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Tsiolkovsky, Konstantin

Entry updated 2 January 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1857-1935) Russian scientist and author. He began investigating the possibility of Space Flight in 1878. In his monograph Free Space (1883 chap) he suggested that Spaceships would have to operate by jet propulsion. His consideration of some of the practical difficulties led to a paper entitled "How to Protect Fragile and Delicate Objects from Jolts and Shocks" (1891). In 1903 he published the classic paper "The Probing of Space by Means of Jet Devices", proposing that space travel could be achieved using multistage liquid-fuelled Rockets. He wrote a good deal of didactic sf, mostly for young readers, in order to popularize his ideas. All of this is collected, along with several essays by or about Tsiolkovsky, in a volume edited by V Dutt, Put' k zvezdam (coll 1960 USSR; trans by various hands as The Call of the Cosmos 1963 USSR [for vts see Checklist]). The sf stories include the novelette On the Moon (written 1887; 1893), whose protagonists find themselves on the Moon caught in an educational dream; Grezy o Zemle i nebe i effekty vsemirnogo tjatotenija ["Dreams of Earth and Sky"] (coll of linked stories and essays 1895), the most fictional section of which features an encounter with the Alien inhabitants of the asteroid belt; and a full-length novel, Vne zemli (1916 Priroda i Lyudi; exp 1920; trans Kenneth Syers as Beyond the Planet Earth 1960), an account of the building and launching of a Spaceship by an international group of scientists, who begin the construction of Space Habitats in high orbit, and who then begin to explore the solar system itself, with a view to its colonization.

Tsiolkovsky was the first great pioneer of space research and the first real prophet of the myth of the conquest of space which has played such a vital role in modern sf. The inscription on the obelisk marking his grave reads: "Man will not always stay on Earth; the pursuit of light and space will lead him to penetrate the bounds of the atmosphere, timidly at first but in the end to conquer the whole of solar space." [BS/JC]

see also: Agriculture; Colonization of Other Worlds; Fantastic Voyages; Generation Starships; History of SF; Hollow Earth; Prediction; Russia; Space Elevator; Space Stations; Transportation.

Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky

born Izhevskoe, Russia: 17 September 1857

died Kaluga, USSR: 19 September 1935

works (selected)


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