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Russia: Why did the Soviet Union lose the Moon Race?
Part of Space Race
The reasons the Americans were first on the moon, as given by the major Soviet participants.

Why didn't the Russians beat the Americans in the moon race? Reviewing the matter with hindsight, it might better be asked -- how did they expect to win? The matrix below shows the reasons as given by the main Russian observers of the project. These are:

The investigation team of a plane crash usually finds several causes, a chain of events and mistakes, one leading to the other, thence to the final disaster. It was the same thing with the failure of the Soviet lunar program. The table is followed by a commentary.

Systemic Problems

Lack of Support for Project Leading to: Personal Incompetence Technical Approach Not to mention

This is quite a list, and all the points are valid. Each actor has his own prejudices -- naturally the engineers don't see anything wrong with their design approach or development practices. But in my opinion, although all of these factors played a part, the overriding factor was very simple: they started too late. IF the leadership had taken seriously Kennedy's challenge in 1961, and given Korolev the go-ahead to build his original N1 according to his original plan, and IF Korolev had the full backing of the Soviet state, then it would have been quite possible to beat the Americans to the moon. He might have even seen the first flight of the booster before his untimely death.

At the very top level were the fundamental systemic problems. These prevented the Soviet Union from successfully completing a number of major projects begun in the 1960's. These included virtually every large-scale aerospace project attempted: the moon program, the supersonic transport, the new generation of military aircraft, and development of digital avionics. The rather personal style of Soviet project management, which depended on the force of personality of the Chief Designer, became inappropriate. Aerospace projects had grown to such a scale that no single organization could do everything and no one person could be watching everything. These problems were recognized by the Soviet leadership, and led in the late 1970's to a drastic revisions in the structure of the Soviet industry, and the implementation of American-style project management and quality assurance techniques. These were learned in part through the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which gave the Soviets unprecedented access to the nuts and bolts of American technology and management styles.

At the next level was the total lack of support for manned space projects by the Soviet military, who at the same time were required to provide the bulk of the funding. A similar antipathy existed within the American military. (one result was that no American military manned space project, except a few military shuttle flights, ever reached flight status). In the Soviet Union, the rocketry industry had an absolute priority to beat the US in the missile race. This was seen as a matter of national survival, and the civilian space program always took a back seat to the ICBM programs. Therefore even though the moon project was authorized by the VPK Military-Industrial Commission, many ministries and factories not reporting to the VPK simply refused to deliver the equipment required. This led to work-arounds and delays.

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