David Wilson, director of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, visited Art Center on Monday to talk about the early days of the Russian space program.
Wilson was the final Big Picture Lecture Series speaker of the term. We knew right away that this talk was going to be an interesting one.
No talk of early Soviet space exploration is complete without a discussion of the Russian space dogs. As many know, Laika was the first earth born creature to leave the atmosphere.
We were amused and intrigued as Wilson taught us more about Russian space dogs. Did you know:
- All were female.
- All were formerly strays.
- They went through extensive space training.
- Nine dogs made it into orbit; sadly three of them died during their missions.
- Strelka, who went into orbit with Belka, went on to have six puppies after her safe return to Earth. Nikita Krushchev gave one of the puppies to Caroline Kennedy in 1961.
- Belka and Strelka are stuffed (!) and on display at the Cosmonaut Memorial Museum in Moscow.
Wilson also screened two portions of a film depicting the lives of early influencers of the Soviet space program. Obshee-Delo (translated means The Common Task) told the stories of Nicolai Federov, who was an impoverished yet influential philosopher-librarian, and Constatine Tsiolkovski, who imagined the future of space travel.
Federov was, we learned, an eccentric librarian whose philosophy came down to one salient belief: All problems known to man have a single root in the existence of death. The philosophy of the “common task” is the resurrection of kinship among men, which would be achieved by the resuscitation of all of the dead. One central tenet to his philosophy was that we would need space travel to colonize far away places for room for all of us plus all of our ancestors to live contemporaneously.
Tsiolkovski, a visionary of space travel and colonization, was influenced by Federov and was most taken with his notion that humanity needed to be spread throughout the universe. Tsiolkovski’s work was dedicated to establishing technologies by which we could live in space. He inspired human space travel beyond what had been done before and his workbooks, obtained by the Museum of Jurassic Technology, envisioned space travel beyond what had been done before.
The Common Task is one of a series films shown in the Museum’s Borzoi Kabinet Theater at regular intervals.
At the end of the lecture, we were treated to a clip of an absolutely charming 1936 film about moon flight, Kosmicheskiy Reis (Cosmic Voyage), based on Tsiolkovski’s predictions about living in space. A very small portion of the film can be viewed here.
The entire film, on loan from the Museum of Cosmonautics and Rocket Technology in St. Petersburg to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, will be screened at the Museum in April 2011 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s inaugural space flight. More about the film here.