60 Years. TsAGI — to the Universe: Commemorating 110th Birthday Anniversary of Mstislav Keldysh, a USSR Space Program Founder
16 February 2021
Somewhere in space, Keldysh Asteroid is orbiting the Sun; on the visible side of the Moon, on the eastern border of the Lunar Sea of Cold there is an impact crater which bears the same name. These space objects are named after Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh, Soviet mathematician and mechanic, academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (AS USSR), because one of his important achievements was the management of national space exploration, including the creation of rocket and space systems.
Mstislav Keldysh was born on January 28, 1999 in Riga. His father, Vsevolod Keldysh, was a full professor and a Major General of the Engineering Service. As early as a schoolchild, Mstislav Keldysh revealed his talent for mathematics. In 1927 he entered Moscow State University, Faculty of Physics and Mathematics, where he met Mikhail Lavrientiev, future soviet Academic. This acquaintance later developed into a strong friendship and their joint work in the field of aircraft design.
After graduating from Moscow State University M.V. Keldysh was deployed to TsAGI, the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute named after Professor N.E. Zhukovsky. At that time, S. Chaplygin, mechanic and mathematician, Academician of the AS USSR, headed the Institute. The young scientist worked for TsAGI from 1931 to 1946 and was promoted, first from an engineer to a chief engineer, then to a team leader, and finally, to the head of Dynamic Strength. At the Institute, Mstislav Keldysh solved the problems of unsteady wing theory, substantiated the Zhukovsky’s Propeller Theory, developed theories for fluid-body interaction, incompressible flow, etc. He elaborated reliable methods for calculating flutter and shimmy, and suggested practical solutions to prevent these phenomena.
In 1944 M. Keldysh headed the mechanics department at the Mathematical Institute of the AS USSR, and taught at Moscow State University. In 1946, he was appointed head of the Research Institute-1 of Ministry of Aviation Industry where he worked in the field of rocket propulsion and space energy; in 1950, he became the scientific director of this institution. In
Since the mid-1950s, Keldysh headed the development of theoretical prerequisites for the launch of artificial bodies into near-earth orbits, and further flights to the Moon and planets of the solar system. He led the scientific and technical council and coordinated activities of research institutes and design departments on the creation of the first artificial earth satellite. He made a great contribution to space exploration in such areas as: manned flight programmes; the formulation of scientific problems; the research on near-earth space, interplanetary medium, the Moon and planets; the solution of many problems in the mechanics of space flight and the theory of control, navigation and heat transfer. Keldysh also took part in the preparation of the Vostok space flight with Yuri Gagarin on board.
Keldysh’s activities in this area were classified for a long time, but in scientific circles he was the second person after Sergei Korolev and in the media he was presented as ‘the Chief Theoretician of Cosmonautics’. Speaking of which, in S. Korolev’s office there was ‘a three-K photo’ —Kurchatov, Korolyov and Keldysh, three luminaries of the rocket and space industry.
M.V. Keldysh was three times Hero of Socialist Labor, among his awards — the Lenin Prize and the Stalin Prize. Possessing the gift of scientific foresight, he was one of those who opened the era of space for our country and the world. It was thanks to his talent and initiative that the USSR took the lead in space exploration.