Soviets on the Moon

My colleague Daniel Renkel recently sent me this interesting collection of pictures. What’s this junk you ask? Well it’s no ordinary junk. It’s SPACE JUNK. Specifically, it’s Russian space junk from the cold war era. The most interesting part is this thing right here:

Russian Lander

Hint: It’s not an elaborate space toilet.

This one blew me away. It’s the LK – the Russian moon lander! This thing was built way back in the 60ies to beat the Apollo program in the race to the moon. As we all know the program failed. But I haven’t realized that they actually built the landing vehicle. It’s even more surprising that the thing still exists in one piece! What an amazing find!

Note the differences to the NASA solution. The LK is much, much smaller and has barely enough space for one cosmonaut. It has only one engine which is used for both – landing and takeoff. The NASA lander had two separate engines. The LK doesn’t even have a tunnel that would allow the cosmonaut to get into it from their mother ship. Instead, he would need to put on a space suit, exit the mother ship and enter the lander from outside. And then do the same thing again on the way back!

As the mother ship, the cosmonauts would use a heavily modified Soyuz capsule. A very elegant and low-profile solution. The only problem I see is that they could put only one cosmonaut on the surface. When doing dangerous stuff you always want two people so one of them can help the other if something goes wrong. Imagine what would have happened if the cosmonaut would get stuck or something like that!

According to Wikipedia it turns out they even sent 3 of those into space for testing. So surprisingly, that part of the soviet moon program was very far ahead. Really, the only thing that stopped the Russians was the failure of the N1 rocket – the equivalent of the Saturn rocket. And what a spectacular failure too!

There were 4 launches of the N1. Each of them was a failure and resulted in the rocket exploding. Most devastating was the second attempt. The rocket stalled right after takeoff, fell back at the starting position, exploded and destroyed the entire launch facility. The rocket was so large and had so much fuel that the explosion was equivalent to a small atom bomb. It was the biggest and most devastating accident in the history of spaceflight.

But even if the N1 succeeded, it doesn’t look like the Russians would have been able to land first. At this point, NASA already way ahead. But I wonder if the Russians would have still continued. After all, their lander was much smaller and much less sophisticated. If it wasn’t even first, it might have appeared as an even bigger failure as not even trying at all.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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