Early space science
The story of Russian space science may be traced to 28th January 1724, when the Academy of Sciences was founded in St Petersburg. Eighteenth-century Russia had few indigenous scientists at the time, so the Tsar Peter the Great staffed it with scientists from Germany and Switzerland – so the early Academy had a very Germanic feel. The Academy was to become, in the course of our story, one of the gathering places and mobilizing forces of Russian space science. A physics section, with its own instruments, was established in the Academy that year. The 18th century thus became a time of considerable scientific development in Russia. Tsarina Elizabeth II sent imperial sledges to observe the transit of Venus in 1761 to as far away as Tobolsk. The most famous astronomer of the age was Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765), also a chemist, cartographer and poet, the champion of Newton and Copernicus in Russia. He was the first student of aurorae and, participating in the studies of that transit of Venus, was the first to determine that Venus had an atmosphere at least equal to and possibly greater than Earth’s atmosphere. He was co-founder of Moscow State University (1755), where, in its physics department, Peter Lebedev later measured the effect of solar light pressure on a comet’s tail.
KeywordsTape Recorder Radiation Belt Space Science Nose Cone International Geophysical Year
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