Gravitational trajectory adopted by Apollo-11 program to reach the Moon is named after a self-educated Ukrainian who made calculations 50 years before the lunar flight: Kondratyuk Route

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On the eve of the Artemis II Mission to the Moon, it is worth to recall an interesting detail of the first flight to the Moon. “Yuri Kondratyuk was a self-educated mechanic who, 50 years before lunar flights, foresaw ways of reaching the moon, calculating the best means of achieving a lunar landing. His theory of the gravitational slingshot trajectory to accelerate a spacecraft, known today as the “Kondratyuk Route” (Doodle). New Mexico Museum of Space History: Yuri Vasilievich Kondratyuk (1897-1942): “Born as Aleksandr Shargei, he took a new name to avoid persecution during the Russian Revolution. Kondratyuk wrote visionary works on spaceflight and rocketry. He suggested using space vehicles that had two or more modules that could use the Earth’s gravity to ‘sling-shot’ a manned vehicle to the Moon; this was the first ‘Lunar Orbiter Rendezvous’ proposal. His ideas were used by NASA for the Apollo lunar landing missions..

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He was drafted into the army at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. During the war, he began to write down his ideas of interplanetary flight. One of these was to use a modular spacecraft to reach the Moon: One part of the vehicle would stay in lunar orbit while the other, smaller portion of the craft would lander landed on the Moon’s surface. The lander would then return to rendezvous with the orbiter. He also calculated the trajectory to take a spacecraft from Earth to the Moon and back. This is now known as “Kondratyuk’s route” or “Kondratyuk’s loop”. He also suggested using a gravitational slingshot trajectory to accelerate a spacecraft.”

Kondratyuk also independently derived the main equation for rocket motion. Proved that a rocket has to drop fuel tanks to leave the boundaries of the Earth’s gravity. Described the scheme of a four-stage rocket; Suggested using the gravity of the celestial bodies when calculating spacecraft trajectory. In great detail described modern-day spacesuits and Space stations.

In the 30s, Kondratyuk moved to Siberia where mostly on his own funds he published his book “The Conquest of interplanetary space” which infuriated Russian officials as “absurd” and they sentenced him first to 3 years in GULAG, but then, as in the case with Korolev 10 years later, changed it to “sharashka”, the research institute of prison type.

Actually, Sergei Korolev before his own imprisonment wanted to obtain Kondratyuk as a theorist for his Jet Propulsion Study Group, but Kondratyuk declined. Most likely Kondratyuk was right, or maybe it was just his premonition, but of the Group mentioned above, Korolev was one of the very few who survived the purges. 

Korolev’s arrest had a terrible effect on Kondratyuk – he immediately decided to get rid of his notes. But still believing in the good they can bring to humankind, he asked a reliable friend of his to take the notes and a copy of the book to the USA. The book eventually found its way into the Library of Congress. That is where NASA engineer Houbolt came across it during his research.

Yuri Kondratyuk died in 1942 in a WWII battle near the city of Kirov.
Soviet authorities did not care much to commemorate Kondratyuk’s achievements until Neil Armstrong’s visit to USSR in 1970.
The American astronaut specifically went to Novosibirsk and took a handful of earth from the garden where Kondratyuk lived before going to the war.

NASA official site: While in Novosibirsk, Armstrong reportedly collected a handful of soil from outside the house of Russian (?!) engineer and rocket scientist Yuri A. Kondratyuk, who early in the 20th century developed the first concept of Lunar Orbit Rendezvous, the mission profile NASA chose for the Apollo Moon landing missions. (NASA definitely needs to correct that mistake. He was Ukrainian and even his adopting a Ukrainian last name of Kondratyuk stresses the fact one extra time. All Russia did to Kondratyuk was hating his talent and sending him to GULAG for that).

In Independent Ukraine, Poltava Technical University wears Kondratyuk’s name since 1997. Yuri Kondratyuk was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 2014.

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