Originally posted by Rabmal
Every documentary you watch on the Apollo missions, they use the phrase "the race for the moon". When the USA started the mission to reach the moon
we were well behind the Soviets in the "race for the moon". As history played out the USA was the first country to reach the moon, but this begs a
Why did the Soviets not land a man on the moon as well even if it would have been second? Not in the 60's, not in the 70's and not in the 80's. I
know they landed a rover on the moon but not a man.
You've heard the phrase "Getting there is half the fun"? In the case of a lunar mission, getting there is a *lot* easier than getting there and
coming back to Earth, if for no other reason than that you have to carry your return vehicle, its fuel, and life-support consumables for the return
trip up from the bottom of Earth's gravity field. The USSR landed rovers and impact probes, and the US landed impact probes and soft-landers, all
with relatively small rockets. The increased size of the booster needed for a round-trip mission was a technical challenge, to say the least.
The Americans tried one approach with the Saturn-series boosters...we developed high-thrust engines (the F-1 Kerosene-LOX monster, and the J-series
LH/LOX upper stage engines). There were huge developmental hurdles, but relative simplicity. The Saturn-V had a total of 11 engines (5x F-1 in the
first stage, 5x J-2 in the second stage, and 1 J-2 in the third stage).
The Soviet approach was to take relatively small engines and use a LOT of them...44 to be exact. 30 in the first stage, 8 in the second, 4 in the
third, and 1 in each of the last two. The N-1 was, in short, a massively complex vehicle, even by comparison to the Saturn V. That complexity made
development a nightmare, and made the vehicle itself expensive. The continued failures of the N-1, spiraling program costs, a tightening economy, and
the loss of the propaganda advantage combined to kill off the Soviet lunar program.
One would imagine that if the Soviets had been the first to place a man on the moon we would not have stopped trying to get there and certainly still
would have put our own man on the moon.
I wouldn't bet on that, frankly, given how fast we stopped going back once we 'won' the race.
You would think that the Soviets would want to know first hand what it is like there and also check out if we put anything there as well.
(Especially, considering the paranoia we had for each other at the time.) I understand they may be able to do this remotely, but you would think they
would want to put "boots on the ground" as well.
This would be akin to the Spanish coming to the New World and the English deciding to just stay home and listen to stories about it.
The Soviets could already make a fairly good guess about what we were taking to the Moon....despite their failure with the N-1, the Soviets had some
of the best engineers and rocket experts in the business...once they saw a Saturn-V, and looked over the open-source details on it, they could
back-figure for payload and come to the conclusion that we weren't smuggling secret nuclear weapons up there...then we stopped going, so there was
nothing to check on in any case.
The Spanish / English analogy is an interesting one, but it overlooks one of the vital things about the race to the moon. Both the Spanish and the
English had the technology (and the hardware) to get to the New World. The USSR lacked the hardware to make the trip.
In the 30 years past you would have thought that some country would have wanted to land a man on the moon for themselves. I would be interested in
hearing anyone's insight on this.
Lots of countries might want to land a man on the moon, but wanting to do it isn't enough (just ask the Soviets). It takes a combination of massive
engineering talent, huge amounts of available money, and a national desire to make the effort. The U.S. lost the national will to support its lunar
program, then the money got diverted, and now the technological / engineering base is gone, which is why the "new" lunar mission program is having
to start from scratch.