I've done many other things, too, but a good number of them are at least in part related to the above (thousands of hours of training in zero-g/underwater and in vacuo, started a sailing school for youths, knew Gagarin and the rest, etc), and at any rate 300 characters wouldn't even suffice for what I'd initially put above.

/actually, I've not done any of those things, but my grandpa, who's in the room over and who has agreed to do an AMA, has. Yesterday I posted in the Foreign Redditors thread and had a request for him to do an AMA. I figured hey, this could be interesting, so here I/we am/are. This'll go pretty slowly, as I'll be printing out questions and then chatting with him for a bit and then returning to type them here, and in any case will have to translate to and from Russian (as he's far from fluent in English), so I'll really only be doing 5-10 questions at a time. I'll try to get to as many as I can, though, so long as he stays interested. Keep in mind that some things may be lost due to my imperfect translation, but I'll be as faithful as I can.

A gold star would be nice for this, but all the corroborating documents are out of reach and in Russian, so that might prove difficult. I have a few news articles in the house somewhere that mention him; I'll try to scan them in. Here are a few pictures of him I put up yesterday (B&W are old, color ones are from the previous month).

Oh, and also, no debates/insults please. I'll refuse to translate those. And if anything in here seems particularly aggrandizing, it's my fault, as I respect, admire, and love the man greatly.

So, without further ado, begin!/

/edit:ps. when it's me, the grandson, speaking, I'll couch my words in slashes. When it's him, I won't/

/edit2: Okay, I've done about a dozen questions so far and need to do some yard work right now, but I'll be back to do more (the "best" first and then the bottom page ones after) in a bit. He's enjoying it so far, but each question takes me a good 10-15 minutes to get through because he's very fond of telling lengthy stories on not too pertinent asides/

/edit: I'm answering a few questions I personally know the answers to and will resume when we finish with our runs with the dogs. I also gave some soft evidence in favor of this thread's legitimacy here. (Ha, and I've also just realized that his book has tons of pictures of him working on rockets or in space suits or with recognizable Russian officials. Should have just posted that to begin with): http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/etu2s/i_was_born_in_shchigry_ru_in_1932_i_worked_as_a/c1awfsl

/edit: ok, we just got back, I'll do the top 8-12 questions right now but then he has to go to bed. He falls asleep at 20:00ish and wakes up at 4:30 for exercise and assorted housework. After these I'll only be continuing sometime tomorrow.

/edit: Ok, done for tonight, he's long asleep now. Oh, and while taking pictures from his book to help answer the question pertaining to the mission to mars, I snapped a shot of a picture of him standing in a group picture with a bunch of other important people (I think some guys from nasa are in there too). He's the guy above his finger in the big white suit. :] http://i.imgur.com/jRioO.jpg

Oh, and we haven't answered too many questions so far, but some of the ones we have are buried because of higher voted comments getting in there first. Please keep that in mind./

/edit: Ok, new day, but we have a few things to do and won't get to anything before the afternoon. We'll be continuing on for sure though! And the user L33tphreak found the article from above online, if anyone wants to read it: http://goo.gl/lsXkS Google translate sort of butchers the text though./

/edit: Ok, so I tried asking some more questions but we got stuck on the first one, which asked for examples of trolling, and I've put them all here: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/etu2s/i_was_born_in_shchigry_ru_in_1932_i_worked_as_a/c1awh46 we're taking a break for now/

/hey guys, sorry for being so bad in answering questions to this thing, but I've been rather busy this past week and it's been difficult to coordinate with my grandpa. And today's my last day of winter break so I'll not get a chance to really answer more for a while, unless my grandpa learns to use the internet or we do it via phone. I'll try to make some progress in translating his book, though, and will inform reddit once that is under way. It contains many of the things asked here anyway. Again, apologies for only getting to so small a fraction of the questions/

Comments: 964 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

[deleted]165 karma

I read that the USSR had fairly extensive plans for a manned Mars mission by 1980 (orbit only). Were you aware of this project and if so, were you involved? (awesome Iama btw)

BETEP263 karma

/Damn, I'll ask him this for sure, but it'll probably take me a few hours to get through. He... well, he was the project. There was no other person more involved in it. According to him, had Korolyov not died, there was a good chance he would have been the one to ultimately go, but that's rather speculative. I'll be sure to ask him for the specifics of why it fell through and everything. Haha, he still intends to go, actually, and I spent a good bit of my childhood learning of mars and listening to his dreams, but at his age it might be a bit difficult. Hopefully immortality comes within the next 20 years and he lives on through commercial spaceflight so that his dreams might become a reality./

BETEP226 karma

/Gah, I had a nice long explanation typed out and was uploading some relevant pictures to imgur when it decided to crash chrome. All that, lost/

We (/ie he/) began the program in 1962. It was titled "Space Shuttle for the Orbit of Mars by One Person by the Hohmann Trajectory". Korolyov was intimately involved, and in the presence of myself and several others (/I remember him mentioning Gagarin and Kamanin, and I think Titov, but I didn't write them down and he's sleeping now so I can't ask/) he told me that in 5 years we would definitely realize my program.

The initial plan was such: A single individual would travel to martian orbit and return by means of gravity assist. Upon approaching the earth, that individual would climb into a 1.20 meter in diameter escape capsule and jettison himself off the main shuttle. The main would then go off to fall into the sun, while the escape capsule, being much lighter and easier to maneuver, would adjust its course to fall to earth. You can see a picture of the escape capsule that would have been used in this mission here. (/I'm pretty sure it's also the one he's standing by in the initial set of pics in the OP/).

A second possibility was arrived upon later on in the program, and this possibility came to be favored by Korolyov over the previous -- instead of returning to earth having only orbited mars, the cosmonaut would jettison himself off the main ship in a different capsule, shown here, upon arrival. The capsule would descend first by means of parachutes and then, shortly before impact, would fire rockets affixed to its base to decelerate itself further. The individual would then exit the capsule and walk upon the surface of mars.

There he would die, the remains of him and his craft preserved for future explorers.

(/man, I'm starting to tear up typing this. My grandpa was the top candidate for this trip. He wanted it so, so much! But had it succeeded he would have likely died via the latter scenario, and I would never have known him. Or been born, for that matter, as it was slated a few years before my mum/).

Upon Korolyov's untimely death, however, the program lost its main support and was canceled. Had Korolyov lived and the program succeeded, it is entirely possible that the history of Russian space travel might have taken a completely different course.

/edit: changed Toman to Hohmann. Thanks to the user below!/

[deleted]29 karma

I'm guessing that word is a Cyrillic transcription of 'Hohmann'. If you were ever to travel from Earth to Mars, you'd probably do so along a Hohmann trajectory.

gleamingspires17 karma

In the photo posted here it mentions that his diploma project was called "Космический корабль для облета марса одним человеком по траектории Гомана [not Томана]" - which is indeed how Hohmann seems to be transliterated into Cyrillic.

So yes, Hohmann trajectory.

BETEP10 karma

/Oh, whoops. Must have misheard him. Egg on my face! Haha, good work!/

[deleted]162 karma

What was his opinion on America while living in Russia?

BETEP351 karma

I generally considered the American people hard working and capable of potentially accomplishing many great things, and admired their determination. I thought them weak academically and in the sciences, and also overly dependent on foreign sources of research. I feared that the US would grow too powerful and disliked how it influenced the governments of weaker foreign nations. I also thought the Ku Klux Klan was much more prevalent, that racism was much more widespread, and that the public killing of negros was a a very common occurrence.

MarcoTozzi111 karma

any comment on the supposed lost cosmonauts?

BETEP165 karma

These rumors are utter tripe -- malicious lies at worst, complete folly at best. No humans entered space before Gagarin -- there were deaths during training that were kept secret for a long time, but they've been made public by now. All such deaths and accidents occurred within the atmosphere, though.

[deleted]93 karma


BETEP77 karma

/I asked him about this but he gave a brief, generalized, slightly boring and obvious answer, probably because I only had a few hastily made up examples and didn't describe it to him all that well. But he said:/

I greatly prefer that a system be as redundant as possible, for reasons of safety and ultimate mission success, but not be so overly complex that solutions cannot be found through improvisation. The system would best guard against its own failings through redundancy, but if it fails completely then those operating it need to be able to understand it well enough as to be able to muscle their way through to a workable solution.

/he then went and told me a story about how a venus lander had its door stuck and for three whole days enterprising minds tried to find an elegant, technical solution, but then arrived some clever young cosmonauts and fixed it within the span of 20 seconds. Their primary tool in this complex and expensive maneuver? A sledgehammer.

So yeah, mainly he said that it shouldn't be too complex that it can't be fixed easily, but redundant enough that it won't fail easily either/

MalrackMalbama91 karma

Wow, um where to begin.....what is he most proud of and why?

BETEP203 karma

I am most proud of the work I did on a prototype emergency water reentry capsule used for coming back down to earth from an orbital station. My partner (/some fellow named Dr. Abibov/) died before it could be completed and so the project was ultimately laid to rest, but many of the elements we designed were used in later ventures. I am most proud of this because it is one of the first projects I undertook under my own devising, and because no one else had seriously tried to do such a thing before me.

lpmiller86 karma

As a cosmonaut, did he fly any missions/get into space? How many?

BETEP162 karma

No, unfortunately not. I was trained up to the point where I may have (110 flights into the upper atmosphere for performance under oxygen deprivation, many trips trough the centrifuge, 100 days in a replica orbital complex on earth, etc) but was not chosen for reasons of all those who supported me for spaceflight dying (mainly Korolyov and Gagarin) and because I made some enemies within the organization whose compliance was needed for me to advance (/my grandpa was, and still is, a bit of a prankster/joker, and that won him no favors with a few of his peers/superiors/). I mainly worked within the program as an engineer.

[deleted]53 karma

/my grandpa was, and still is, a bit of a prankster/joker, and that won him no favors with a few of his peers/superiors

He had the guts to troll the upper echelons of the Soviet bureaucracy? Kids these days just make stuff up on IAMA....

BETEP91 karma

One time my friends/colleagues and I were taking a break while working with the hydrolaboratory (a big spherical pool of water that usually houses a replica space station and is used for practicing zero-g maneuvers) when we decided to have a little competition -- we would dive the twelve meters down to the station, swim its 20 meter length, turn around, swim back, and resurface. We would do this to see who would swim the fastest. 12 people agreed to compete, and we would go in turns while someone recorded our time. The first few went -- 1:30, 1:45, all near the 2 minute mark.

Around the fourth person to go a voice boomed out from the intercoms telling us to clear the 3rd floor, as important delegates or some other were visiting. We, caught up in the competition, naturally ignored it. I was the sixth to go. Keep in mind we were doing this without fins or tanks, so when it came to be my turn I was only wearing my underwear and a mask.

I begin my dive and reach the start of the tunnel without problem. I swim down its length, but suddenly notice myself being tugged back -- my shorts had caught on part of the equipment! Having not too much time to spare, for we were competing, I take off my shorts, swim to the end of the station, and swim back. As I emerge from the tunnel, I see a strange sight -- there in front of me swims a man in full scuba gear carrying a bouquet of roses? Confused by this, I swim to the surface, where we first begin our dive, and upon emerging notice a group of thirty or so people looking out over the hydrolaboratory from the third floor.

At the front of this group stands an Indian woman -- I later found out that this was Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India. "Shit!", I think, naked but for my mask, "I can't go out like this!" I dive back down and hide in the space station where I know there to be a trapped pocket of air. I stay there for 15 minutes, waiting for the foreign delegates to pass.

Later I emerge and hear the following: Gandhi had seen me in the pool, but had not noticed my nudity. She saw that I was not wearing scuba tanks, though, she saw me dive without them, and she saw my form enter the station. After 5 minutes of my not resurfacing she turns to Mikhail Danilov, who was standing beside her, and asks him who that man in the water was. He tells her, "Oh, him? He's our fishman, whom we caught when we last visited the Pacific. We kept him, for we find him entertaining." He then ushers her away, knowing that I cannot stay underwater forever.

5 times Gandhi returned to visit Star City, and again and again she asked to see this strange fishman from before, but each time I hid from her. Finally, on her last visit, she was informed that we had to return him to the ocean whence he came, for his gills had begun to dry.

BETEP59 karma

/Oh man, some of these are pretty good. I'm going to post examples here so people actually get to see them rather than respond down below where they'd be buried/

After I'd been working in Star City for a time there arrived a Captain fresh out of school, Captain Valeri Korneyov. Valery was a young man, and it soon became known that he very much loved gambling, and would take up anyone on any bet posed to him. One day, we are together inside the facility, him dressed in full military regalia, and I say to him, "Valery, how about we make a wager? I bet you I can cut off all the buttons on your current dress and resow them easily. I shall do all this within the span of 3 minutes." Valery lights up, knowing that such a feat is impossible, and says to me, "What will be the prize for winning this bet?" I reply, "Why, a bottle of the finest french camus (a type of cognac popular among Russian officers in those days). Even happier with the prospect of victory, Valery removes his jacket, which had no fewer than 12 buttons down the front and 4 in the back, and hands it to me. I cut them off. He takes off his shirt, which had 10 buttons in various places -- I remove them. Finally he removes his pants, and standing there in only his underwear watches as I removes those buttons also. He even points out a button, hidden secretly on the inside of his pants, and insists I not forget it. He looks at me, a grin on his face, and says, "Now Kostia, you'll never be able to do it!" (it is worth noting that at this point many of our fellows have gathered to watch what was going on). What do I do? I take the largest button taken from his jacket, string it with thread, and sew it back on to the secret compartment of his pants. I then open a drawer nearby and take out a bottle of French Cognac Camus I'd purchased earlier. I hand it to him, turn around and leave, while he stands there in stark realization, a small mountain of buttons piled high before him and a bottle of brandy held fast in his hands.

/I was just (re)told a fair few of these but will post them separately, because each is rather long and I don't want chrome to crash again like it did the last I typed out a lengthy post/

BETEP35 karma

/another example of pranking/

On April 1st, 1982, Officer Nikolai Yusov came to me early in the morning in a fluster -- he had to obtain clearance quickly to travel to Moscow, but in order to do so he needed a typed copy of his resume. I was the only one at work so early that day, and moreover I was one of the fastest at the typewriter, so we agreed that I should type his resume out, and I did so, and he read it and approved. Then, as he was getting dressed (he had to look formal for he was meeting with some important people in Moscow), I switch his real resume out for a false one! In his hurry he doesn't notice and rushes over to Beregovoy in a building a few hundred meters away to obtain the necessary clearance. He gives Beregovoy the papers and stands up straight as Beregovoy begins to read them. Beregovoy looks up and asks "Nikolai, are you sure this is the correct file?" "Yes, yes," Nikolai replies, "I typed them all out myself! Everything in there is correct!" Beregovoy replies, "Well in that case, would you mind reading it aloud for me?" As he takes the papers and begins to read, a mask of horror begins to play over his features. Aloud he reads http://i.imgur.com/jxERR.jpg

The moral of the story? Always remember when it is April 1st!

mgedmin44 karma

Translation for those who don't read Russian:


I, Yusov Nikolai Ivanovitch, born 32 December 1843 in the state of Arkansas, USA, finished West Point War Academy (department of diversionary practice).

In 1969 I landed in the Moscow forest massif, to infiltrate the Preparation Center of Kosmonauts and sabotage all manned Russian flights.

I've been doing that successfully until now, and I've full trust of the KGB and CIA.

My father, Brezinsky Ivan, during the revolution personally killed with a sabre 76 kommisars from Baku, and my sister and brother, working in Riga, successfully sabotage Russian nuclear submarines, steal nuclear warheads and sell them to Honduras.

I'm also related to the pilot Hammersom (USA), who dropped the third nuclear bomb on Tokyo (the bomb didn't detonate), and my uncle Hammers, being mentally ill, jumped out from the bomber B-29 without a parachute after the bomb. Nobody knows about that.

I've defended a dissertation on the topic of "Secret insertion of superdoses of alcohol into the blood system of kosmonaut candidates" and effectively implement it on test subjects.

I carry full personal responsibility for the veracity of all the facts of my autobiography. Lt. colonel N. I. Yusov, candidate of technical sciences.

Signature 1 April 1982

BETEP14 karma

/ahaha, yes! I knew somebody would come along to translate! Didn't feel like typing any more. Thank you!/

BETEP28 karma

/here's another story he just told me of him angering the bureaucracy, not so much from jokes but still/

The year was 1984, and England was hosting its once-every-four-years sailing competition across the Atlantic. This was shortly after I had made my own solo trips from Russia to Cuba and back, and evidently the English had heard of me, as I received from them a letter asking me to participate in their competition (/he said it was sent from the queen's department or house or something, not directly from the queen, but from someone who worked with her/). I say I received, but I only say that in the sense that I eventually received it, as it was first intercepted by the government and read by many people before me, so everyone knew about the invitation. It said that all expenses were to be covered for me, so I was of course very eager to go. However, obtaining permission was troublesome -- the party coordinators were fine with my leaving, but my generals -- especially Marshall Efimov -- considered it unacceptable.

Later, in the midst of all this, I am called into the office of one of my superiors -- General Georgiy Beregovoy -- and see that a group of assorted generals has gathered there, with even the head of the Star City Janitorial Department sitting quietly in the corner. Georgiy then tells me that Marshall Efimov had called him earlier and told him that if I obtained clearance to leave, then I, and the rest of the Soviet Space Program, would be fired" (it is understandable why he wanted me not to go; at this point I knew many secrets and posed an insecurity if those secrets were released). "If you want to go on your little pleasure cruise, Kostia," Georgiy says, "you'll have to travel as a civilian, obtain a passport, and quit the army". I say to him, "Georgiy, if you think a solo crossing of the Atlantic is a pleasure cruise, then (and I should mention here at this point that during the war Georgiy had flown in combat no less than 200 times and had by now become a Hero of the Soviet Union twice) all of your 200 flights are worth the same as 200 visits to the grannies! (/granny is slang for whore in Russian/)". He immediately grows mad and expels me from the room, as the remaining generals quietly begin to whisper to each other. I leave and go to my office and resume working as before. Later that evening, as I am leaving to go home, the head janitor approaches me and tells me that as I left the cabinet and the tension had cooled down some, Georgiy turned to his generals and said "That, gentlemen, was a man. You can depend on him."

In one month they had built a trimaran and I went to test it on the Black Sea, and it worked beautifully. We loaded it up on to a ship for its transport to England when the captain of the ship that was to bring my boat over received a call from Marshall Efimov forbidding him to leave. So I didn't get to go to the race after all.

[deleted]34 karma

Reading this particular response makes me wonder... though I can understand if you don't want to ask him this.... what's his biggest regret in life?

BETEP107 karma

/I can answer this for him easily -- it's not getting to go to Mars. It was his most major work within the space program and his project fell through. I'll elaborate more when I ask him about it in another post/

MikeBruski85 karma

Thanks for this AMA.

To him: What would you say the biggest change between then and now is? Something that even today, you can't wrap your head around?

What's your opinion of Poland, the Poles, and how communism ended there?

Are there things you miss beyond words?

BETEP145 karma

/oh man, it's really hard to get a serious answer out of him; I spent a while on these and got:/

The biggest change between then and now is my age. The second biggest change is the age of my wife. (/he's not too familiar with modern technology and doesn't use phones or computers or anything with any regularity, and doesn't seem to see cars and what have you as particularly impressive/)

On Poland: The people are good and kind, as are people everywhere. The government has many times been corrupt as a result of ulterior economic interests from both within and without. I maintain that communism has never truly existed in Poland, and what was there was there in name only (/note: he had largely retired from public life by the fall and begun his sailing career, and was never terribly interested politics to begin with/). I hope that one day Poland and Russia will be friends.

I miss most all my friends who have died before me. I also miss the reign of communism, where it worked successfully.


What's his opinion on Putin?

BETEP158 karma

His rise to influence was overly contingent upon corrupt, self-serving rich people, but deep down he desires the best for Russia -- to revive Russian strength and power on the global stage in all respects.

MethodicalMortal48 karma

To revive it? Does he believe that Russia can obtain the same strength and power it once wielded can be obtained without making the sacrifices that were necessary to obtain it before? And even if they can obtain it what then? I truly am curious, the pride that Russians seem to have even now is inspiring.

Awesome AMA

BETEP215 karma

Yes, I am certain that we can regain the strength and majesty we once had, because our people are strong, kind, and smart. I do not believe this can be accomplished without sacrifice -- the people must grow to overcome their baser greeds and unite to overthrow the corruption that has overtaken our government. And after? It is only through such unity and strength that we can join together with other nations and so united visit the stars. (/summarizing here, but he doesn't want Russia to lead the world with all others weak and powerless before it. He wants a common destiny for all mankind, for all nations to be great and wise and powerful, so that we might all, joined in such a brotherhood, pursue peace and happiness for one another and not just for ourselves. And get to visit other planets to boot). If we fail in this, if we do not join together, our only end shall be decay and stagnation.

Tarkaan77 karma

When you saw the Berlin Wall come down, did you know what was going to happen next? Was it obvious to you that the Soviet Union was going to cease to exist?

I ask because we had Pepsi commercials with the little American boy and the little Russian boy talking about Perestroika, among other things, in the months before the coup.

Thanks for the AMA.

BETEP100 karma

No -- I hadn't even the slightest clue that we were on the brink of collapse. On the contrary, I thought it good that the wall fell, I thought that the only result would be a more unified Germany, and that we would all continue on as strong as before. I didn't think it would affect us in any great fashion; I thought that any change that might occur would be decidedly positive.

roland19d69 karma

What was his opinion of Russian Sub life? I've read their size allows for creature comforts that most NATO subs can't afford - like spas and swimming pools.

Just as a note please tell him my business uses the phrase "Crazy Ivan" on a semi-regular basis to indicate a complete change in development direction ordered by executives. It was spawned from the movie "Hunt for Red October" where the Russian sub captains would suddenly do a 360 turn to clear their baffles and make sure they aren't being followed by another sub.

BETEP88 karma

The extent of my experience with subs entails a month spent on one powered by diesel. It was a smaller class of submarine, built to carry a maximum of 40 people (opposed to the nuclear powered ones which could fit 180), and we did not have very much space. In fact, we did not even have our own sleeping quarters -- we worked in shifts where two people would trade off beds as one rose to work and the other went to sleep. The larger nuclear subs had room enough for private quarters for everyone, and many had saunas and fitness centers and so forth, but I personally never saw one with a swimming pool.

/I told him about the phrase and he seemed to find it amusing but I don't think he really knew what I was talking about/

[deleted]62 karma

How close was the Soviet Union to a moon landing when Apollo 11 launched?

BETEP86 karma

We were very close. In 1969 I, along with my (/partner? Russians had 2 man crews back then, as opposed to three like in the US. Not sure how to translate the word, coworker sounds stupid) partner Nikolai Gerrtzick (/phonetic spelling/) ran a complete fourteen day simulation in which we orbited the moon. I then proceeded to land while Nikolai remained in orbit, and afterwards we went through the return maneuvers. At the end of the simulation, we packaged ourselves into the return capsules and they threw us into the black sea, where we bobbed for 12 hours while they practiced our recapture. That part imitated our proposed landing into the Indian Ocean.

We (/Russia as a whole/) had tentative plans to go that very year, if not the next, and I think we could have done so. Ultimately funding was shaky and interest was lost after the success of Apollo 11. (/I ask at this point, had the Apollo mission failed, had something exploded during takeoff, do you think Russia might have gone through with their own planned mission?/). Yes, I think that had Apollo failed, our own mission would have gone through. Success may not have been absolutely guaranteed, but we would have tried.

NueDumaz21 karma

Crew. Crewmate is the word you were looking for, I think.
Or did the guys call each other "comrade" like in the movies?

BETEP31 karma

/That's it! Thanks. Crew still sounds kinda odd for a two man team though. But I guess ground control and the rest could be considered the crew, too.

I'll ask him how he referred to his friends back then, but "Tovarich" or "Dryg" ("comrade" and "friend") are in pretty popular use today, near as I can tell. Mind, I'm not too connected to what's hip back in Russia, maybe someone else living there now can chime in?/

mattjones1755 karma

I have spent quite a bit of time this year researching the Soviet space programme for a project I'm doing. I have a bit of an interest in it, so this AMA is great! I would try to ask in Russian (I am half Russian), but I don't have a Russian keyboard.


Did you ever meet or work with Korolev? What was he like?

Did you ever live in a 'closed city'/ZATO?

BETEP84 karma

/yep, he worked with him a number of times and as I understand it they were very friendly with one another. I asked him (he was watching the news and wasn't doing any more questions for a while) really quickly just now about Korolev and he said, "The man had an excellent character and an iron-clad will -- once he decided upon something, he would accept no opposition and would pursue his aims until he achieved them". And oh yeah -- he's lived in Star City since 1968, as has everyone else in my immediate family. I was born in a hospital in Moscow (Star City only has an apothecary) but all my time living in Russia has been in Star City and I still occasionally visit back during the summers. It's not quite as militarized any more, but there's still a tall cement wall surrounding the city that you need to climb/crawl under to go on hikes and a military checkpoint to get in which requires a passport thing. I've been all over the place and got to go scuba dive in their spherical tank housing a replica station and do all sorts of other things.

also, if you can speak russian and have a webcam and want to ask more feel free to record a question or two and then I can show him and tape him as he gives an answer/

kurokikaze53 karma

Щигры это под Курском?

BETEP73 karma

/Yep, about 50 km NE. We looked at it in Google Earth yesterday and he was very happy to see his old lake and streets. Oh, and I'd type in Russian, but I have to hunt and peck for the keys and so am much faster in English/

gehzumteufel5 karma

I presume you are using a US keyboard without any Cyrillic letters on them? If so, you should get some of these!

BETEP13 karma

/I actually just got those stickers for my grandma to email her friends and google things and so on, but I don't have memorized any of the keys and so it takes me a while to type things in Russian/

roadkillzombie47 karma

thank you for this AMA, as a studying astronautical engineer, i am curious:

did you work on N1?

if so, why did the concept of using multiple parallel nozzles come about, instead of using one larger nozzle with a smaller throat? I would find the one nozzle would be cheaper, lighter, simpler, and offer more thrust, but i could definitely be assuming too much here.

do you think the cosmonaut program has a future? I ask because it does seem as though the state-sponsored space industry is dying.


BETEP50 karma

I myself did not work on the N1, but I was around during its development and am reasonably familiar with its workings. We used multiple nozzles because they were easier to control/manage (/mum was there when I was asking him this and we argued over the correct word. She says control is all wrong and I say it's correct, but neither of us know anything about N1s so take your pick/) in a more precise manner.

I truly believe there is a future to the cosmonaut program, but only if the current administration can be radically changed. At its present, it is a weak, atrophied organization, but if change to stronger, more able hands occurs, then it will flourish. In my heart, I am certain this will one day happen.

GrahamDouglas45 karma

He has an awesome cat. Has he ever been to America? If so, how did he like it?

BETEP115 karma

/aye, he's here right now. He lives here about half the time with my mum to get away from the Russian winter. I asked him his opinion on modern America and he said:/

I very much love America for its tendency towards law and order. There is much less corruption here, at least in the lower levels, and in the higher ones too, or maybe at the top it's much better hidden. For example, I remember ten or so years ago I was running (/this was at our old house here, he was visiting for a few months/) as part of my morning exercise* and a police car pulled up along side me and asked if I needed any help with anything. This willingness to serve the public would never be found back home, and both surprised and amazed me.

/*just to brag a bit, at 78 he still runs and lifts weights and, aside from a bit of sciatica and occasional back pain, is quite healthy. Up until about 5 years ago he could easily outperform an in-shape 40 year old athletically, and up until ~12 was still doing all sorts of crazy one handed pullups and such/

BarfingKitten41 karma

What drove him to leave the motherland? (besides imprisonment =X)

BETEP98 karma

/my mum and I moved over to the states. He lives here with us and my grandma/his wife half the time and back in Russia the rest. Mostly it's winters here, summers there. So he's technically not left, not permanently/

gobliin37 karma

How much did your grandfather do to have a life like this? I mean did things just happen with one event leading to the next, or did he have to actively seek out opportunities?

BETEP108 karma

/He's easily, easily the hardest working person I know. Absolutely no contest. I do not know how mightily he struggled back when, or how hard things came to him, but he's the sort of person never to give up and to pursue any goal with the absolute fullness of his spirit. He faced adversity often, in the form of enemies in politics and the deaths of his friends (and, hell, let's include the Nazis too), and to hear him tell it he was slaying dragons at every corner. But yeah, he actively sought every one of his accomplishments out.

Some examples from my life with him, of things he would do with me on a monthly basis: when I was young (like 6 or 7ish) I really liked dinosaurs, so he went out to the stores and bought tons of those replica wooden dinosaur skeleton sets, and then proceeded to bury them over a square mile of the deserts near our house. We would often take walks together, and on some of these walks, lo and behold, he'd use his advanced paleontological knowledge to suggest places for me to dig, and over the course of a month we would collect dinosaur bones until I could begin to, with a little suggestion, assemble them into complete skeletons. For years I believed I'd excavated baby stegosauri and t-rex and sauropods and whatever else.

Another time he collected boards and sticks and so forth until he finally constructed for me a landsailboat (like a catamaran shaped triangle thing with a big sail sticking out the top). He'd wanted to teach me how to sail, but there being few bodies of water in the desert, he went for the next best thing.

So things like that happened all the time growing up with him. Sounds kind of silly but hopefully it demonstrates how dedicated he was in such small things, and how much more dedicated he would have been in his career, pursuing his own dreams./

Apologetic_Jerk35 karma

Did he play any sports at a high amateur level? If so which ones?

BETEP83 karma

I competed in the second class in boxing and skiing and was a master of sport in skydiving and yachting.