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74 votes
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Did a Soyuz fly with a Union Jack?

The USSR's next-to-last crewed launch was Soyuz TM-12, flying to Mir, carrying two Russians and the UK's first astronaut, Helen Sharman. Here's a photo of TM-12 on the launch pad with the UK flag ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
74 votes
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What "fuel more powerful than anything the West (had) in stock" put Laika in orbit aboard Sputnik 2?

Laika's magical mystery propellant was kerosene and LOX. Sputnik 2 was launched on the 8K71PS launcher. This was a modified R-7 ICBM, and like all the R-7 derived launchers, its RD-107 and RD-108 ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
69 votes
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How (the heck) did Lunokhod 2 drive, navigate and survive a ~40 kilometer drive over four months on the Moon using 1970's technology?

A few interesting videos about the lunokhod rovers: Tank on the Moon The Lunokhod Rovers - It Happened in Space #7 Secret Soviet Lunar Rovers and Extra Terrestrial Cars - Lunokhod, Mars Rovers The ...
Fred's user avatar
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59 votes
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Why did the Soviet Union decide to use 30 small engines instead of a few large ones on the N1?

Developing new engines takes time, and time was a precious resource in the Moon race. The major problem with making larger engines is the problem of combustion instability of large combustion chambers....
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar
56 votes
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What led Yuri Gagarin to believe his hatch was not properly sealed?

Gagarin learned about the problems with the hatch when the hatch was reopened. From Roscosmos: В 7.30 С.П. Королев поинтересовался о самочувствии у Ю.А. Гагарина. Казалось, что все идет согласно ...
A. Rumlin's user avatar
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48 votes
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What are the teeth on the edge of Venera 13 and 14?

The teeth served an aerodynamic function. ...metal teeth were added to the periphery of the impact ring in an effort to reduce the spin and oscillation during the descent and prevent the rough ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
46 votes

Did Sputnik 1 tell us more than "beep"? What science was improved by information gained from its orbiting the Earth?

Shot answer: Was Sputnik-1 "only for beep" - no, it wasn't :) It was technical test of R-7 as space launcher and test of spacecraft in orbit (athough very simple spacecraft). Also scientists ...
Heopps's user avatar
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41 votes
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Gagarin not ejecting from capsule

Initially, the USSR insisted that Gagarin had landed with the spacecraft, because of requirements for FAI certification of spaceflight records: One of the stipulations for spaceflight requires that ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
34 votes
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How did the U.S.S.R manage to rotate the N-1 from horizontal to vertical?

They used an extremely large rail-based transporter/erector nicknamed the "grasshopper". Image source This image shows the N-1 in the process of rotation. Image source russianspaceweb says the ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
34 votes

Did Sputnik 1 tell us more than "beep"? What science was improved by information gained from its orbiting the Earth?

I don't know what the USSR was trying to do with it, but I know what the US Navy did with it. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab used the Doppler shift on the 20 MHz ...
Ryan C's user avatar
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33 votes
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How did the USSR track Gagarin's Vostok-1 orbital flight? Was tracking capability an issue in the choice of orbit?

The Answer is on a page by Sven Grahn. No ocean going tracking ships were used. Only ground stations on the territory of the USSR. In the other answers some russian sources about the use of tracking ...
Uwe's user avatar
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33 votes
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What kept the Soviets from going to the Moon (before the US)?

Conveniently, NASA has a report which explains the Soviet moon-lander program at great length. It is available for free here. As usual, the only real answer is "the totality of circumstances.&...
fectin's user avatar
  • 1,019
28 votes

Did Sputnik 1 tell us more than "beep"? What science was improved by information gained from its orbiting the Earth?

Sputnik 1 was pressurized with nitrogen at 1.3atm. The period of the beeping was tied to a pressure sensor. The logic was being that if anything (such as a micrometeoroid) penetrated the satellite, ...
Nathan's user avatar
  • 281
27 votes

How did the Vostok ejection seat safely eject an astronaut from a sealed space capsule?

According to this NASA page someone was killed when his space suit was ripped during a test of the ejection system. Korolyovs [Korolevs] reaction to Dolgov's death was to take a number of urgent ...
Uwe's user avatar
  • 49k
25 votes

What caused the N1 to become a failure?

Generically the program was underfunded, and the main issue was lack of full up testing of each stage. With 30 engines, the interactions in the plumbing were very complex and caused imperfect fuel/...
geoffc's user avatar
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24 votes
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Was the Soviet N1 really capable of sending 9.6 GB/s of telemetry?

That claim is rather dubious. First, there is the claim of 320,000 channels of telemetry, while one paragraph earlier it lists 13,000 sensors on board. There will be setpoints in addition to sensor ...
Hobbes's user avatar
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24 votes
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Why did Voskhod 2 carry two cosmonauts when Voskhod 1 proved it could carry three?

The Voskhod capsule was very cramped, and the three-cosmonaut flight was essentially a propaganda stunt. From Wikipedia: [Voskhod 1 was] the first flight without the use of spacesuits... The three ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
24 votes

What kept the Soviets from going to the Moon (before the US)?

Russell Borogove's comment deserves to be an answer - the Soviets did not have the resources to put into it. Designing, building, and testing all the components of a moon landing mission takes an ...
Mark Foskey's user avatar
21 votes

What caused the N1 to become a failure?

To add to geoffc's excellent answer, another issue that might have been worked out with more testing was the KORD, a computer system for controlling the 30 different engines. Ideally, the KORD would ...
DylanSp's user avatar
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21 votes
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How was the cosmonaut of the Soviet moon mission supposed to get back in the return vehicle?

There are good diagrams of the Kontakt docking system in the Mir Hardware Heritage document by Portree. As stated in comments, this was an unpowered, misalignment-tolerant docking system that did not ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
19 votes
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What are these objects near the Cosmonaut's faces?

These are two microphones of the cosmonaut's headset (шлемофон - hat with headphones and microphones). Two microphones reserve each other. The ДЭМШ-microphone possessed considerable resistance to ...
A. Rumlin's user avatar
  • 7,863
18 votes
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Was splashing down on the USSR-controlled territory a possibility for Apollo missions?

The planned landing areas for Apollo command modules were pre-programmed beforehand and happened in the South Pacific. Often the South Pacific, but sometimes the North Pacific or the Atlantic. Both ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
18 votes

What is this long truss associated with Mir?

I believe that's the Sofora girder which was made up of 20 segments totalling 14 metres in length. There was an RCS thruster at the top end which made it easier to orient the station and used less ...
GordonD's user avatar
  • 1,153
17 votes

Why did Sputnik 1 have four antennas?

I think @PearsonArtPhoto 's answer misses several major points. From http://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/link-suggestion/wpcd_2008-09_augmented/wp/s/Sputnik_1.htm The satellite carried two antennas ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
17 votes

How did the USSR track Gagarin's Vostok-1 orbital flight? Was tracking capability an issue in the choice of orbit?

Ships were used to receive telemetry. Work in the ocean took place on February 12, 1961. At this time, preparations for the launch of the world's first manned spacecraft Vostok were completed. ...
A. Rumlin's user avatar
  • 7,863
17 votes

What kept the Soviets from going to the Moon (before the US)?

I think I saw a documentary that mentioned that large rockets like Saturn V could have vibration problems that would destroy them, but why couldn't the Soviets solve them? Only the first of the four ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
16 votes

How did the USSR track Gagarin's Vostok-1 orbital flight? Was tracking capability an issue in the choice of orbit?

I've found that language barrier problem exists. There are many info in Russian that have no proper translations in English. There were space tracking ships too. Information that USSR had not them ...
Heopps's user avatar
  • 9,061
16 votes
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Which of the former Soviet republics have sent a cosmonaut into space?

Wikipedia's List Of Cosmonauts page has a handy breakdown for "Soviet and Russian cosmonauts born outside Russia". According to that page: All Soviet and RKA cosmonauts have been born ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
16 votes
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What is this long truss associated with Mir?

Updated answer: TL;DR: Mayak (Lighthouse/beacon) or URS truss, mounted on Salyut-7 in May 1986. Additional element, including interview with cosmonaut Vladimir Solovyov, added at end of this answer -...
blobbymcblobby's user avatar

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