June 21, 2012
Yuri Kondratyuk's 115th Birthday
Yuri Kondratyuk was a self-educated mechanic who, 50 years before lunar flights, foresaw ways of reaching the moon, calculating the best means of achieving a lunar landing. His theory of the gravitational slingshot trajectory to accelerate a spacecraft, known today as the "Kondratyuk Route", was eventually adopted by the engineers of the Apollo program for American lunar expeditions.
His personal story is also fascinating, though ultimately heartbreaking. Yuri's developing theories on space travel were happening during a time when such pursuits were considered "absurd", and consequently were prohibited by the ruling government of his time. Because of this, his work – and much of his life – was shrouded in secrecy. Even his real name was a secret (it was Aleksandr Gnatovich Shargei). Fortunately, history has been much kinder to his legacy, and today he is considered an early pioneer of space exploration. For his doodle, we felt that while it is not quite the real thing, it was only right to show an aspirational Kondratyuk gazing about – and amongst – the stars.