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  • 9/6/2004

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

(5 September 1857–19 September 1935)

Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was a Russian rocket scientist and pioneer of cosmonautics.

He was born in Izhevskoye (now in Spassky District, Ryazan Oblast), Russia in a middle-class family. As a child he was sickly and hard of hearing, and was not accepted at elementary schools, so was home schooled until 16.

Tsiolkovsky theorized many aspects of space travel and rocket propulsion. He is considered the father of human space flight and the first man to conceive the space elevator. His most famous work wasThe Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Motors, which published in 1903 was arguably the first academic treatise on rocketry. Unfortunately his ideas never made it out of Russia, and the field lagged until German and other scientists independently made the same calculations decades later.

His work influenced later rocketeers throughout Europe, and was also studied by the Americans in the 1950s and 1960s as they sought to understand the Soviet Union's early successes in space flight.

Tsiolkovsky also delved into theories of heavier-than-air flying machines, independently working through many of the same calculations that the Wright brothers were doing at the same time. However, he never built any practical models, and his interest shifted to more ambitious topics.

Friedrich Zander became enthusiastic about Tsiolkovsky's work and active in promoting and developing it. In 1924 he established the first Cosmonautics Society in the Soviet Union, and later researched and built liquid-fuelled rockets named OR-1 (1930) and OR-2 (1933). On August 23, 1924 Tsiolkovsky was elected as a first professor of the Military-Air Academy N. E. Zhukovsky.

In 1929 Tsiolkovsky proposed the construction of staged rockets in his book Cosmic Trains.

The basic equation for rocket propulsion, the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, is named after him.

He was also an adherent of philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov, and believed that colonizing space would lead to the perfection of the human race, with immortality and a carefree existence.

Tsiolkovsky died in Kaluga, Soviet Union (today Russia), where there is a museum of astronautics named after him.

Quote: "The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but who spends all their life in a cradle?"

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