Konstantin Tsiolkovsky – Founding Father of Astronautics

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Monument
(1857 – 1935)

On September 17, 1857, Russian and Soviet rocket scientist and pioneer of the astronautic theory Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was born. He is considered to be one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics and contributed to the success of the Soviet space program.

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was home schooled and spent most of his free time reading and solving problems in mathematics and physics and around his teenage years, the curious Tsiolkovsky started thinking of time travel concepts in these years as well. His fantasy was almost unlimited, he came to think that the colonization of space would result in immortality and the perfection of the human race. Like many other scientists, Tsiolkovsky was inspired by the futuristic fiction stories od Jules Verne. Built on his stories’ foundations, the engineer designed and theorized lots of space travel occasions and rocket propulsion wherefor he is considered to be the father of spaceflight.

Near Moscow, Tsiolkovsky started his teaching career and still managed to continue his scientific discoveries. During his life time, he authored over 400 scientific works of which 90 were related to space travel and he supported philosophical discussions on space flight through his theory of rocketry. Next to his numerous rocket designs, he created many on actual space stations and airlocks for exiting space ships in space’s vacuum and built plans for biological systems providing food and oxygen for space colonies.

In the 1890’s, Tsiolkovsky spent much time working on a metal dirigible with the ability to shrink or expand. At a time when the term ‘airship’ was not even invented yet, Tsiolkovsky proposed his plans on the all-metal dirigible and published the first work on the subject called “A Controllable Metallic Balloon” in 1892. He developed his own aerodynamics laboratory, assumed to be the first in Russia and even constructed his own wind tunnel with a testing department. His experiments and of course their results depicted a significant foundation for the famous scientist Nikolay Zhukovsky, who became known for being the father of modern aerodynamics and hydrodynamics.

In the later 1890’s Tsiolkovsky started studying the motion of jet machines and developed formulas on speed, fuel impulses and masses. His article “Investigation of Outer Space Rocket Devices” was published in 1903 and in it he was able to prove that rockets could perform space flight. Since the brilliant engineer was way ahead of his time, his papers were often not taken seriously at first, which disappointed him.

Still, he was honored for his work in his later lifetime and received a lifetime pension by the government. It is known that Tsiolkovsky’s theories were quite impractical which may have been the cause of his limited experimentation budget which he had to pay for himself. However, later scientists like Wernher von Braun were highly influenced by Tsiolkovsky.

At yovisto you may enjoy a lecture by Sergei Krikalevson on the past 50 years of Russian space programs and some future prospects.

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