Sunday 1 October 2023



October 4, 1957.Moscow time 10.29 PM. As Russia launched the first artificial satellite named 'Sputnik 1' -meaning fellow traveller in Russian language- US ,the west and the rest of the world were taken aback by surprise!Russian(Soviet) news agency TASS and Radio Moscow announced that the successful launch  could be seen with the use of a powerful binocular and even record the Beep-Beep signal  using apt instruments!As the scientists and others in US watched and listened in awe, mixed with panic than happiness, this Soviet spacecraft passed over them many times a day!! The space war between Russia and US had begun that day during another already  ongoing war- the cold war.

Before the excitement over Sputnik 1 was over, Russians fired the 'Sputnik 2' just after 4 weeks, on November 3 1957! The world got bewildered knowing that a dog named 'Leika' too was sent in it into orbit making it the first living creature ever to do so.On May 15 1958, 'Sputnik 3' was launched with a lot of instruments fitted on them, though other than the Russians nobody knew what  precisely those were.When the Russians sent their cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space for the first time three years later, on April 12,1961 they sincerely thought that the Americans were left much behind in the race. Russians were proved wrong.In another 8  years thereafter, the Americans could make a human walk on the moon for the first time as a befitting response to USSR! Neil Armstrong made the 'Giant Leap for Mankind' on July 20, 1969 as we all know!!

Slightly bigger than a basketball, with whiskers like features  of a cat as antenna, it was the launch of 'Sputnik 1' by Russia (erstwhile USSR)- not US- that opened the doors of the space age, heralding the space race and space explorations which continue to this day.Remarkably this war has taken place during my time and many more players have joined since then-France,Germany,UK,Japan,China, India and more....Definitely this topic would not have come to my mind, if India had not  made the mission Chandrayaan 3, becoming the first country to soft land a satellite successfully recently on the  southern polar region of  the moon.I am trying to take stock of how this race had started historically than scientifically especially for the reading of youngsters and old timers alike, including my grand daughters Maria and Serah...who will understand well later, if not now....A must read...

Development of Science in US and Russia(USSR)...

In spite of the fact that at least eight Founding Fathers of US including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were renowned scientists,  most of Europe was much advanced in scientific explorations comparatively till almost mid  20th century.

Russia's history of development in Science started from Czarist days.Peter the Great established the Imperial Academy of Sciences as early as in 1725.In 1917 when the Communists came to power there, already  that country had 4 full fledged universities. USSR gave much importance to Mathematics,Nuclear Science and Astronomy thereafter, churning out thousands of Scientists and Engineers, much more than relative to world population then.

But all these actions did not bring the standards in Russia either to what was available notably in Britain and Germany because of the long established scientific infrastructure, societies, universities and institutes there over centuries.Then what made US and Russia(USSR) lead the race of space explorations all of a sudden?

US ,V2 and a man from NAZI to NASA....
Nazi Germany was much ahead in Quantum Physics and Rocket Science compared to any other countries of the world.But Nazi thoughts of Hitler were not conducive for Jew citizens who were leading among the scientists in that country even to survive there.As Nazis started their influence over Germany and Italy,there was a steady flow of Jewish German scientists to US, which the latter encouraged.The famous Albert Einstein was one among them who migrated to US in 1933 which was followed by a lot.We all know how the US managed to have the first nuclear explosion with the help of such emigrants including Oppenheimer in 1944.

Nazi Germany was able to develop the first long range guided ballistic missile code named V2, much ahead of others.It was the brainchild of the Nazi German aerospace scientist Werner Von Braun and his team. V-2 was the world's first functional large scale liquid propellent rocket which the Nazi army secretly developed at Peenemunde island in Germany. Just before  the Red army captured this island on May 5, 1945, Braun and his entire team of about 125 and about 1600 other German scientists had moved out secretly to surrender to US forces along with truck loads of related research papers. The secret US operation was code named as 'Paperclip'!No one knows the correct numbers.

 US was able to place Wernher Von Braun as Director in NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). He was on the cover of lot of American publications later including Life magazine! The fact that he became a US citizen and regarded as the 'Father of Rocket Science' in that country was never an accident!Redstone missile which made Alan Shepard possible as first US astronaut to travel into space in 1971 was a direct derivative of V-2! 

 At the same time I don't think that US Science was anyway substandard before the Germans reached there.But they took advantage of the situation before and after the WW2 which definitely gave an impetus to the scientific society there.Since 1950s to this day ,Americans have won half of Nobel prizes awarded in Sciences is a world record yet to be broken! When the Electronics, Medicine, and IT boom started too, Americans are the leaders for sure.

                      German Scientists picked up in Operation Paperclip in US-1946. 
           V2, Forerunner of all ballistic missiles, developed by Nazi Germany.

Russia (USSR), ROSCOSMOS, V.2 and Nazi Germany...
Russia was fully aware of Braun and V-2.But they couldn't stop him and the team of 125 going to US as they preferred to surrender to them, though it was Red army which reached Berlin first on May 2, 1945 with access to Reichstag and Hitler's dwelling.Russians did the best of next  available options.They took the V-2 assembly facility at Peenemunde to bits to decipher their workings ,along with detailed drawings and shipped available data to Moscow! Americans and the British had to wait another two months until July 4, 1945 to have an entry to Berlin. But they had their pieces of cakes from elsewhere in Germany!

ROSCOSMOS is equivalent of NASA in Russia, if you don't know.Under 'Operation Osoaviakhim', Russians identified about 2500 Nazi German scientists - altogether 6500 including family members-  who were transferred to Soviet Union latest by October 22, 1946 in 92 trains!The famous rocket engineer Helmut Grottrup, who was a colleague of Braun was one among them.He along with other Germans such as Johannes Hoch,Kurt Mogus etc have contributed German technology to USSR.Here I have to mention that Grotropp defected to West Germany in 1953 and invented the first smart card of the world thereafter! Americans exploded the first atomic bomb in 1944, but Russians followed suit in 1949, now you know how!The famous rocket of USSR code named R-5M was made on the basis of V-2 as seen below!

                                          Soviets in Berlin hoisting their flag over Reichstag
And V-2....and India
V of V-2 stands for a difficult German word to pronounce for me- 'Vergetltungswaffezweir' which means 'Vengeance weapon'.It is estimated that thousands of concentration slave workers had perished in  manufacturing them by Nazis.Nevertheless both countries- America and Russia - considered V-2 as antecedent  of their own ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles and used effectively related German scientists, is a true record of history which even those countries don't deny! When US and West used to look down on India while getting into the bandwagon of atomic club or aerospace club with our own humble but honest efforts with all our problems including poverty , I never knew that they had such a  negative past! And I don't think that most of fellow Indians  either!!Perhaps even those who live in the west  now also may not be fully aware, as only after the cold war was over it is known in public domain.But look at the double standards of the western outlook! They laugh at us, forgetting what they did in this field with the Nazis'!

    The cartoon published in NYT when India sent record number of             satellites in a day. They later apologised for the same. Given another       opportunity probably, they may repeat!

        In 1925 -almost 100 years back- a US cartoon predicting that one                        day the balance of power would shift!

Always remember that the great invention of 'zero'('sunya' in Sanskrit) by Indian Mathematicians in the 5th century , was more than nothing.That's why Albert Einstein himself told once:"We owe a lot to Indians , who taught us to count without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made".Intelligent westerners like Max Muller,Mark Twain,Romain Rolland, Will Durant...the list can be longer ,have testified similar accounts, if you require such consolations from west itself.But I also remember that we cannot live quoting our glorious past alone.

India is very young country in the quest of aero space adventures comparing to existing experts.But the new economic situation of the country making it one of the richest in GDP have opened many avenues for the country and countrymen. And the situation will be much better as years go by.We may not have Godfathers to help us or need not be copy cats as the west did but still I feel that in the next 25 years, India will turn around to be a full blossomed robust nation in this respect.All we do is inject  a sense of nationalism in the veins of Indian youngsters , giving professional opportunities to grow in our own country,who now make serpentine queues in front of US and other western consulates to immigrate! Make them understand that after scoring excellent grades from top most best institutes of the country, which are on par with the best in the world in Sciences and Engineering, not to settle for selling FMCG or beauty products or cool drinks here or abroad just for the sake of some more  monies to earn!Sure,nothing wrong with those careers but they are making  others loose  chances for an entry to study  Science and Engineering in such prestigious colleges of fame and become world class scientists and engineers! Let us resolve problem of poverty in India also along with becoming a super power house in Science, Technology and Economy- not forgetting Arts, Literature, Humanities and others- reminding the fact that Science can help it being accomplished, more than anything else! We have to grow ourselves and protect ourselves! We have the right capabilities.We have to make it happen.

I shall sign off here after making two cartoons as above.The first one  could be a repeat for you.Elite Space Club of US/Europe making fun of India, when the later shot more than hundred satellites in one go, a world record so far.The second is to show that all westerners are not fools.One of them had made a cartoon about 100 years back forecasting what India would do now and in future! US cartoonist Bob Minor  had published in 1925, predicting that one day the balance of power would shift to China, India and Africa!I don't think that even an Indian could dream of such a status for India at that time!

Definitely I may not live long enough to see this situation happen.But that is secondary.



Writing about the end of own life, that too after knowing that it could happen any time is hard to write for anyone. I am not an exception. ...