Friday, July 20, 2007

Secret Scientist

What’s amazing to me is that even today no one knows. NASA actually had a scientist in and out of Russia from 1962 to 1971 during the space race and the Cold War. Yes, Mr. Krushchev actually allowed a space medical scientist from the US to help keep alive the Russian cosmonauts.

My research on the subject showed that after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Krushchev softened his stand against America. But I had no idea that he was so soft he would allow an American scientist to observe the take-offs and landings of Yuriy Gagarin.

Yet, the scientist and Yuriy were pals. In fact most people on the Russian space team from Chief Manager Korolev to the first woman cosmonaut, knew this man and liked him.

He was a big friendly Irishman, but he was also a consummate professional and what he said, you could make book on. Not long after the scientist’s first trip to Baikonur, the secret launch site (that wasn’t a secret after all), a US government memo went to NASA, saying in effect, “I want you to make plans to cooperate with the USSR on outer space projects.” It seems like the result of personal diplomacy to me, from the scientist who was fast becoming a fixture in Russia.

Does the CIA have a thick file on the scientist? They sure do but will not give it up. So does another intelligence agency. So does NASA, of course.

Why is it such a big secret about our space medicine scientist who helped the Russians? I don’t know. But it does appear that those clever Russian engineers who beat us in the early stages of the space race were weak in knowledge about keeping their cosmonauts alive. Maybe the bosses in Russia just do not want to let the Russian people know that they needed help. Maybe there was a quid pro quo I haven’t found yet.

But one thing I do know is that the scientist was a good friend. Also he was an American hero for taking the chances he did by flying secretly into the far reaches behind the Iron Curtain. I am writing about him now and hope to have a book about him finished this year.

I only wish I could use his name.

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