Although we now take for granted the long term success of the International Space Station, it wasn’t too long ago that we were totally earthbound. That changed on this day, October 12, 1964 when the Soviet Union launched the Voskhod 1 (Восхо́д), the first manned capsule to carry more than one person into space. The Voskhod program was a proof of concept program to test systems for more ambitious space exploration. The Voskhod program was notable for several firsts: the first multi-person mission to space (Cosmonauts Komarov, Yegorov and Feoktistov in the Voskhod 1) and the first space walk (Belyayev and Leonov in Voskhod 2). The Vostok and Voskhod programs provided the framework for what became the Soyuz program and ultimately the current ISS.
The Russian desire to ‘win’ the Space Race led to many dangerous compromises. The interior of the capsule (shown above) was so cramped that the cosmonauts would not have room for space suits, making the flight extremely dangerous in the event of depressurisation. To insure the engineers paid enough attention to this, head designer Sergei Korolev assigned the lead engineer to fly inside the capsule, therefore motivating him to design the safest capsule possible.
The Russian word Voskhod (Восхо́д) means sunrise and is a combination of the Russian words vos- (from vostok восток) meaning east and xodete (ходить) meaning go or rise.
Image of the Voskhod capsule being assembled courtesy Energiea.
Special thanks to my many Russian teachers over the years: Michael Comenetz, Misha Yurieff, Irina Semionova, Anna Brodski.
On March 9, 2006, the Cassini Space probe took an astounding photograph that confirmed the theory that the moon Enceladus was contributing to the ring system of Saturn. The photo here was taken by NASA after engineers used Saturn itself to obscure the Sun but illuminate the rings and satellite, here clearly shown with a cryovolcano erupting water and gas into the E-ring.
Three years later, the Cassini space probe was positioned again to use the light from the sun to illuminate the rings and surface of the giant planet, with a shadow thrown across the ring system. Mathematical models of the ring system show that they are unstable beyond 10,000 years, meaning that they are constantly replenished from a source such as Enceladus.
Launched on October 15, 1997, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft left Earth for flybys of Earth, Venus and Jupiter, before arriving at Saturn on Christmas Day, 2004 and separating the Huygens probe which reached Titan a few weeks later. Cassini-Huygens was named for Italo-French Astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini (later known as Jean Dominque Cassini), known for his discovery of four moons of Saturn, and Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, who discovered Saturn’s moon Titan. The Cassini spacecraft is still in service today, currently located at the south Pole of Saturn, taking images of the famous hexagon. The spacecraft is scheduled to remain in service until September 2017.
Images courtesy NASA/ESA, in the public domain.