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Racing to the Moon

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From 1958 through 1976, the Soviet Union sent automated explorers that circled, landed on, and roamed about the Moon. Three robotic craft even gathered samples of lunar soil and brought them to Earth. Yet the U.S.S.R. never announced its intent to land a cosmonaut on the Moon.

With the end of the Cold War, Soviet plans to send men to the Moon have come to light. Newly released diaries, technical documents, and space hardware offer glimpses of the U.S.S.R.'s ambitious manned lunar program. A prototype lunar space suit shows that the Soviets really were serious about landing on the Moon.


Rocket engineer Vasily Mishin served as deputy to Sergei Korolëv in the Experimental Design Bureau, working closely with him on many space projects. When Korolëv died in 1966, Mishin became Chief Designer and inherited responsibility for the Soviet manned lunar program.

From 1960 to 1974, Mishin kept private diaries detailing the day-to-day workings and decisions of the Soviet space program. The plans and personalities behind this secretive program come alive in these remarkable notebooks.

Reproduced pages from the fragile diaries are presented here.

Portrait courtesy of RSC Energia

Portrait of Mishin
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In a 1965 entry, Mishin summarized upcoming Soviet space activities in which the design bureau would play a leading role. He mentioned military satellites, space stations, space planes, and various activities on the Moon. He also listed many of the items and operations needed for a manned landing on the Moon, including special tools, maps, and space suits.

Courtesy of The Perot Foundation

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In 1967 Mishin recorded the space achievements planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. A manned flight around the Moon and a test of the N-1 Moon rocket are on the list.

Courtesy of The Perot Foundation

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In a 1968 diary, Mishin listed the cosmonaut candidates for three major spaceflight programs: Earth orbital, circumlunar, and lunar landing. The list includes Aleksei Leonov, Konstantin Feoktistov, and other engineers and Soviet air force pilots.

Courtesy of The Perot Foundation

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As early as 1960, Mishin recorded that Korolëv was very disappointed by debates and government delays in adopting a master plan for long-term scientific space exploration, including human flights to the Moon and Mars. The Soviet decision for a manned lunar program came after the United States had set the ultimate goal in the Space Race--landing a man on the Moon.

Courtesy of The Perot Foundation

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