GENERICO.ruScienceThe leading institute of Roscosmos will vote on naming TsNIIMash after the legendary Yuri Mozzhorin

The leading institute of Roscosmos will vote on naming TsNIIMash after the legendary Yuri Mozzhorin

The figure in the rocket and space industry remains illegally forgotten

There is hardly a person in modern Russia who has not heard of Sergei Korolev or Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Companies and even cities are named after them. But there are other names of people who made significant contributions but were kept secret during their lifetime. It would be possible to honor their memory after death, but this sometimes turns out to be a problem. For almost ten years, veterans of the leading scientific center of the space industry, the Central Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering, have been seeking to name the institute after Yuri Aleksandrovich Mozzhorin, who headed it for almost thirty years. After all, under his leadership the foundation was laid for the formation of the country’s Aerospace Forces! One of his associates, former deputy head of the Control Systems Department of TsNIIMash Boris Blokhin, spoke about the problem with naming the institute after General Mozzhorin, as well as about him himself, “MK”.

A figure in the rocket and space industry remains illegally forgotten In the photo: Yuri Mozzhorin, author: TsNIIMash Press Center

Boris Dmitrievich Blokhin graduated in 1960 from the Ryazan Radio Engineering Institute, Faculty of Automation and Telemechanics. In the rocket and space industry – since 1962, included in the Book of Honor of NII-88 (the old name of TsNIIMash), laureate of the USSR Council of Ministers Prize in the field of instrument engineering, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics named after. K.E. Tsiolkovsky.

Didn’t it seem strange to you why the seemingly simple question of naming the name of a worthy representative of the institute takes so long to resolve? After all, for the first time the decision on this was made by the TsNIIMash team at a conference in 2014. For unknown reasons, the decision was delayed, so veterans got involved in the matter. 

“For Mozzhorin” The leadership of Roscosmos was asked by not the least people in the industry: former Minister of General Engineering Oleg Baklanov, State Secretary of the Russian Space Agency Valery Alaverdov, academician Nikolai Anfimov and many others. 

It is curious that the “good” in January 2016 it was finally received, but after that the procedure again indecently stalled. Why did the new leadership of the space industry, represented by Dmitry Rogozin, not support the decision of the previous one? unclear. Having waited for the arrival of the new head of Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, in 2022, the veterans, whose ranks had thinned out considerably by this time, wrote a letter to him too. 

Borisov reacted, but not quite in the way that the TsNIIMash veterans expected: the command was given to launch a new vote on an issue that seemed to have been resolved long ago by the institute’s staff. 

Well, if it’s necessary, then it’s necessary … To help us all get to know this man better, Boris Blokhin brought MK to the editorial office. several volumes of books dedicated to his former leader, photographs, copies of letters to industry management. 

Boris Dmitrievich begins his story about Mozzhorin with the history of the creation in May 1946 of the Research Institute of Jet Weapons in Kaliningrad near Moscow (as Korolev was then called). NII-88 was formed on the basis of the largest defense plant No. 88, as the main enterprise for solving the problem of developing jet weapons, which Stalin then considered the most important for our state.


Meanwhile, Yuri Mozzhorin, who returned from the war, which he went to as a volunteer student, completed his studies at the Air Force Academy. K.E. Zhukovsky and was sent to Germany as part of the Special Purpose Brigade of the Ministry of Defense, formed  to master captured missile weapons. He grew very quickly as a specialist. When he was not yet 40 years old, he was already awarded the Lenin Prize, and soon the title of Hero of Socialist Labor for the creation of control and measurement systems that ensured the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite and the first cosmonaut on the planet, Yuri Gagarin.

– There have never been similar systems anywhere in the world, – says Blokhin, – and the team he led, on the basis of their own knowledge and their own engineering qualifications, managed to create them. According to the generals of the Aerospace Forces, without him neither the first Sputnik in 1957 nor Gagarin in 1961 would have flown – nothing would fly. Well, if we talk about the army, his “modest” trace  – this is the basis for creating video conferencing!

By that time, General Mozzhorin’s highest scientific level had already been noted by the country’s leadership, and he was sent to NII-88 as director. His predecessor, teacher and friend Georgy Tyulin was then transferred to the position of deputy chairman of the State Committee for Defense Technology, and Mozzhorin after him was the permanent director of TsNIIMash from 1961 to 1990. He practically created our institute.

– Of course, it was while working at our institute, in its OKB-1, that Sergei Pavlovich Korolev became a Hero of Socialist Labor, and the institute was awarded the Order of Lenin. The point was different: Yuri Mozzhorin had to return NII-88 to its original status as a research institute from one that became an applied one after the separation of OKB-1. It was under the leadership of Yuri Aleksandrovich that the Soviet Space Flight Control Center was created (it was declassified only in 1975, during the implementation of the Soyuz-Apollo program). Under him, the testing base developed to the world level  to study the strength of spacecraft, aerodynamics and heat transfer, the dynamics of their flight and much more.

– He did great things. Judge for yourself: according to his report to the Defense Council, the country’s defense doctrine was adopted in July 1969! He had one like this  the highest authority as a scientist. But! For all his size, he was a very kind person. I’ll give you an example of a story that my wife Larisa, who worked as a leading engineer at the Control Center, once told me. 

Yuri Alexandrovich had a legendarily strict secretary. Of course: Anna Grigorievna worked under eight directors of the institute! So, she forbade employees from passing from one building to another (the passage was located not far from Mozzhorin’s office), so that they would not distract him from work with their stomping. But people had to go! And so, my wife told me, her young employee was somehow sneaking on tiptoe through this passage… Suddenly a short man caught up with her (Mozzhorin was short) and said: “Baby, why are you sneaking around like that?”  She, not knowing him by sight before, replies: “You understand, the director works here, you can’t knock your heels here!” He laughed and replied: “Knock!” I am the director!'

Boris Blokhin (left) and Yuri Mozzhorin during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of TsNIIMash 1996. From the personal archive of B. Blokhin.

There was another story in the 1980s, only this time with my participation. My director and I gathered at VDNH – meet there with the Chairman of the USSR State Committee on Computer Technology and Informatics Nikolai Vasilyevich Gorshkov. Our goal was – to obtain from the minister a scarce computer to create a computer center in our TsNIIMash. Then  powerful computer ES-1060  required about a hundred square meters of space for its placement.

“If it’s necessary, then it’s necessary, – Mozzhorin liked to talk in such cases. – Let’s get dressed and go.” Under the word “get dressed” he meant dressing in a ceremonial general's jacket (usually he always wore civilian clothes at work). 

I come to the reception room at the right time, and there that same strict secretary says: “Borya, everything is going wrong!” Yuri Alexandrovich’s car broke down.” A duty car was offered, but it did not have a pass to the territory of VDNKh, where in the “Montreal” building we worked as part of the exhibition of Scientific and Technical Creativity of Youth. Then I suggested that Mozzhorin drive his Zaporozhets, and Yuri Aleksandrovich took it and agreed: “Great!” –  speaks. – I've never been to the “Zaporozhets” before. I didn’t go.” And now imagine the picture: Yuri Aleksandrovich and I are approaching the gates of VDNKh, I’m driving, on my right – the general is sitting. The soldiers on duty at the entrance widened their eyes,  they showed up, and we walked past them, without even showing our pass…

– Mozzhorin and Gorshkov sat down, drank a cup of tea, talked, and  we received the car.

And one more touch to his portrait. I did not know a single major leader who, after making his own edits to the text submitted for signature, did not force his subordinates to retype the edited text. Mozzhorin – I didn't force it. He corrected it with a black pen, put his signatures next to it, and the document went into action. Examples can be seen in the book “So It Was”, participation in the compilation of which became a source of special pride in my life. He was not a bureaucrat – he was a democrat in his highest form.

Yu.A. Mozzhorin at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Boris Dmitrievich brought to the editorial office an unpublished interview with Yuri Mozzhorin, which he gave to Boris Smirnov in the late 90s – a famous screenwriter and director who had an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Russian space exploration from the inside. Smirnov is no longer with us, and Blokhin considered it right that the most interesting excerpts from that interview (with the subheadings of the MK journalist) should be published on the pages of our newspaper.

Yuri Mozzhorin: after Gagarin’s flight we are at our research institute  (Yu.A. Mozzhorin at that time was deputy head of the 4th Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense. –) they carefully calculated the percentage of risk of the first human flight into space – it turned out to be about fifty percent. This is a very big risk. 

When the decision was made to fly Gagarin, we prepared three versions of the TASS message. The first option – prosperous, victorious. The second option is that the ship did not enter orbit, and a request to the peoples of the world and states to provide the coordinates where it landed, a request to provide assistance to the astronaut and return the ship. And the third option, which reported the death of the astronaut. Each version of the message was sealed in a separate package, and all three packages were secretly sent to TASS, radio and television.

<…>I personally wrote the drafts of these three versions of the TASS message. Then Sergei Pavlovich Korolev looked at them, the Central Committee of the CPSU looked at them, and the Military-Industrial Commission looked at them.  And  each  authority  rules  and inserted more, so to speak, simpler verbs, clearer words. And I had to say on the phone: “Open the package number such and such.” I, not remembering myself with joy, gave the order on April 12 by phone: “Open package number one!” And then we collected the remaining unopened packages – second and third. They took it, took it away and destroyed it. 

Monument to Yu.A. Mozzhorin in Korolev, Moscow Region. From the TsNIIMash archive

At first there was no rivalry. Because Sergei Pavlovich Korolev came up with a proposal to organize a flight to the Moon when the Americans were not yet planning to fly there. He began developing two new powerful missiles – N-1  and N-2, one for fifty tons of payload, the other for fifteen tons. <…> After the Americans announced their intention to land on the Moon, for a long time we rested on the laurels of space pioneers and did not engage in a manned flight to the Moon. And then they suddenly decided that we couldn’t give up the championship to the Americans, and we had to be the first on the Moon. And we, several years later than the Americans, began preparing for the landing of our astronaut on the Moon. How was it customary for us – secretly, in an atmosphere of absolute secrecy. In addition, we did not abandon other space programs that gave us technical and political dividends, –  We left all the surface space behind us, we also solved very interesting problems: we flew to Venus, we flew to Mars, that is, we wanted to take everything with outstretched fingers. <…> We were trying to gain time. And this, as we know, leads to the fact that everything starts to fail when everything needs to work. And so we jumped out with unfinished engines for flight testing.  And our rockets began to fall, and we began to discredit ourselves with this stupid lunar program.

But when this program was closed, our institute opposed the closure of the N-1 lunar rocket. <…> I spoke for more than an hour, saying that the problems with the engines have now practically been resolved, because now the chief designer of the engines, Nikolai Dmitrievich Kuznetsov, has made reliable engines.  Secondly, we should not stop working on a heavy launch vehicle now, since the tasks of astronautics are becoming more complicated all the time, and spacecraft are becoming heavier <…> I was left alone with my opinion that the unique and practically used N-1 missile should be preserved. 

The flights to the Moon of Babakino's automatic stations are brilliant in their, so to speak, ideological simplicity. Take, for example, the return of the “Lunnik” to the ground. Starting from the Moon and landing on Earth without any corrections. How? The Earth rotates, and the Moon always rotates on the same side in relation to the Earth. The Moon is in the strong gravitational field of the Earth. It is necessary to choose the exact time for the vertical launch of the spacecraft from the Moon so that the Earth turns into the desired territory by the time the spacecraft returns to Earth. With an accurate calculation it is impossible to miss. This is at the level of very high-quality technical solutions.

Babakin was the first in the world to perform a soft landing on the Moon using the Luna-9 automatic apparatus.  It may be immodest on my part to say this, but the possibility of taking lunar soil with an automatic station was worked out and tested by our institute TsNIIMash. And if we had started working on this project on time, if from the very beginning we had seriously, with full dedication, been engaged in the delivery of lunar soil using an automatic apparatus, – we, of course, would have brought the soil  from the Moon before the Americans and significantly reduced the value of their expedition both politically and scientifically. 

“Luna-15” gave us our last chance to get ahead of the Americans. Moreover, the Americans would still be on the Moon, and we would already have the soil. When the Americans found out that we would launch Luna-15, they began to object, saying that the presence of some kind of extraneous spacecraft during their lunar expedition would pose a threat to the safety of their astronauts. But we convinced them that we would meet in lunar orbit – It's like winning a million dollars in the lottery. The probability is negligible.  And we, of course, launched Luna-15. But, having the last chance to bring lunar soil before the Americans, we committed, I would say, unforgivable negligence. We chose a flight path over the Moon in front of a high mountain. And the resulting short flight turned out to be fatal, and we did not land on the moon, but crashed into this mountain and crashed our lunar vehicle.  

It was necessary to choose a flight route over the Moon away from such dangerous places. And then we would have brought our one hundred and twenty-five grams of lunar soil two days earlier than the Americans.  

…Voting “for Mozzhorin” ends at TsNIIMash on February 16. I hope that we will soon see the name of Yuri Aleksandrovich in the name of this institute, as the stars of scientific and design thought that have already left us, as well as their living colleagues, cosmonauts, including – Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation, Hero of the USSR, Hero of Russia Sergei Krikalev, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences and twice Hero of the USSR Viktor Savinykh, former first deputy general director of TsNIIMash Valery Borisov and many others. 


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