by Boris FOMKIN, Academic Secretary of the Academic Council, Zhukovsky and Gagarin Air Force Academy, Moscow, Russia
Our compatriots-Nikolai Zhukovsky, the founder of present-day aerodynamics, as well as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Sergei Korolev, the progenitors of theoretical and practical cosmonautics-have ushered in the space age, with our fellow citizen Yuri Gagarin its human trailblazer in the flesh.
The competition was really tough as prospective cosmonauts were being picked from among Air Force fighter pilots not older than 35. Their selection began in 1959. All in all, as many as 3,461 were able to qualify. But only twenty got through. Of these, twelve came to be enrolled in our Academy subsequently. All told as many as 30 spacemen have linked their life with our Academy. Like Vladimir Kovalenok, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, who has three space flights to his credit. For ten years he had been the Academy's head.
Yuri Gagarin was in the first group of candidate spacemen*. But in fact he had his initiation earlier than that as,
* See: A. Orlov, "He Opened Window Into Space", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2004.--Ed.
Korolev greeting Gagarin.
taking a course in the Saratov Industrial School in 1950 to 1955, he joined a club of physics fans. Once, getting well ready, he made a report about Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and his disquisitions*. The young air pilot fell for the cosmos. In his book The Road into Outer Space (1961) Gagarin shared his impressions of Tsiolkovsky and his works. "This was stronger than Jules Verne, Herbert Wells or other scifi fantasy-mongers... Tsiolkovsky wrote the age of jet aircraft would succeed the age of piston-engined planes. And they came, the jets, flying in the skies... He wrote about rockets, and they came as well, plowing the stratosphere. What this man of genius predicted has come true. His dream of man's flight into outer space expanses was bound to come true, too. I ended my ... Читать далее