Konstantin Eduardovitch Tsiolkovsky
The life of Konstantin Eduardovitch Tsiolkovsky
“The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but we cannot live forever in a
Konstantin E Eduardovitch. Tsiolkovsky
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was a true visionary and pioneer of astronautics.
He theorized many aspects of human space travel and rocket propulsion
decades before others, and played an important role in the development
of the Soviet and Russian space programs.
He was born on September 17,1857, in the village of Ijevskoe, Ryasan
Province, Russia, the son a a Polish forester who had emigrated to
Russia. He was not from a rich family, but a very large one; Konstantin
Tsiolkovsky had 17 brothers and sisters. At the age of 10 he lost his
hearing as the result of scarlet fever. After that he couldn’t attend
school, and he never recieved any formal education. The knowledge and
education he attained were acheived by himself. His books were his
teachers, and he read every book in his father’s library. Tsiolkovsky
later remembered that his hearing loss influenced greatly his future
life: during all his life he tried to prove to himself and to others
that he was better and more clever than others, even with his
In 1873-1876 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky lived in Moscow. During this time he
visited the main Moscow libraries, among them the well known Pashkov
House Library. It was in this fashion that he received his
self-education. While in Moscow, Tsiolkovsky was tutored by the
eccentric and brilliant Russian philosopher Nikolai Fedorovitch Fedorov,
who was working in a Moscow library at the time. Fedorov was a leading
proponent of Russian Cosmism, and gave Tsiolkovsky a place to work in
the library. In many ways, he took the place of the university lecturers
that Tsiolkovsky never had access to. At the age of17, while living in
Moscow, he first dreamed about the possibility of space flight. He was,
in part, inspired by the novels of Jules Verne. Since that time he
started to think about the problems of space vehicle design. His great
purpose was not simply to go into outer space, but to live in space, for
humainity to become a space civilization.
In 1876-1879, after his coming back to his father’s home, he lived in
Vyatka and Ryasan. After passing his exams, he recieved his Teacher’s
Certificate, and went to work as a math teacher in Borovsk, Kaluga
In 1880-1892 Tsiolkovsky lived in Borovsk and worked as a teacher. At
that time he began his scientific research in air baloon building, life
in free space, aerodynamics and philosophy. It was also at that time
that he married. His wife, Barbara E. Sokolova, was the daughter of the
local preacher. Together, they had 3 daughters and 4 sons.
In 1892-1935 he lived and worked in Kaluga. His moving to Kaluga was the
result of a teaching promotion. He lived in the house that is now a part
of the museum complex with his family from the year 1904 until his death
in 1935. It was here in Kaluga that he became a well known scientist,
and where he wrote and published his theories of space flight and
inter-planetary travels. In Kaluga he wrote his Cosmic Philosophy, and
he dreamed about the far distant future of humanity, including the
eventual conquest of space and our leaving the cradle of the planet
Earth for the stars. He was made a member of the Soviet Academy of
Science in 1919.
He received a government pension in 1920, and continued to work and
write about space. Upon the publication of the works of German rocket
pioneer Herman Oberth in 1923, his works were revised and published more
widely, and he finally earned some international recognition for his
He wrote over 500 scientific papers, and, even though he never created
any rockets himself, he influenced many young Russian engineers and
designers. Tsiolkovsky lived to see a younger generation of Russian
engineers and scientists begin to make his visionary concepts reality.
Among these was Sergey Korolev, who would become the “Chief Designer” of
the Soviet space program, who launched humanity into space with Sputnik,
Laika, and the launch of the first cosmonaut,Yuri Gagarin.
Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky, the father of cosmonautics, died in Kaluga at
the age of 78 on September 19,1935. He received an honored State funeral
from the Soviet government. He was buried in the old Kaluga Cemetery.
The tomb of Tsiolkovsky in the Old Kaluga Cemetery.
The Work of Tsiolkovsky
“Men are weak now, and yet they transform the Earth’s surface. In
millions of years their might will increase to the extent that they will
change the surface of the Earth, its oceans, the atmosphere, and
themselves. They will control the climate and the Solar System just as
they control the Earth. They will travel beyond the limits of our
planetary system; they will reach other Suns, and use their fresh energy
instead of the energy of their dying luminary.”-Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Tsiolkovsky is considered to be the father of cosmonautics and human
space flight, and was a truly great thinker. His visionary ideas about
the future of humanity in space were magnificent and far ahead of his
time. He dreamed about space flight since he was a very young boy.
Tsiolkovsky was certain that the future of human life will be in outer
space, so he deceded that we must study the cosmos to pave the way for
Later, he proved mathematically the possibility of space flight, and
wrote and published over 500 works about space travel and related
subjects. These included the design and construction of space rockets,
steerable rocket engines, multi-stage boosters, space stations, life in
space, and more. His notebooks are filled with sketches of liquid-feuled
rockets, detailed combustion chamber designs with steering vanes in the
exhaust plume for directional control, double walled pressurized cabins
to protect from meteorites, gyroscopes for attitude control, reclining
seats to protect from high G loads at launch, air locks for exiting the
spaceship into the vacume of space, and other amazingly accurate
predictions of space travel. Many of these were done before the first
airplane flight. He determined correctly that the escape velocity from
the Earth into orbit was 8 km./second, and that this could be achieved
by using a multi-stage rocket fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid
hydrogen. He predicted the use of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen or
liquid oxygen and kerosene for propulsion, spinning space stations for
artificial gravity, mining asteroids for materials, space suits, the
problems of eating, drinking, and sleeeping in weightlessness, and even
closed cycle biological systems to provide food and oxygen for space
Some of his works include:
“Astronomical Drawings” (1879). The earliest manuscript of Tsiolkovsky.
He drew the Solar System, the distances between the planets, their
“Free Space” (1883). Manuscript of Tsiolkovsky, first published in 1956.
In this work, he described the life and ways of motion in free space,
zero gravity, all done without the benefit on any mathematical
calculations. It was in this paper that Tsiolkovsky drew the primitive
design of a true Space Craft, which moved in outer space with the help
of reactive forces.
This was the first drawing of Tsiolkovsky’s of a space vehicle, from
“Free Space” (1883). It shows cosmonauts in weightlessness, gyroscopes
for attitude control, and an airlock for exit into free space.
“The Tsiolkovsky Rocket Equation”. He created his calculations about
space flight theory on May 10, 1897. The first publication of the
results was in the article “Exploration of the Universe with Reaction
Machines”, in the monthly magazine “The Science Review”,# 5
(St.Petersburg, 1903). This was the first publication in the world on
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His Classic article “Research into Interplanetary Space by Means of
Rocket Power” was published in 1903, the year of the first airplane
flight by the Wright Brothers. It accurately described the state of
weightlessness and the theoretical function of rockets in a vacume. He
demonstrated why rockets would be needed for space exploration, and also
advocated the use of liquid propellants that are used today.
This is his book published in 1914 that was the reprint of the 1903
“Plan of Space Exploration”. This was published in 1926. It consists of
16 Points, from the very begining of space conquest, until the far
distant future, including interstellar travel.
He also wrote science fiction books, including “On The Moon (1895),
Dreams of the Earth and Sky (1895), and Beyond the Earth (1920).
“The Space Rocket Trains”. (1929). This publication of Tsiolkovsky was
about his original idea of a multi-stage rocket, which consisted of
several separate rockets, one on top of another. Tsiolkovsky proved that
only such a type of rocket would be able to reach escape velocity and
fly to Earth orbit.
“Album of Space Travels”. (1932). The drawings from this manuscript of
Tsiolkovsky show us his brilliant ideas about life in space, including
zero gravity, air pressure locking, space habitats, rocket guidance,
Tsiolkovsky’s Cosmic Philosophy
“All the Universe is full of the life of perfect creatures.”
Tsiolkovsky was very much as interested in the philosophy of space as he
was with the engineering needed to make space flight possible. This was
the very begining of Tsiolkovsky’s research into space flight problems
and was the basis for it. His main work of this subject was “Ethics or
the Natural Foundations of Morality” (1902-1918). In 1932 Tsiolkovsky
wrote “The Cosmic Philosophy” – the summary of his philosophical ideas.
His main idea was to achieve happiness not only for humanity, but also
for all the living beings in the Cosmos, for all the Universe. He
believed that human occupation of space was inevitable and would drive
According to Tsiolkovsky’s Cosmic Philosophy, “happiness” is the absence
of all kind of suffering in all the Universe, for all times, as well as
the absence of all of the processes for destroying goodness. How shall
we start this evolution to the “Universial Happiness”? The main task is
to study the laws which rule the Universe. To do so, we must study the
Universe, and therefore we must learn how to live in outer space. To
begin that long period of our evolution, we will have to design large
manned space rockets. So, the first space flight will be the beginning
of the new era of space exploration, the beginning of Space Culture in
human history. It will be the beginning of our history itself. He truly
beleived that it was the destiny of humankind to occupy the solar system
and then to expand into the depth of the cosmos, living off the energy
of the stars to create a cosmic civilization that would master nature,
abolish natural catastrophes, and acheive happiness for all.
1n 1926 Tsiolkovsky defined his “Plan of Space Exploration”, consisting
of sixteen steps for human expansion into space:
1) Creation of rocket airplanes with wings.
2) Progressively increasing the speed and altitude of these airplanes.
3) Production of real rockets-without wings.
4) Ability to land on the surface of the sea.
5) Reaching excape velocity (about 8 Km/second), and the first flight
into Earth orbit.
6) Lengthening rocket flight times in space.
7) Experimental use of plants to make an artificial atmosphere in
8) Using pressurized space suits for activity outside of spaceships.
9) Making orbiting greenhouses for plants.
10) Constructing large orbital habitats around the Earth.
11) Using solar radiation to grow food, to heat space quarters, and for
transport throughout the Solar System.
12) Colonization of the asteroid belt.
13) Colonization of the entire Solar System and beyond.
14) Acheivement of individual and social perfection.
15) Overcrowding of the Solar System and the colonization of the Milky
Way (the Galaxy).
16) The Sun begins to die and the people remaining in the Solar System’s
population go to other suns.
Kosmodemyanksy, Arkady A., 1956. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky: His Life and
Works. Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, Russia.
Shkolenko, Yuri, 1987. The Space Age. Progress, Moscow.
Samiolovitch, Sergei, I., 1969. Citizen of the Universe: Sketches of the
Life and Works of Konstantin Eduardovitch Tsiolkovsky (in Russian).
Tsiolkovsiy State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics, Kaluga, Russia.
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