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Out of the far desert, the stars became visible

Out of the far desert, the stars became visible

Writer Sergei Litvinov - about the history of Russian cosmodromes especially for EastRussia for Cosmonautics Day:

- When the Baikonur cosmodrome was being built, it was neither a cosmodrome, nor Baikonur. Modern man, who did not live in the USSR, to understand this is difficult. Therefore, allow me, I will tell the background. In a nutshell.

When the Second World War ended, Stalin did not have to look for a new enemy for long (after all, an external enemy perfectly mobilizes society). Yesterday's allies — the American imperialists and the British militarists — perfectly suited the role of sinister adversaries. And, to the heap, German revanchists.

To defeat new enemies, new weapons were required. Moreover, the enemy already had it. Nuclear bomb. In order to create and test it, in impoverished, half-starved post-war Russia, nothing was spared. Any materials, any means. The few "ordinary people" who happened to see HOW those who made the bomb lived luxuriously did not come out of shock for many years. But the pressure from the authorities on the nuclear scientists was serious. Comrade Beria, who was in charge of the atomic project, knew how to frighten. As a result, by the mid-fifties, the USSR already possessed hundreds of atomic charges.

There was another problem: how, in which case, the deadly weapon to deliver to America, maliciously hiding behind the ocean? Soviet military bases around the US can not be created. There were no allies there in the fifties. And then the missiles said their word. Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, already done by that time ware, Capable of flying to Berlin and London, promised the military to create a missile that could reach the US. And bring to New York with Washington thermonuclear charge.

However, such a rocket had to be tested first. On our territory. And this required a landfill. And in 1954 (there is no missile yet) a top secret resolution was adopted on the construction of a test site where that missile would be tested. We considered several options for where to stay. Including - Dagestan, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The spent stages would then fall into the Caspian. Few rocket men admitted to the choice of the future point lobbied for this place: "Imagine, comrades, we will go to Mineralnye Vody for the weekend!" But the management did not approve the point. They said in a whisper: they say, because there is no trust in the mountaineers. But in fact, the rocket required an additional three guidance stations located at strictly defined points. In the case of Dagestan, these stations would be in inaccessible mountains. The funny thing is that in three years the rocket Brought, that is, improved, and the station is no longer needed.

As a result, the Kyzyl-Orda region was chosen as the base for the landfill. In 1954, even in a nightmare, no one would have dreamed that someday this point would be on the territory of a foreign state, and Russia would have to pay billions of rubles annually to independent Kazakhstan for it. By the way, the Kazakh authorities did not want a landfill on their land at that time. Let it be a desert, let it be deserted areas, but who wants to give a huge piece of their land to someone else's department? And - a characteristic detail - Sergey Pavlovich Korolev went to Alma-Ata to persuade the leadership of the Kazakh Central Committee. He was then nobody in comparison with the Kazakh bosses. He did not work in the Central Committee and not in the Ministry of Defense. Simply - the head of one of the secret design bureaus (of which there were many in the country). But - I went and sought meetings. And in the end - persuaded.

In January 1955, the first builders appeared near the Tyuratam junction in the desert (this year we should celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Baikonur). The construction of the Ministry of Defense's Research Test Range No. 5 has begun - or, as it was called for greater secrecy, the Taiga facility. There is not too much evidence of how the landfill was erected (the habit of secrecy fettered the lips of the majority), but enough.

They come to me like that. In the summer of 55, Marshal Nedelin arrived at the construction site. Together with the generals, they sat in a marshal's car, driven into a dead end. And the heat in Tyratam in the summer is terrible, and there were no air-conditioners, even in the marshal's cars. And now the general gave the order that the soldiers - the construction battalion workers - should pour buckets of marshal on top (how the soldiers themselves escaped from the heat, history is silent).

And another thing: the training ground (military unit) included units located in Kamchatka. They had to track the fall of the head parts of the missiles that had flown by the 8 thousand km, and to search for them. Officers were transferred to Kamchatka with their families (with the consent of the families, of course). There were no roads (and no). During the summer, before the beginning of the thaw, the military had to equip their duty station, housing and way of life in the remote taiga. Closer to the fall, the first head of the landfill, General Nesterenko, flew in with the inspection. I was amazed: the wives of the officers even lived in tents, but managed to boil up the jam. And they asked him only about two things: to organize the supply of vegetables, namely, onions, cucumbers and potatoes. And also, at least once every two weeks, to deliver and collect mail.

The first launch pad, which was erected in the steppe in Tyuratam, was called the "stadium" among themselves. But it surpassed any stadium in volumes. The pit was as long as two and a half football fields, as wide as the field itself and as deep as a fifteen-story building. And after all, they built more than one start: another assembly and test building, an oxygen plant, test points, a village - along with a hospital, schools, kindergartens and a department store. More than 12 thousand people worked - mainly construction battalions, who had to be brought to the heart of the desert, and there to be accommodated, fed, taken to the bathhouse ... It was said that in the summer of 56, trucks were in a continuous stream across the desert, all with their headlights on , because in the dust they raised, it was impossible to breathe, not to make out ...

As a result, the pace of construction turned out to be phenomenal, unseen for us today. Agree: in 55 there was a bare steppe, and two years later, in May 57, the first Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from there. A combat missile designed to scare the Americans.

However, if not for Korolev, not for his rare passion, romantic focus on the stars, natural magnetism and organizational gift, NIIP-5 in Tyuratam would forever remain, I am convinced, just a top-secret military training ground. They would test "the latest weapons" there (as reported by TASS), that's all. However, Sergei Pavlovich knew in advance: if the R-7 rocket he invented (or, affectionately, the "seven") can carry a thermonuclear charge weighing five tons to Washington, it means that it is capable of launching an artificial satellite into Earth's orbit. There was little left to do: to design this satellite. And - to push through the decision to launch it in the higher echelons. The latter turned out to be clearly more difficult than the first. But Korolev, as an experienced courtier, managed not to irritate the military and, as a result, received permission from the Central Committee to fly.

And on the evening of October 4, 1957, the first Earth satellite flew into orbit from the NIIP-5 test site. In the very first days in the USSR, this made, of course, an impression - but not deafening. The TASS report on the launch of the satellite into orbit - yes, it was published on the front page of Pravda, but somehow modestly, in a corner. But the whole world just went crazy. The only talk about the "Russian rocket" was on the front pages, on radio and television. I think that had this apparatus turned out to be American - or, say, French - the reaction in the press would have been ten times weaker. Like: well, yes, I flew - so what? But here's what the apparatus was Soviet - everyone, of course, was stunned. How?! The USSR, crushed by the recent war - a country where there are no normal roads, there is not enough food and clothing - and suddenly did something like this ?! The impression on the world, I think, was comparable to what North Korea would have now declared (and proved) that it had reached the center of the Earth. Or created a time machine.

And the leadership of the USSR then, in October 57th, saw what a powerful propaganda weapon peaceful space can be: "Let Washington call us bast shoes Russia - today we launched over five tons of bast shoes!" And he ordered not to spare money for space.

Russia was very lucky that two amazing romantics met in life, and both managed to break through to the heights in their business - Korolev and Khrushchev. And they found each other. In the memoirs of Boris Chertok (long-term deputy of Sergei Pavlovich) there is such an episode: they are driving a car through the range. Construction is raging all around. And Chertok begins to complain: that is not enough, it is not going well. And the other - to him: “Come on, Borya! - And he put his arm around the picture of the colossal construction site. - Just look at what a huge deal we are promoting!

When Gagarin first flew into space, the Soviet propaganda machine played the event in full. Then, in 1961, the unknown secret NIIP-5 turned into a "cosmodrome". And it was named Baikonur - in the Soviet tradition, everything is kept secret and encrypted, because the real village of Baikonur was 400 km from the launch of the rocket.

After reading hundreds of documentary volumes about the history of space exploration, I am sure on 100, 200, 300 percent: if Sergei Pavlovich Korolev had not been there, the first satellite would not have been Soviet. And the first cosmonaut would not be ours. In the end, perhaps, the history of not only cosmonautics, but humanity would have gone the other way. Yes, the Americans would launch the first satellite of the year in 59. Then they slowly, valyazhnenko, would fly to orbit to the end of 60. But there was no space race between the USSR and the US, which means that there would be no conquest of the Moon (which they started solely to wipe our nose).

But the story went the way it was. The companions of the Queen thought that in 2015 the man was already flying to Jupiter, not to mention Mars. However, human utilitarianism once again won romanticism.

And this is what space has become for us now? He - what? Propaganda? Show? The science? Part of ambient comfort? Navigation for gadgets? The ability to watch the championships live? Track down terrorists?

I don’t know about you, but for me every rocket takeoff - as well as the Baikonur cosmodrome and the Vostochny one under construction - are living monuments to Korolev and thousands, tens of thousands and millions of his unknown associates: designers, engineers, scientists, workers. And the military, of course - who built and managed the NIIP-5 training ground for dozens of Soviet years.

In addition, let's not forget that the only rocket that is now able to launch astronauts into orbit is the very royal "seven" (with improvements and modifications, of course), which once sent our first satellite and the first astronaut into space.

Almost sixty years have passed, the Cadillacs or victories of the time were long ago written off. And she flies all the time.

Sergey Litvinov is the author (together with his sister Anna Litvinova) of over 50 novels and seven collections of stories, published with a total circulation of over 9 million copies. The last two novels, The Confessions of a Black Man and The Heart of God, are based on real events and are dedicated to the times when the Soviet Union made its first space launches.

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