Today we will know about another rocket scientist who pioneered astronautic theory — Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. He is also regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry and astronautics. Along with Robert Esnault-Pelterie, Hermann Oberth, and Robert H. Goddard, he is one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry and astronautics. His works later inspired leading Soviet rocket engineers Sergei Korolev and Valentin Glushko who contributed to the success of the Soviet space program.

Tsiolkovsky at work
Tsiolkovsky at work. Photo Credits: Ruscosmos

His family recognized his thirst for knowledge and sent him to Moscow to attend college. He was accomplished in both science and mathematics and became a teacher at Kaluga, Russia. Even as a teacher, Tsiolkovsky found time to learn. He read Jules Verne’s stories of space travel and began to write science fiction stories himself. He introduced elements of science and technology into his stories, such as the problem of controlling a rocket as it moved between gravitational fields. Gradually Tsiolkovsky moved from writing science fiction to writing theoretical papers on topics such as gyroscopes, escape velocities, the principle of action and reaction, and the use of liquid propellant rockets.

Tsiolkovsky ca. 1930s
Tsiolkovsky ca. 1930s

In 1894 Tsiolkovsky designed a monoplane that was not flown until 1915. He built the first Russian wind tunnel in 1897. He also was an insightful visionary who thought a great deal about the uses of his beloved rockets to explore and master space. He was the author of Investigations of Outer Space by Rocket Devices (1911) and Aims of Astronauts (1914). Tsiolkovsky wrote a book called The Will of the Universe. The Unknown Intelligence in 1928 in which he propounded a philosophy of panpsychism. He believed humans would eventually colonize the Milky Way galaxy. He is remembered for believing in the dominance of humanity throughout space, also known as anthropocosmism. His thought preceded the Space Age by several decades, and some of what he foresaw in his imagination has come into being since his death.

The cover of the book The Will of the Universe. The Unknown Intelligence by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, 1928, considered to be a work of Cosmist philosophy.
The cover of the book The Will of the Universe. The Unknown Intelligence by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, 1928, is considered to be a work of Cosmist philosophy.

Although rockets had been in use since their invention in twelfth-century China as weapons that evolved from fireworks, it was Tsiolkovsky who used mathematics and physics to study and model the manner in which they operated, called rocket dynamics. In 1903 he published the rocket equation in a Russian aviation magazine. Called the Tsiolkovsky formula, it established the relationships among rocket speed, the speed of the gas at the exit, and the mass of the rocket and its propellant. This equation is the basis of much of the spacecraft engineering done today. In 1929 he published his theory of multistage rockets, based on his knowledge of propulsion dynamics.

 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in his workshop in Kaluga, Russia. SovfotoGetty Images
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in his workshop in Kaluga, Russia. SovfotoGetty Images

He had grand ideas about space industrialization and the exploitation of its resources. Tsiolkovsky has been honored since his death in 1935. A far side moon crater is named in his honor.

Some of his famous quotes:

“A planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever”

“The blue distance, the mysterious Heavens, the example of birds and insects flying everywhere —are always beckoning Humanity to rise into the air.”

“All the Universe is full of the life of perfect creatures.”

Leave a Reply