Blagov2012 year marks the 35th anniversary of the launch of Salyut-6 space station.

The living legend, the person has been the deputy flight director during the period of 1972 to 2005- V.D. Blagov recalls this event in your life. 

The interview is conducted by Oleg Volkov, deputy head of the Great Start project.

 

V.:Today the guest of the Korolev’s Planet web portal is a living legend, who has been the deputy flight director during the period of 1972 to 2005, and who is at present the Chief Expert of the Science and Technology Center for spacecraft flight operations, Victor Blagov.

Good day, Mr. Blagov!

B.:Good day!

V.:This year marks the 35th anniversary of the launch of Salyut-6 space station. This space station represented an new fundamental achievement of Soviet space flight. What was its basic difference from the first-generation space stations? Who was the author of the concept of this station? 

B.:You are correct in saying that it was a second-generation space station. And it deserved such a designation, because it was radically different from the first-generation space stations. There were several such differences and the most important of them was: for the first time two docking ports were available as opposed to Salyut-1 and Salyut-4, which only had one docking port, and there was an unmanned cargo spacecraft Progress which was added to the station to provide logistics support to the space station mission. 

Those were two important steps forward. There were some other differences as well. For example, Salyut-6 was equipped with an airlock. The airlock made it possible to dispose of the crew waste and failed hardware, and later on it was used as a tool of science to expose to vacuum some samples of structural materials. 

The next difference, which was also important, was that it operated in orbit for more than four years owing to fact that logistics support technology had been raised to a new level. As compared to the earlier space stations, there was really a great leap forward in the number of expeditions to this space station. There were five long-duration expeditions lasting from ninety six to virtually one hundred eighty days. It was the first station where a manned mission lasting half a year was accomplished. We all know that nowadays this is the standard mission duration widely used on ISS. 

It was on this station that the Interkosmos program originated, where the missions involved participation of cosmonauts from the socialist countries. Altogether, there were eleven such missions: out of which three missions were with participation of Soviet cosmonauts and eight with participation of cosmonauts from socialist countries. It was such a significant advance in the development of space stations. 

It is noteworthy that the mission of this station was a great success. There were virtually no contingencies of the serious type, the ones that could have resulted in a disaster or could have stopped some operational activities. It should be noted that, just as on the earlier space stations, the manned flight was not continuous. Expeditions had to be stopped. We’ll probably talk about this later and I'll explain the reasons for this. So these are the major differences of a second-generation space station for the earlier stations Salyut-1 and Salyut-4

V.: Mr. Blagov, you said that there were five long-term expeditions, and as for the visiting missions, and it was the first time that there were missions of this kind, there were eleven of them. How were the programs for each mission prepared, because you know, both kinds of missions: both long-term expeditions and visiting missions, each had their own unique programs? 

B.:Yes, because it was for the first time tat the crews were in orbit for so long, and there were so many crews visiting the station. It’s only natural that each crew, or, what we now call expedition, had their own program. And it would not be too immodest to say that each program was unique. At the time there was still considerable interest in scientific research in space. Scientific equipment for long-duration expeditions was well prepared, and each visiting mission also had its own program, which was different from the program of the expedition. 

When foreigners went on a visiting mission, each country submitted its own unique program, which it considered necessary to carry out in orbit. That’s why the work onboard the station was so varied and so interesting. Each country had some very original experiments. Although there was later some talk that the foreigners did not do anything and were sort of guinea pigs. This is totally untrue. This is just explained by the fact that these statements are made by people who never had anything to do with these matters and are trying to make their appraisals of the great events from hearsay. I believe that this is not correct. Way back in the past, Yaroslav Golovanov, who had been an employee of our company, and then chose to become a journalist, and turned out to be a talented journalist, one of the respected figures in space journalism, tried to write very objectively and very correctly. He once said that you should only write about those events that you witnessed or participated in yourself. All the rest is not journalism, it’s just retelling of what somebody else told you. And this may result in errors and misrepresentations. I like this statement very much. And I try to follow it, and I wish all journalists look up and read it more often. 

V.: Mr. Blagov, you said that Salyut-6 gave rise to international space flight. Today, international cooperation in space is viewed as something that is matter-of-fact and natural. The International Space Station – the name itself refers to an international experience. But back then, what did international cooperation with socialist countries, with scientists from abroad represent for you and for other employees of the company? Was it useful, was it interesting? 

B.: Like any new thing it was interesting, and, naturally, it was useful, because such cooperation means, first of all, pooling together contributions to the science program, and secondly, sharing experiences and mutually enriching technologies. We were, of course, two steps ahead of all our partners under the Interkosmos program, but, nevertheless, they also contributed some innovations of their own. 

In each visiting mission involving a cosmonaut from a socialist country we did not want the mission to be empty, we tried to make it full. That’s why their science programs turned out to be fairly solid and serious. Later on we even used some of their scientific equipment and some of their technologies for conducting scientific experiments in order to conduct experiments in the interests of the soviet space science. 

V.: In other words, their scientific equipment remained onboard the space station? 

B.: Yes, the most valuable and advanced equipment stayed on. The procedures for conducting experiments on it, and all the instructions that were developed during preparation for these missions, were also used by us afterwards. It is only natural that, as participants in the mission control process, we were interested in observing how the others go about it, not only us. Although, as I have already said, we had had a much wider experience, we, nevertheless wanted to learn from other countries' experience. 

V.: The mission control was conducted in Russian. How did you communicate with cosmonauts from abroad? Did all of them know Russian well enough? Was it sufficient for their training? Were there any mutual misunderstandings or some funny incidents?  

B.: Everybody knew Russian, because it was a mandatory subject on the training program. Not all of our cosmonauts knew the languages of their partners and colleagues from socialist countries. But of course, the Russian these participants in the visiting missions spoke was not perfect. I can remember one incident V.N. Kubasov had with Farkas Bertalan. During descent on parachute, Kubasov briefed Bertalan as follows: “At some moment in time I’m going to tell you – brace yourself, that is, tense your muscles, grab hold of the handrails, and get ready for an impact when we hit the ground. As soon as I tell you this, do all these things.” The touchdown occurs without any command coming from Kubasov, who was the commander. A fairly hard impact occurs when the ground is hit. Bertalan sustains a minor injury and says: “So, now tell me – brace yourself!” But that was not because he did not know Russian. It was just that the crew were given incorrect local altitude for setting up barometrical relay, for setting the touchdown time. 

V.: That is, Kubasov had not prepared himself either? 

B.: But it was not his fault, because we uplinked to him incorrect data about the landing site altitude. As a result, the touchdown occurred earlier than the arrival of the impending touchdown alarm from the barometric unit. 

V.: Mr. Blagov, you mentioned that the entire mission of Salyut-6 was virtually free of off-nominal situations. It is obvious that space technology was already fairly mature. But nevertheless, the scientific equipment was still one-of-a-kind, it was delivered for the first time, were there really no contingencies involving scientific equipment over the several years of Salyut-6 operation? 

B.: Why is it that some people believe that scientific equipment is not prepared as thoroughly as the systems equipment is? It may not have the same level of redundancy, its operational reliability may not receive the same amount of attention. But I can’t remember any major problem with scientific equipment. 

We did have some contingencies involving systems equipment. In particular, we had to replace a pumping unit in the thermal control system. At that time we had to interrupt flights to the station and send a special crew, with special technical training and special hardware and tools. And they replaced a leaking pump in the hydraulic system. This was a fairly serious contingency which resulted from the long duration of the mission. 

Afterwards we had similar problems on Salyut-7 and on Mir when the mission duration was continuously increasing. Such systems as hydraulic systems in thermal control were acting up. This also contributed to the reservoir of experience. We knew how to do this, although the system was not designed for the removal of a pump unit and for installing a new pump unit. Everything was welded, all the joints were weld joints. Afterwards, they started building everything with hydraulic connectors and replacement became fairly straightforward. In that particular case we had to saw off “live” lines with coolant inside, install adapters, pressurize them. In a word, everything had to be improvised in-orbit, after the necessary spares and tools had been delivered onboard. 

Each contingency has a silver lining. We learn new repair technology, which is aimed, for example, at extending the service life of a device, a system, or the space station itself as a whole. This procedure, this technology was used afterwards and is still in wide use today. Because it was a big problem – extending the service life from, let’s say, half a year of Salyut-1 to four and a half years of Salyut-6. A whole series of new technologies had to be invented, a whole series of measures had to be provided, which, in particular, included measures like repair and replacement of devices, repair of equipment onboard the station. 

V.: In this connection I have a question: the Salyut-6 mission could be subdivided into two phases – manned flight and unmanned flight. What were the distinctive features of controlling the manned flight as opposed to unmanned flight? Why was it that having analyzed the experience of Salyut-6, eventually, they came up with the idea that a manned mission needs to be continuous? 

B.: Actually, they had entertained such an idea as early as during preparations for the launch of Salyut-6. But that implied a whole host of problems, making the five-year manned mission to the space station continuous. This requires long preparations and adequate support. That was one of the reasons why there were gaps between expeditions to the station. There were several reasons. 

The second reason, in order of importance, in my opinion, is the prodigious number of transportation spacecraft required for the continuous mission of the space station. Even as it was, there were five expeditions, eleven visiting missions, twelve Progress spacecraft. It was not so easy for our company's plant to cope with all of this in just four years. That was the latest achievement in production, at that time it was already serial production, of the spacecraft. For the first time we started on serial production. 

The second time when we had to solve a similar problem was when we had to increase the crew onboard ISS to bring it up to six. The logistics support was the responsibility of the Russian side. At that time we had to ramp up spacecraft production once again. To achieve this, special workshops were constructed, workforce was hired. That wasn’t a simple process, it wasn’t easy to tackle. 

And thirdly, I would say, it was the first time we were overwhelmed by so powerful a stream of results. The large number of expeditions, the large number of the pieces of equipment, the large number of experiments by itself resulted in great mounds of telemetry on that subject downlinked to Earth. These had to be processed. We needed to separate the wheat from the chaff. We needed to draw conclusions as to what was to be the next step, which experiment was more promising, or wasn't needed, or would be needed in the future. For this, we needed time. 

I think we did the right thing when we made some stops. As a result, as far as I remember, one third of the space station flight was conducted in manned mode, and two-thirds in unmanned mode. We needed time to think, to come up with a new program, to replace the equipment, to wait for some research institutions, which were preparing new, more advanced equipment, etc. Those were the reasons why the space station couldn’t be and wasn’t fully manned throughout its life in orbit. 

V.: Were there any particular issues associated with station flight in unmanned mode? Some of the space station systems were deactivated, but it still continued its flight and had to be controlled. 

B.: We have just discussed the reasons for adding unmanned portions to the space station flight plan. Of course, as it always happens in life and technology, there are some pros associated with the introduction of these unmanned portions, but there are some cons as well, which is only natural. In order to prepare for unmanned flight, the station needed to be deactivated, which required some time: to remove the crew from the station, to prepare a new expedition, to prepare new hardware, to once again deliver the crew to orbit with a new scientific program, to reactivate the station, spending more time on this, and continue the flight. First of all, time was lost on deactivation/reactivation. 

V.: Was the time loss high? 

B.: Somewhere around a week. If you are serious about de-activation, it takes about one week to do it, and one week to bring it back online. If you factor in the cost of one hour of crew time, this represented significant financial expenditure. 

And, finally, the unmanned portion of the flight presents one more aspect or even a danger. Our manned spaceflight philosophy emphasizes unmanned mission control, and unmanned operation of hardware, without involvement of the crew. To be more precise, manned flight, but without crew involvement. The presence of the crew makes it possible to provide redundancy for virtually every function. That was the underlying philosophy. 

Man provides backup for all automatic functions of the station in orbit. Thus, we have a redundant system for reliability assurance. It naturally follows from this that the reliability of the mission itself gets higher than in the case of purely unmanned flight, or just manned flight without automatic equipment, which is, of course, hard to imagine. 

We adhere to this philosophy to this day. It has proven its worth over many years. Despite the fact that it requires additional expenditure, it turns out to be worth it: automatic dockings were backed up with manual dockings, and even Progress – unmanned spacecraft – could be docked both in automatic and in manual mode using a special teleoperator control system. 

V.: That means that cosmonaut provided a second control loop and additional redundancy, there was no need to triplicate automatic systems. The crew could always replace a failed device? 

B.: Yes. 

V.: In this connection, I would like to discuss in more detail the role of Progress spacecraft. It may seem now that the only function of Progress was to deliver cargoes. But if there were many Progress missions, the question of where to store all these cargoes arises. I think that the airlock chambers were not always capable of coping with the waste disposal task – while the cargo spacecraft, being multifunctional, was used for many tasks. Could you please tell us more about the tasks the Progress was performing on the station? 

B.: Overall, I have a very positive opinion of Progress spacecraft. It turned out to be a very good design, fairly inexpensive due to many reasons: first of all, it used a lot of heritage designs and instrumentation from Soyuz. We didn't have to include long developmental testing in this process. Although, it took five years to get from the preliminary design to the first flight of Progress. Generally speaking, the deployment process took more time than we would like it to. There were good reasons for this, because it included the world’s first refueling system. Nothing like this ever existed before. 

V.: Automatic refilling with fuel in space? 

B.: Refilling in space with fuel, with gases, with water. All of this was for the first time introduced in the first Progress spacecraft. All of this had to be first tested on the ground to make sure that everything would work without a hitch. Thanks to such an approach, we are happy to count as successful all the Progress missions that ever flew to Salyut-6, Salyut-7, Mir and ISS.  

This is one-of-a-kind one hundred percent spacecraft success rate. Not a single spacecraft, except the one recently lost during ascent to orbit, never had a contingency where it would fail to dock with a space station. What does this fact tell us? It tells us, that a very reliable logistics vehicle was developed. 

In addition to this, the spacecraft also helped to remove from the station used-up equipment, and get rid of crew waste. Its cargo compartment, after it has been cleared of all the delivered cargoes, is filled with what might be called “trash”. The space station was no longer overwhelmed with all this trash. It was impossible to squeeze it through the airlock, which was mentioned above, it was impossible to do, just physically impossible. This is an element of logistics – not only delivery, but also removal of unnecessary things. Both these functions were performed by Progress in an outstanding manner. 

In addition to this, it was capable of reboosting the space station orbit. The orbital altitude needs to be continuously maintained by performing burns to raise the orbit, since atmospheric drag at different altitudes results in different ∆h – ranging from a hundred meters per day to seven hundred meters per day, depending on the altitude. The daily orbit sinks down and, naturally, it had to be raised to assure a long life in orbit for the space station. 

Assuring the long life for the space station was also the task of Progress. Without this, there would have been no long-duration missions. And finally, having performed all the above tasks, it undocked from the station, stayed for a week or two, for a month, or even for several months more in orbit, performing scientific experiments in free flight, maintaining communications with the ground, since it had its own data transmission equipment, and equipment for controlling it from the ground... 

In the final report and in the book about space station Mir we referred to this spacecraft a Jack of all trades. It was capable of doing everything, and still does it to this day. It was designed as a one-of-a-kind optimal tool in terms of both size and reliability. 

When we were asked by the Europeans to analyze their preliminary designs for the European Automatic Transportation Vehicle (ATV), we, for a certain fee under the contract, prepared, in cooperation with the design service, three volumes of the report. One of the volumes was prepared by Mr. Brukhanov – analysis of the required up and down cargo traffic. Designers prepared a volume on the Progress design. Systems engineers prepared a section in the Design volume on the Progress systems and functions. Mission Control prepared a volume on the Progress flight control. We recommended adding to ATV very many of the achievements, solutions and innovations first introduced into Progress. A lot of these recommendations were accepted and are still used to this day. 

Some were not. But them being the customer, it was up to them to decide. For example, they didn’t install the Teleoperator Control System (TORU). It improves the reliability of the unmanned spacecraft docking by controlling it via an RF-link from the space station. They used to use this method to land flying targets for shooting practice, which some rookie pilots failed to shoot down. So as not to waste this target and be able to use in the next training session, they launched a special airplane with an RF link. This airplane, while landing itself, also landed this target so that it could be re-used. The TORU (Teleoperator Control mode) enabled us several times to salvage the cargo delivered by Progress. Whenever the automatic system failed, the docking was performed using the manual TORU system. 

I think that Progress hasn’t yet said its last word. It is still going to do some useful work both for science and for logistics. Let me remind you, that it used to have cargo return capsule Raduga. When the question of recovering from the station photographic and research materials arose, the recovery capsule Raduga, which became a part of Progress, was developed, built and went into operation. It used to be delivered by Progress, filled with materials slated for return, and installed into the docking assembly. After Progress undocked from the station and performed a de-orbit burn, the capsule was ejected from the cargo compartment of Progress. Having its own heat shield, it performed an independent atmospheric re-entry and parachuted to landing. In this way we recovered certain materials. In particular, virtually all the film canisters, very bulky, from the MKF camera made in East Germany, a one-of-a-kind 6-channel still camera, were recovered using this capsule Raduga. Even today it makes sense to remember its (Progress’ - ed.) former achievements and make full use of them. ISS still doesn’t use its capabilities to the full extent. 

V.: Mr. Blagov, in your foregoing answer you mentioned the effect the Progress design had on the European cargo vehicle, but what about the effect of the successful mission of Salyut-6 on the subsequent space program of the Soviet Union? 

B.: It was very extensive. It laid the foundations for carrying out a long-duration mission and delivering cargoes using Progress. And, as you know, all of this is currently in use. Space station refueling, which is fairly important. All the preceding stations, which didn’t have a second docking port, could only work until they used up their initial propellant supplies. After that a perfectly healthy operational station had to be deorbited. As soon as we came up with the design of Salyut-6 supported by Progress, this ailment was remedied. This made it possible to operate stations for indefinite periods of time, for example, Mir was in operation for fifteen years. ISS is already approaching this milestone thanks to this capability pioneered by Salyut-6

First international missions, if we do not count in Apollo-Soyuz as an international mission, we are now talking about space stations only – it was the first space station where the process for setting up international missions, which included scientific experiments, was first tried out. This process has now matured to such a degree that now we are working with our partners in the ISS as equal partners – we provide backup to each other for different support functions, we back up each other for crew capabilities: Both our crew, and US crew, and Europeans, and Japanese.  

This is a live process, it grows and evolves in our further work in orbit. And those first lessons in friendship between nations and peoples, which were first learned during Soyuz-Apollo program and Salyut-6 program, have now born fruit, making us real partners. We have no organizational issues when working jointly, for example, with NASA, with JAXA, with ESA. It’s part of our treasure trove of experience. It is widely used in these activities. When multiple countries are involved in work on one vehicle, and this is already applicable to Salyut-6, an additional effect is produced. When resources and innovations are pooled together, when the crew time is pooled together, we have a very significant positive effect.  

In addition to this, as one American said in response to the question about the most important achievement of the joint work onboard ISS: “According to American tradition, considered as the most important achievement is development of new technologies. We, thanks to your training, training at your facilities, captured the technology of long-duration missions to the station”. This is considered to be a very valuable thing. These technologies include techniques for coordinating all the subcontractors, production management, training management, mission control management. All of this as a whole is what they call the technology of long-duration missions. We have mastered all of these. This is a very valuable thing. In addition to this notion, with which I am completely in agreement, we've got a chance to use resources of many countries, and simply enjoy human friendship. This may turn out to be even more important, then the first achievement, when we invented the technology. Although, in principle, this could be considered a part of the technology for long-duration missions. 

Of course, the current experience of ISS tells us that we must not lose the experience which has been accumulating since Salyut-6. If we are going to do some advanced work in the future, such as: A mission to the Moon, a mission to Mars, a mission to Jupiter, to asteroids, wherever, I think everybody now understands that such missions will have to be international. There are only pros, and I can see virtually no significant cons. Therein lies the value of the first experience in setting up international missions to Salyut-6. We let everybody see, without, maybe, seeing it themselves at the time when Salyut-6 was in orbit, that we were doing something really big, something which would live on. Regardless of all the twists and turns in our relationship with US government, the ISS program holds us all together and makes us always solve problems together to everybody’s satisfaction. This is a very big achievement, a very big plus of joint programs in space. 

V.: Mr. Blagov, you mentioned that it was on Salyut-6 that a six-months mission was carried out for the first time, which is now considered a normal mission duration. Were there any peculiarities in this mission? How difficult it was to prepare? Was there any resistance, or was there a shared desire to carry out such a mission? Who participated in this mission? 

B.: As for resistance, according to Newton’s law, every action always produces a reaction. This is a law of nature. We cannot say whether it is good or bad. Naturally, this mission required that a rescue spacecraft should stay in orbit for 180 days. It was not capable of doing this. Its service life was 90 days. The spacecraft had to be rotated. Thankfully, there were visiting missions, which came on a new spacecraft, and left on the old spacecraft, leaving the new one for the continuing mission, to stand by in orbit in case the crew would need to be rescued. That was one problem. 

The second problem was, of course, the work of the crew. It is clear now that the first month, or, maybe, a month and a half, the crew goes through an adaptation period, when their efficiency is lowered. The human body goes through some readjustments, certain indisposition, motion sickness, and just staying in an enclosed volume, which is purely psychological, but it needs getting used to, you need to have robust nervous system. 

Staying with the same people in what cosmonauts call the “barrel” is something that for some of us is not easy even here on Earth. Here on Earth you may decide to take it easy, go fishing, have a drink, talk with your friends. Up there it is impossible. That was also a big problem – switching to long-duration missions. That is why the increase in duration was very gradual, deliberate, unhurried. As a result we have arrived at this “routine” mission duration, which is currently used one hundred percent. A why didn’t cosmonauts fly for longer periods? That’s just a property of human body, it just gets tired of doing one and the same work. It happens just after four or six months, that's the first thing. 

Secondly, the body continues to experience irreversible changes, regardless of the preventive system developed by medicine to keep the crew fit in zero gravity. These changes are not stopped, they are just slowed down. The body mass does continue to decrease. Changes in cardiovascular system do continue. There are probably some changes in the mental state. Because, if you remember, after their mission to Moon some of the US astronauts turned to religion. It means that something changed their mental state, they quit astronautics and turned to religion. We encountered all of these problems, when we started to try to increase the mission duration. And, as everybody knows, we have the experience. When Polyakov stayed in orbit for virtually a year and a half, he had one advantage – he changed the crews all the time. He changed the crews three times. He had different people up there all the time. Psychologists tell us that any team, any crew must consist of at least three people. If you have a squabble with one man and don’t talk to him, you can talk with the other one. But if there are only two of you, you retreat into yourself. This is bad for your state of mind, and your performance goes down. Nothing good would come of it. That means that we must have a team of three. 

But these are not all of the problems during a long-duration mission. One could also mention the problem of organizing the work of ground personnel in all the groups. As Americans say, you need to control the mission 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. You need to organize the work of the personnel on the ground: Transportation to MCC, lunch break, sleep break, transportation back home, etc. – without loss of performance, without loss of alertness. This we also had to deal with. An operator goes to sleep with open eyes staring at the screen continuously showing normal parameters. We even had to come up with some artificial distortion of the parameters to keep the controllers awake. We seem to have finally managed to solve this problem. The attention does not wander during a 24-hour work period. 

By the way, such schedule is the achievement of the Salyut-6 team. We tried to operate on an eight-hour day basis, just as they do it abroad. We tried twelve-hour day, sixteen-hour day – we tried everything. We tried a 24-hour working day. We tried all four work schedules. We finally settled on the 24-hour day, regardless of the fact that it is difficult from the physiological standpoint. The medical community agreed, taking physiology into account, provided the controllers will have three days of rest after that. We do provide three days of rest. Psychologists Okayed it, the trade union Okayed it. But from the standpoint of technology this is a great advantage. We managed to arrange the working day schedule in such a manner that operators are actively working during the crew’s waking hours: control the mission, analyze system operation, do some planning. When the crew retires to rest, LOCT (Lead Operations Control Team) personnel prepare the program for their next shift, the one that will take place in four days time. On the fourth day after these three days a controller comes back to work and picks up a program that he himself prepared earlier. He doesn’t need to waste time on familiarizing himself with this program, on studying its features. He has prepared all of this for himself earlier. 

First of all, no time is lost here. This (loss of time – ed.) is fraught with errors and off-nominal situations. Here you have nobody to blame for any faults. You did all of this yourself. So, if you made a mistake once, next time do it for yourself as best you can. This is a great advantage of the 24-hour schedule, which originated on this vehicle (Salyut-6), and which we are still using. It is not used anywhere else in the world: either in aviation, or in NASA in mission control, or in Europe. 

This is a sort of our know-how, just as the permanent winter time is. Both in command and measurement complex and in MCC we never switched to daylight saving time in summer. We always operated on winter time. All the other industries did switch. But now, thank goodness, everybody arrived at the conclusion that time should never be changed. But for some reason they settled on the daylight saving time, rather than on our MCC time. We proposed to legitimize our time as the national time. This would be a source of certain pride for us, MCC employees, to know that our time became the national time. It used to be the national Decreed Time in the past. It got its name from the fact that it was instituted by a decree signed by Lenin. That means that MCC operates in accordance with Lenin’s decree, at least as far as the time scale goes.  

V.: Mr. Blagov, in conclusion, we would like to hear you say that Salyut-6 was so successful because it adopted everything that had been the best in the earlier stations. That is, it was a second-generation space station. There was an experience of conducting first missions of orbital stations. At the same time, Salyut-6 incorporated those innovations, which are still working to this day. How do you view future development of the Russian spaceflight, what needs to be done so as not to loose those achievements that have been accomplished by now? What are we to discover and operate in the future, where do we go from here?  

B.: Where do we go from here? This is a very difficult question. Great scientific minds are thinking about this: scientists, top managers. And we still do not have an unequivocal answer to this question. I think, speaking in general terms, that we need to try to go back to the early years of our company in space. From the launch of Y.A. Gagarin, work with Vostok and Voskhod spacecraft to unmanned spacecraft to Mars, Venus and Moon, when the company was headed by S.P. Korolev. When each mission, each new program must be a giant leap forward as compared to the previous one. What we do today is routine controlling of ISS. There are many people for whom this may not be very interesting. But this is a necessary part of any process. Routine work is always present in any process, but it mustn't be the only part of the process. 

There must be some innovations, some interesting proposals, some exciting, breakthrough ideas. You may remember that there was an opinion expressed at our company that we should go to the Moon to mine helium-3 there. This idea seems to have some merit. There is something new here, something which didn’t exist before, something promising. I don’t know, I’m a scientist. I don’t know to what extent that was right. Some people said that this statement was not quite correct. But it seemed to me that it is not so. There seems to be some homespun truth to it. 

Maybe we should organize a manned mission to Mars. So that this idea could capture imagination not only of the RSC Energia team, not only of the population of Russia, but also of the populations of many countries, ideally, of the entire planet. If we make it the task of the entire mankind, this will somewhat ease military conflicts, draw the funds away off arms production, etc. There are only positive sides to it. But we need a breakthrough idea. We need an exciting task, which would mobilize multitudes of people. For now, the options are being weighed and examined. I think, sooner or later, in a few years time, we will eventually make our choice. Americans have also been shifting from one foot to the other, figuratively speaking. At first Bush junior proposed to return to the Moon. Then new President Obama came to power. He terminated this program. In his opinion the mission should fly not to the Moon, but to asteroids: To study what kind of bodies they are, to master landing on small celestial bodies. This is also quite a challenge. Having achieved that, one could fly even further – to land on the satellites of Jupiter, on the satellites of Saturn that are not too large, etc.  

That’s the philosophical approach to further advance into space that is currently being advocated. At the same time it will help to develop technologies for deep-space missions, not the one to Earth orbit, but to deep space. As I was saying earlier, new technology is one of the most important achievements in any activity, any program. If we master the technology for deep-space missions, we will be able to fly to Mars, to Moon, to Jupiter and to Saturn. Wherever we need to. What we need is a clearly defined task. Flying just for the sake of flying is also good. This implies thirst for knowledge, for new data. But that is not enough, because one would have to spend a tremendous amount of money in order to fly to, for example, Mars. We need some other component in addition to the thirst-for-knowledge factor. Maybe some material gain, maybe some discovery, solution to the energy problem on Earth. This might be a solution to the problem of saving the humankind in the distant future, when some cataclysm may occur to Earth. Some thing of that kind must be included in the ideology of the program. 

So, to sum up my answer to the question where we are to fly now – I don’t know.  

V.: Mr. Blagov, summing up our discussion, I would like to note that you were correct in saying: 

it is the collective mind, the collective discussion that assure the success in such a complex field of activities as space flight. It is possible that in our country which has a long tradition of all the decisions being made by the highest officials, we need a public council for space under the President of Russia. If such a council is established, we would all like to see you, as a man who was one of the originators of Soviet and Russian space flight, also participate in it and submit your proposals as to the direction in which Russia should develop as a great space power. Thank you very much. 

B.: That’s an interesting idea. You know that such a public council exists in Russia for other affairs. I suspect that it also includes a space component. But let’s wait and see how it works. It’s a complex institution, it has not yet evolved, it hasn’t yet started working. Maybe your proposal will turn out to be useful, but it needs to be tried out on something. 

V.: Because, you know, it seems to me that you cannot make a behind-the-scenes decision about the direction in which such a huge country should move. You cannot make such a decision for everybody, for all the population of the country for many years into the future. We need a prolonged discussion between leading specialists, general public and the top officials. We need this to be open and accessible, we need a consensus. When we have a common decision, then we’ll have general enthusiasm, and the wish to implement it. Together we’ll overcome everything. 

B.: The idea in itself is good. I would go a step further and propose establishing an international public council for space under the aegis of the United Nations, so that it would determine the direction in which humankind should move in space, what steps it should take together. Now, that would have been a global system, which would have been ideal. We always need to strive for the ideal. It cannot always be reached, but we need to strive for it. That’s the kind of council that would have been of tremendous benefit, in my opinion. I would be happy to take part in its proceedings. 

V.: Mr. Blagov, we wish you that your dream come true. We wish you further success in space exploration, good health and all the best! 

B.: I do have a dream. It’s an old dream, but it still survives. I would like to see with my own eyes the launch of a manned mission to Mars. I’m often asked by journalists when the mankind will fly to Mars. Nobody knows the answer. Whomever they ask, nobody knows. I tell them: you are lucky, you found the man who knows exactly when this is going to happen. “Oh, that’s interesting, when?” And I tell them: January 3, 2036. “How could you calculate such exact date?” I’ll be exactly 100 years old on that day. 

V.: It’s absolutely true, its’ like in the case of Nikita Simonyan. When he learned that Russia has won the right to world championship, he said: I’m happy to have lived long enough to see the day! But now I’ll need to live long enough to see that day”. 

B.: Yes, yes, yes. That’s the good thing about the dream, that you want to live long enough to see it come true. I hope this will be helping me. Maybe this will happen earlier. 

V.: But at least that’s the deadline. The one that you’d prefer. No later than that date? 

B.: But after that the freshness of impressions is lost and there is no sense to drag it out any longer. Before or on that day. That would be great. 

V.: Thank you, Mr. Blagov! 

 

Интервью с В.Д. Благовым (част...
Интервью с В.Д. Благовым (часть 1)
Интервью с В.Д. Благовым (част...
Интервью с В.Д. Благовым (часть 2)

Орбитальная станция «Салют-6»....
Орбитальная станция «Салют-6». Конструкция и научная программа». Центрнаучфильм. 1979

 

 

 

 

Международная космическая станция Автоматические космические системы logo fka eng baner rsc-eng "Морской старт" и "Наземный старт" "Морской старт" и "Наземный старт"