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Every Soviet schoolchild knew about Tsiolkovsky, but his works themselves were not included in the list of compulsory literature - there were too many ideologically wrong thoughts. What is the mere idea of the spirituality of the cosmos worth? But if it were not for the scientist's desire to erase the border between the living nature of man and the dead matter of stars, astronautics could appear decades later.
Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was born on September 5, 1857, in the family of a small local Polish nobleman. His father early in his career served as an official in the Department of State Property, and then taught natural history at the gymnasium. The personal fate of the future great scientist cannot be envied: he has repeatedly lost his family and friends. At the age of 9, while sledding in winter, he caught a cold - and as a result of complications, he almost lost his hearing. During this period, which Tsiolkovsky called "the saddest, darkest time" of his life, he first began to show an interest in science. True, due to deafness, studies were given to him with great difficulty - already in the second grade he became a second year, and in the third he was expelled for academic failure. Tsiolkovsky could have become a parasite, a cripple, but his natural talents did not allow him to sink: books became his friends. The boy, cut off from live communication with others, studied independently. “Deafness makes my biography uninteresting,” he later wrote, “because it deprives me of communicating with people, observing and borrowing. My biography is poor in faces and collisions."
The physical ailment sharpened the boy's interest in silent objects. “But what did deafness do to me? She made me suffer every minute of my life spent with people. I always felt isolated, offended, outcast with them. It deepened me into myself, forced me to seek great deeds in order to win the approval of people and not be so despised. " But even deafness could not protect the boy from the pain of loss: the death of the favorite of the whole family - his older brother Dmitry, who studied at the Naval School, and an even more cruel blow - the death of his mother, became a blow to him. Locking in on himself, Kostya made complex machines - a home lathe, self-propelled carts and steam locomotives, invented a winged machine that could fly through the air.
The father, who saw that his son showed great promise, decided to send him to study in Moscow. Kostya studied with copper money - he had neither tutors, nor the opportunity to buy expensive books for himself: every day, from early morning until evening, he disappeared at the Chertkovo public library - the only free library at that time in Moscow. The teenager himself worked out a schedule of classes for himself: in the morning - exact and natural sciences, requiring concentration, then journalism and fiction - Shakespeare, Turgenev, Lev Tolstoy, Pisarev. It took Konstantin only a year to study physics and the foundations of mathematics, and three years to master the gymnasium program and part of the university program.
Alas, this was the end of the teenager's education in the capital - his father was sick and could not pay for his living in Moscow. Kostya had to return to Vyatka and look for a job as a tutor. Surprisingly quickly, he recruits a lot of students - the original visual methods, which he himself invented, quickly brought him the fame of an excellent teacher.Despite the fact that fate continued to strike - his younger brother Ignatius soon died, with whom they had been close since childhood, Konstantin continues his independent studies in the local library. In 1878, the entire Tsiolkovsky family returned to Ryazan, where Konstantin Eduardovich passed the exam for the title of teacher at district schools and was assigned to the small town of Borovsk, Kaluga province. Here, teaching arithmetic and geometry, 12 years of his life will pass, here he will meet his future wife, Varvara Evgrafovna Sokolova.
A bleak reality many years ago pushed Tsiolkovsky to the dream of heaven. “People huddle on their tiny planet, rejoicing over small successes and grieving over small failures, and there is a whole unknown world right over their heads. Climbing into heaven and starting to study this world is only hindered by the force of gravity. - Tsiolkovsky perceived the gravity of the Earth as a thick wall, a shell that prevents the inhabitants of the planet from getting out of a closed egg. - In order to break through this wall, you need a battering ram. If we manage to make a hole in it, we are completely free and can travel in airless space - to other planets and star systems."
Aeronautics then took only the first steps - the balloons were uncontrollable and gave the flight the character of a senseless wandering. The main hopes were pinned on controlled balloons - airships, which did not differ either in strength or durability: their rubberized shells quickly wore out, began to lose gas and led to a fall. The scientist set out to develop a metal controlled balloon - and began to work, having neither books to help him, nor familiar engineers who could assist him in his work. For two years in a row, Tsiolkovsky worked on calculations and drawings early in the morning, before leaving for work. And although he felt severe headaches for a whole year after that, he achieved his goal - he published the essay "Theory and Experience of a Balloon with an Elongated Shape in the Horizontal Direction", which contained a project of a huge cargo airship with a volume of up to 500 thousand cubic meters - one and a half times more. than the famous "Hindenburg". True, Tsiolkovsky failed to captivate the public with this project: not a single Russian entrepreneur dared to build this technically perfect apparatus.
Dreams of Earth and Sky
Meanwhile, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was already aiming even higher - straight into space. The dream of conquering outer space in those days occupied many thinkers, but how exactly the spaceships should be put into action, no one could say. In the science fiction novels created at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, we will see a wide range of opinions about which method will allow controlled vehicles to leave the gravity of the Earth: Jules Verne launched his travelers into space with the help of a huge cannon, Herbert Wells - with the help of a fictional metal capable to shield the "rays of gravity", other writers used mysterious, unknown forces of nature. All this was suitable only as a literary device, but not as a guide to action. In order to "break through the wall" Tsiolkovsky was first going to use centrifugal force - having risen above the Earth and developing a tremendous speed, the apparatus would make circles over the planet until this force would throw it out of the Earth's gravity. However, the calculations carried out by the scientist showed that such a machine would be impossible.
“I was so excited, even shocked, that I did not sleep the whole night, wandered around Moscow and kept thinking about the great consequences of my discovery,” Konstantin Eduardovich later wrote. - But by morning I was convinced of the falsity of my invention. The disappointment was as strong as the charm.This night has left a mark on my whole life: 30 years later, I still sometimes dream in my dreams that I am going up to the stars in my car, and I feel the same delight as on that immemorial night."
The idea of jet propulsion was first expressed by him in his work "Free Space", written by him in 1883, but the scientist was able to substantiate it only 20 years later. In 1903, the journal "Scientific Review" published the first article by Tsiolkovsky, dedicated to rockets - "Exploration of world spaces by jet devices." The main topic of the article was the project of a spacewalk using a liquid-propellant rocket: Tsiolkovsky explained the principles of rocket takeoff, its movement in airless space and its descent to Earth. The general public did not pay attention to the first part of the article. The book "Dreams of the Earth and the Sky", published a little earlier and devoted to the same issue, caused frank mockery from critics: "It is difficult to guess where the author is thinking seriously, and where he fantasizes or even jokes … are sufficiently substantiated, but the flight of his imagination is positively irrepressible and sometimes even surpasses the nonsense of Jules Verne, in which, in any case, there is more scientific substantiation … ".
It took another eight years for the author to gain recognition - the second part of the article was published in the journal "Bulletin of Aeronautics" in 1911-1912, which was printed from issue to issue, and it was noticed by engineers and popularizers of science. Over the years, the public woke up interest in flying machines - the construction of balloons, airplanes, airships was rapidly developing, and the continuation of Tsiolkovsky's work was no longer perceived as an empty fantasy, but as a completely real project. All-Russian fame finally came to the scientist: they wrote about him, readers sent him letters.
We, people of the secular era, are accustomed to the fact that the starting point of the researcher is pure scientific, materialistic interest. This was not the case for Tsiolkovsky - his engine was religious philosophy: the personality of Christ was of great importance for the scientist, whom he recognized not as a god, but as a great reformer who strove for the good of all people. The scientist considered this goal the most important for himself: in his books he outlined a grandiose plan for the reorganization of the Earth. So, in his work "The Future of the Earth and Humanity" Tsiolkovsky predicted many promising ways of developing technologies - in particular, solar energy.
“Solar energy is lost very insignificantly, passing through the thin transparent cover of greenhouses, - Tsiolkovsky described the world of the future. “Plants recycle more than 50% of solar energy, as they are intelligently selected and have the best conditions for their existence.” Konstantin Eduardovich even foresaw solar batteries, although without informing the principle by which they would work: “solar engines in a cloudless sky, utilizing 60% of solar energy, and on average will give about 12 kilograms of continuous work per square meter of soil. This work is more than the work of a strong worker."
Tsiolkovsky became a preacher, as they would now say, terraforming - changing the appearance and natural conditions of the planet. Our Earth, as conceived by the inventor, was supposed to turn into one huge cultivated paradise garden: people would divide it into plots and be able to cultivate their allotments with maximum efficiency. By changing the composition of the atmosphere, smoothing the relief of the Earth, it will be possible to establish an optimal climate for agriculture on the entire planet, turning hot and dry regions into temperate and humid and slightly warming even the polar zones. Wild and useless species of animals and plants will die out, and only domesticated ones will remain, the scientist predicted. Someday humanity will multiply in such a way that it will not be enough what the earth gives it, and then it will even sow the oceans.
But even this well-organized and optimized world will one day become cramped for intelligent beings.Tsiolkovsky's words are widely known that humanity will not always remain in the cradle - on Earth. The thinker believed that people would populate space in the same way as they once settled on the surfaces of the planet. However, he believed that at the same time a person would hardly retain the previous physical appearance - in order to inhabit other worlds, people would have to turn into another form of life, consisting of radiant energy. This is a natural step in evolution, which, as Tsiolkovsky believed, develops from simple forms to complex ones. The human body is not adapted to live in space without a spacesuit - it needs oxygen, pressure, food sources, protection from solar radiation. Having become a structure consisting of radiant energy, a person will be able to maintain himself, feeding on the light of the stars. Tsiolkovsky believed that other races already exist in the Universe that have already reached this state - immortal and perfect "gods" control the movement of suns, nebulae and entire galaxies. It is curious that 100 years later, similar ideas were developed by another prominent scientist and visionary Arthur Clarke, who believed that people, while exploring space, would first move their minds into machines, and then into structures consisting of energy and force fields.
To some extent, the Universe itself - the same stars and galaxies - is capable of thinking and feeling. “I am not only a materialist, but also a panpsychist who recognizes the sensitivity of the entire universe. I consider this property to be inseparable from matter,”wrote Tsiolkovsky. The scientist believed that if the Universe is alive, then there is no death - and this is probably what allowed him to put up with the tragedies that continued to happen in his life: in 1903, his son Ignatius committed suicide, and in 1923, another son, Alexander.
A dream come true
The October Revolution gave a new impetus to Tsiolkovsky's work. For the first time he received state support - in 1918 the scientist was elected a member of the Socialist Academy, and in 1921 he was assigned an increased personal pension. They began to listen to Tsiolkovsky's ideas at the government level, the central newspapers wrote about him. And although Konstantin Eduardovich did not escape the fate of a Soviet prisoner - in 1919 he was held in Lubyanka prison on an incomprehensible charge - he highly appreciated the role of the new government in making his dream come true.
Tsiolkovsky's phenomenon is that he dreamed and worked in an impoverished and devastated country - in the Soviet republic, which suffered from the civil war, which lost millions of people due to fratricidal massacre, hunger and epidemics, when industrialization was just beginning. It was still strange to talk seriously about space flights - the development of airless space existed only in dreams: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky worked as a scientific consultant in Vasily Zhuravlev's film "Space Flight". But Tsiolkovsky became a trendsetter in the study of jet propulsion and rocketry: in the first half of the 30s, circles of enthusiasts began to appear throughout the country, launching their own models of rockets. And very soon this mod will lead to the launch of the first real spacecraft. If it were not for Tsiolkovsky, there would be no Group for the Study of Jet Propulsion, created by Korolev and his associates.
Tsiolkovsky's greatest scientific achievement is the substantiation of jet propulsion as the only way to overcome gravity. In addition, he was the first to propose using a diamond-shaped and wedge-shaped wing profile for airplanes with supersonic speeds, at that time there was no need to talk about such speeds, and this discovery found application only 70 years later. In addition to the project of an all-metal airship, the scientist developed the world's first project of an air-cushion train, proposed using guides to launch rockets - this discovery did not find application in the construction of space rockets, but was successfully used in military missile systems.Tsiolkovsky has discoveries in physics and biology: independently of other scientists, he developed the foundations of the kinetic theory of gases, laid the foundations for a new section of theoretical mechanics - the mechanics of bodies of variable composition, and submitted a number of valuable ideas in the field of studying living organisms.
In 1932, when Tsiolkovsky turned 75, the memorable date was celebrated in Moscow and Kaluga, and the government awarded the scientist the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for "special merits in the field of inventions that are of great importance for the economic power and defense of the USSR." On September 19, 1935, Tsiolkovsky died. Shortly before his death, the scientist wrote in a letter to Stalin: “Before the revolution, my dream could not come true. Only October brought recognition to the work of self-taught: only the Soviet government and the party of Lenin-Stalin provided me with effective assistance. I felt the love of the masses, and this gave me the strength to continue working, already being sick. " The body of the great Russian thinker was buried in the Zagorodny Garden of the city of Kaluga, and the soul is probably still looking at our tiny ball from distant stars.