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Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky (Russian: Константи́н Эдуа́рдович Циолко́вский; Polish: Konstanty Ciołkowski) (September 17 [O.S. September 5] 1857 September 19, 1935) was a Polish-Russian and Soviet rocket scientist and pioneer of cosmonautics who spent most of his life in a log house on the outskirts of Kaluga.

He was born in Izhevskoye (now in Spassky District, Ryazan Oblast), Imperial Russia, in a middle-class family. His father, Edward Ciołkowski, was Polish; his mother, Maria Yumasheva, was Russian and an educated woman. As a child, Konstantin caught scarlet fever and became hard of hearing. He was not accepted at elementary schools because of his hearing problem, so he was home schooled until the age of sixteen.


Nearly deaf, he worked as a high school mathematics teacher until retiring in 1920. Tsiolkovsky theorized many aspects of space travel and rocket propulsion. He is considered the father of human space flight and the first man to conceive the space elevator, becoming inspired in 1895 by the newly-constructed Eiffel Tower in Paris. His most famous work was "Исследование мировых пространств реактивными приборами" (The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices), published in 1903, which was arguably the first academic treatise on rocketry. Tsiolkovsky calculated that the speed required to orbit the Earth is 8 km/second and that this could be achieved by means of a multistage rocket fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. During his lifetime he published over 500 works on space travel and related subjects, including science fiction novels. Among his works are designs for rockets with steering thrusters, multi-stage boosters, space stations, airlocks for exiting a spaceship into the vacuum of space, and closed cycle biological systems to provide food and oxygen for space colonies. Unfortunately his ideas were for many years little known outside Russia, and the field lagged until German and other scientists independently made the same calculations decades later.


His work influenced later rocketeers throughout Europe, and was also studied by the Americans in the 1950s and 1960s as they sought to understand the Soviet Union's early successes in space flight.


Tsiolkovsky also delved into theories of heavier-than-air flying machines, independently working through many of the same calculations that the Wright brothers were doing at the same time. However, he never built any practical models, and his interest shifted to more ambitious topics.


Friedrich Zander became enthusiastic about Tsiolkovsky's work and active in promoting and developing it. In 1924 he established the first Cosmonautics Society in the Soviet Union, and later researched and built liquid-fuelled rockets named OR-1 (1930) and OR-2 (1933). On August 23, 1924 Tsiolkovsky was elected as a first professor of the Military Aerial Academy named after N. E. Zhukovsky (Russian: Военно-воздушная академия им. Н. Е. Жуковского).


In 1929 Tsiolkovsky proposed the construction of multistage rockets in his book Космические ракетные поезда (Space Rocket Trains).


The basic equation for rocket propulsion, the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, is named after him.


He was also an adherent of philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov, and believed that colonizing space would lead to the perfection of the human race, with immortality and a carefree existence.


Tsiolkovsky died on September 19, 1935 in Kaluga and was buried in state. A museum of cosmonautics in Kaluga now bears his name, as do Tsiolkovskiy crater on the far side of the moon and asteroid 1590 Tsiolkovskaja named after his wife.


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