The beginning of June has traditionally been when the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum has taken place. We thought this would be a good time to look back at some of the stand‑out talks from previous years. One of them was by Georgy Grechko, Russian pilot, cosmonaut, and two-time Hero of the Soviet Union, who spoke in 2011 at the session «50 Years of Space Flight: Prospects for Manned Programmes». What did this legendary cosmonaut speak about?
Why space exploration is so important
People often say to me, ― Well, whats this space of yours for, who needs it? I live without space, and I am fine. That is why I would like to take advantage of the presence, here today, of the important people who take decisions about spaceflight and to make a proposition: we need to agree on one day on which we turn off everything that is working in space. Then people will understand why we need space. One person will not be able to listen to a concert; another will not be able to watch football. In a worst-case scenario, the craft would begin to collide, and then the public would no longer be asking why we need space, but would want all the space equipment to be turned back on quickly, and never turned off again.
The results of 50 years of space flight
So much has been done in those 50 years. Almost 500 people have already worked in space 12 of them on the Moon. Over 2,000 unmanned craft have been launched, and at different distances, from near-Earth to the edge of the Solar System. The human race can be proud of what has been done in space in those 50 years.
The Cold War and rivalry
So something strange occurs: during the Cold War and all that rivalry there were lots of new launches, but we, cosmonauts and engineers, dreamt then, not of competition, but of cooperation.
People and robots
Man is better than the most complex, even universal robot. I listened to the telescope as it worked with a phonendoscope, found the cause, and got it up and running. I do not think that there is any robot that would come up with that method.
The potential to land spacecraft at airports
We launch capsules with parachutes, then winged landing equipment, then again return to wings and then from wings to capsules. We are simply going from A to B and back again. But there have been some very interesting projects. Here is why. Capsules travel well through the dense layers of the atmosphere, but they cannot land on a pre-prepared pad or at an aerodrome, whereas winged craft do not travel well through the dense layers of the atmosphere, and it is very hard to protect the wings. And yet a design has already been proposed that takes the positives of both capsules and winged craft and removes the negatives. In the 1930s, Stern had already proposed that the dense layers of the atmosphere were first passed without wings, and then the wings would come out: the so-called Lapotok made by Tsybin or Syromiatnikov, in which the wings were folded up and shaded from the plasma flow. When the wings were uncovered, they were at the edge of the plasma flow. And there is an even greater delight to this type of flight: if, while passing through the dense layers of the atmosphere, the wings below are deployed at a certain speed, and the cruising engine is turned on, then you can complete the landing at the nearest aerodrome. Let us take a look, though, at how a cosmonaut is currently met after a mission. There are aircraft, helicopters, all-terrain vehicles, search groups, emergency services, communications, the command post... And, if you land at an airport, your wife can simply meet you with a bouquet of flowers and that is it. Much cheaper.
Why we should listen to dreamers
If we had listened to the pragmatists instead of the dreamers, we would never have gone into space; it is a very expensive and foolhardy undertaking. But then, no one would ever have flown from continent to continent, because planes fall out of the sky. And people would not have sailed the oceans because boats sink. Or swum across a river because there is a crocodile. We would never have come out of our caves, because there was a sabre-toothed tiger. If we had always been pragmatic and never followed the dreamers, then we would still be living in caves.
Missions to Mars
I would say that even if travelling to Mars is banned, humans will travel to Mars anyway. I will say is that if Korolev were alive, we would already have been to Mars a long time ago.