space explorations including: the design of the new rockets to reach Mars (Project M) with an estimated date of September 1960; Venus (Project V) with an estimated date of January 1961; and an automatic scientific station to the moon (Project E-6) in 1961.

Lastly, Roscosmos released the preliminary report of the data analysis gathered from the launch of 8K72-L1-915 on April 1960.

E-1 successfully reached the moon on September 15, 1959. In April of the next year, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, while visiting the US, gifted US President Dwight Eisenhower with a copy of the emblem that was taken to the moon. The gift was meant to symbolize friendship between the two nations in space and on Earth.

The space missions continued into the current century and hopefully one day all these documents will be declassified too.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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