12 April 2010, 15:15

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky - founding father of cosmonautics

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky - founding father of cosmonautics

This year marks the 49 th anniversary of the world's first manned space flight, which was accomplished on April 12, 1961 by Yuri Gagarin. The way for this fantastic event had been paved by the outstanding Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a schoolteacher from a small Russian town of Kaluga.

This year marks the 49th anniversary of the world's first manned space flight, which was accomplished on April 12, 1961 by Yuri Gagarin. The way for this fantastic event had been paved by the outstanding Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a schoolteacher from a small Russian town of Kaluga.

"Humanity will not remain on Earth forever; in its quest for light and space it will timidly overstep the limits of the atmosphere, and then conquer the entire Solar system, - said the founder of cosmonautics Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. In his time, in the late 19th century, this sounded as a fantasy, as a utopia. However, what fed the inventor's mind all his life with scientific fantasies. They were the motive power, which led him on his road of scientific discoveries despite all the trials and tribulations. And they were numerous. At the age of 9 Tsiolkovsky contracted scarlet fever and as a result of which he lost hearing almost completely. The misfortune played a great role in the formation of his character. It taught him to overcome every obstacle that confronted him. But it also turned him into a shy and reserved person.

His poor hearing made his studies at school difficult, he heard almost nothing of what his teachers said, so he turned to books, which became his best friends and teachers. At the age of 23, having passed the necessary exams, he received the right to teach mathematics at school. His modest earnings enabled him to do what he wanted - to engage in scientific research. What interested him particularly was aeronautics. Spending his salary almost entirely on instruments and reagents, denying himself even decent food, he made amazing discoveries. Back in 1887, when no one heard about cars, when air flights seemed utopian, Tsiolkovsky worked on a project for building an airship with a metal hull. The provincial teacher no one had heard about made a sensational report at the Moscow Polytechnic Museum. However, few people took his project seriously. Those who were capable of helping Tsiolkovsky implement his ideas simply failed to notice him. Moreover, they preferred to turn to foreign investors.

Tsiolkovsky went on with his work. He was interested in airships that were heavier than air. He made a drawing of an aircraft in a form of a bird or beetle, with its propeller in its front, with its gasoline engines instead of muscles, with wheels instead of its tail. His aircraft was streamlined - the form airplanes got only in the 1920s. He described how it must take of the land.

His further research brought him to a remarkable discovery; he devised a wind tunnel without which aircraft building was unthinkable. A similar wind tunnel was used after him by the brothers Wright in America in 1902.

Tsiolkovsky was referred to as an eccentric, as a dreamer. Ordinary people could not understand the man who forestalled his time, who already thought of space flights. Back in his youth he said that the universe was inhabited by other higher life forms, not only by humans. And the time will come, he said, when humanity will carve its way to other planets. "The thought of communicating with outer space has never left me, - Tsiolkovsky wrote. According to him, that was an inherent inclination of his mind that was always with him. He even wrote a science-fiction novel, which described a universe inhabited by amazing asteroid dwellers.

Once he read a booklet by a St.Petersburg inventor about flights into the atmosphere. Like the apple that had nudged Newton toward discovering the law of gravitation, the booklet gave Tsiolkovsky the idea of building a spacecraft capable of flying into interstellar space. He engaged in mathematical calculations, which brought him to his unique invention - the building of a rocket. Tsiolkovsky put the date of concluding his calculations as May 10, 1897. He did not realize that this stated his precedence in scientific space research.

Unfortunately, this discovery as hundreds of other works by the brilliant scientists remained either unnoticed or ignored. But Tsiolkovsky continued to work in the hope that the future generations would appreciate him.

"The main task of my life is not to waste time, let humanity move forward, - Tsiolkovsky wrote. - That is why I am interested in what yields neither bread nor strength; nonetheless I hope that my works will give society heaps of bread and bottomless powers maybe soon, maybe in the remote future."

Tsiolkovsky's hopes materialized. His scientific discoveries were recognized in his declining years, in the 1920s and 30s. His works laid firm foundations for developing rockets and space machinery, and secured for this country a breakthrough into outer space. A Russian citizen, Yuri Gagarin, became the world's first cosmonaut.

 

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