Much has been in the USSR polygons: Plesetsk and Sary-Shagan, Baikonur and Kapustin Yar Semipalatinsk and Novaya Zemlya. All and will not list. By and large – the whole vast country under the name of the Soviet Union was one single – Polygon.
Polygon – it is almost always developing and testing new things… to move forward.
To all those who were on the Polygon
Instead of preface…
There were a lot of secrets in the USSR, even the things which did not require any secrecy at first glance…
As the country collapsed, many of such secrets were revealed to those from whom they were concealed. The newest technologies, whose development took decades and tens of billions of dollars, and sometimes the most precious thing – human lives, were sometimes sold at a million or two, and sometimes given out practically for free.
Anyway, there were more secrets than one could sell, steal or learn for free. There were some mysteries which died along with the huge country.
One of them is the project “MS – 88”
There were just 9 people who knew about the real aim of this project in the whole of the USSR with the population of almost 280 million. General Secretary of CPSU Central Committee Andropov, minister of defense, general designer and… And of all the mighty General Secretaries, Andropov was the last one who knew about the project and, the main thing, understood its essence. Chernenko had other troubles – why should a gravely ill person be bothered about some deeply scientific things? Moreover, he died very quickly – maybe there was just no time to inform him.
The extremely talkative Gorbachev was not informed about it due to his excessive talkativeness. Moreover, the project was practically completed – it was just a matter of waiting for the results…
After that, there was nobody to inform – the minister of defense died, too. The general designer reported directly to him and preferred not to skip over the authority of his boss, even though he was deceased…
In the huge and mysterious taiga of Arkhangelsk, the most active and just as secret cosmodrome of the Soviet Union covered several thousand square kilometers. The nature itself protected such a large territory of the secret object.
Swamps, small rivers and lakes side by side with impassable wilderness. Nobody took care of the forest, and thousands of trees that had their day fell down and broke, creating natural barriers between new trees that our ancestors used about 700 years ago or maybe even earlier.
The taiga stretched on all sides beyond the horizon and really reminded of an endless green ocean. Just a few railroad lines bifurcated from the Northern track Moscow – Arkhangelsk and disappeared in this green silence.
The quiet was disturbed several times a week by powerful rolling boom of starting rockets. But practically nobody heard this sound except for the nearest military units and the launching crew. Small and sparse villages were located far away, and the northern taiga itself absorbed almost any sound better than any modern soundproofing…
The only thing the taiga could not absorb was light. In the absolute silence, a small dazzling spot would suddenly flash above the green horizon. First it seemed a kind of a toy balloon or a sparkle on a New Year tree that seemed to appear from nowhere in the wild taiga.
But the balloon was going higher and higher and growing brighter a brighter, like the metallic light of stars in the black space that suddenly drew much closer.
The northern sky is special, and nights are really white here in the middle of the summer. It is light like on a hot midday in June, but there is no sun in the sky. The star flying up seemed dazzling bright even against such a light background. Sometimes almost half of the sky started to shine due to particular weather conditions of the day or night of another launch, and it seemed that not one but dozens of rockets were starting off at the same time…
The star was going higher and higher and the sky gradually stopped shining, becoming a regular summer sky. And below it, the huge green sea remained just as thoughtful and silent.
Surely, things did not always look so beautiful; sometimes stars flew back to their native space practically imperceptible. For almost 20 years, the taiga cosmodrome was the most active in that, somewhat different, world. Almost 1 500 rocket launches – 40 % of all the world’s space starts.
And all that happened far from the civilization, in the harsh conditions of the almost extreme North.
And preparation of a rocket for the start is nothing like the morning warm-up and cleaning the car of the snow before driving to work, even when you fling out at –20 °C without outdoor clothes and your car would not open, and even if it does after several attempts, it would not start…It’s cold and nasty, you are short of time and you have to run for a spare battery or get assistance from those whose car started or try to push it… and how can you push a car that weighs 300 tons and is 50 meters long?
In winter there are no mosquitoes or even more disgusting gnat. And in the summer the wood is very beautiful and there are a lot of aspen mushrooms with red caps– but it’s difficult to pick them because of those that are absent in winter…
And it's not everywhere that you can pick these mushrooms.
Looking in the black silent space that surrounded the spaceship, with bright white spots of an endless multitude of stars, it was for some reason these red mushroom caps which no one needed that Andrey recollected.
Andrey was an onboard engineer of the manned spaceship of М-88 project and at the same time – a USSR KGB officer. He was not included in the crew because the omnipotent Committee was looking for CIS or MI-6 spies even in the space or because he had to shoot down, for example, the crew captain under certain circumstances. There was even no gun or any weapon on the spaceship at all.
It was just a personal wish of General Secretary… In the course of one of rare meetings with the project Coordinator he suddenly said: servicemen, scientists, doctors – all of them were in space, we sometimes even take foreigners there! And we have never included a single KGB officer in the crew!
The Coordinator was a bit surprised, but answered: Yuri Vladimirovich, that’s an interesting thought, but it would be better if he had some other profession besides being an officer. The crew is almost complete – there is a place for an onboard engineer, and considering the peculiarities of the spaceship – we need a specialist on compact nuclear power systems. Do you have someone of this kind in the Committee?
In the Committee of that time there were specialists in practically any sphere, especially in promising trends, let alone those connected with the atom.
They found Andrey… He graduated from a minor institute in Moscow where best graduates were distributed to closed military laboratories, design offices and KGB…
In general, people were not sent to the Committee, the Committee kindly invited them to work. One could refuse with no bad consequences to follow. Why should a person be compelled if he does not want to? Compulsory labor is not always efficient.
The nuclear power facility of the spaceship was surprisingly efficient, and the main thing, it was compact. It took almost 25 years to create it. The question of reduction of nuclear facilities in size and weight appeared from the moment when the first atomic bombs appeared and was in many ways solved by the beginning of 80s. Even real nuclear briefcases appeared, but not those carried after different Heads and Presidents…
Many nuclear things, big and small, were created for military reasons, and there even was no desire to use all that stuff for the intended purposes.