We now know that a Soviet manned circumlunar flight would definitely have involved launch of the crew separately from the translunar craft. A Soviet manned lunar landing would have involved two launches of the N1 super booster, with the second launch landing a homing beacon on the moon together with a backup lunar lander. The spacecraft and modules of the Mir space station of the 1980's were originally Phase 1 of a more ambitious program for an military space base, the MKBS. Phase 2, involving an enormous nuclear-powered space station launched by the N1, was cancelled together with the N1 in 1974.
Vasili Pavlovich Mishin (1917-2001) was the Chief Designer of Soviet space design bureau OKB-1 (AKA TskBEM) from 1966-1974, superseding Korolev. He led the bureau in the flight test stages of the L1 and N1-L3 manned lunar programs, the Soyuz manned spacecraft, the Salyut space station, and several previously more obscure programs, notably the MKBS orbital base.
These "diaries" are actually a compilation of notebooks containing handwritten notes jotted down by Mishin during the course of his incredibly busy work days. Most were cryptic notes from meetings, to-do-lists, outlines for presentations, or technical calculations. Therefore full sentences are rare, and many abbreviations were used. A Russian transcription of the diaries, including expert interpretation of the abbreviations, was released in three volumes on 21 January 2015. The editorial team led by Dmitry Payson, assisted by the late Maxim Tarasenko, Charles Vick and David Woods, spent years deciphering the notes.
What follows is a review of the diaries for what they reveal about key remaining secrets of the Soviet space program. In the discussion that follows the source for the information is given in the format (3-60) (e.g. Volume 3 of the Mishin Diaries, page 60).
|Podsadka - Failed Plan to Win the Moon Race Podsadka was a secret plan to use a two-launch scheme to shoot the first Soviet crew around the moon. The reason for the puzzling Soyuz manned launches in 1966-1969 are revealed to be tests of this scheme. The effort was bandoned after Apollo 8 orbited the moon and the L1 program was cancelled.|
|N1-L3: Two Launches to Get One Man on the Moon The single-launch approach to the moon landing sold to the Soviet leadership was unachievable due to payload shortfalls and safety considerations. By the time of America's first landing on the moon, it had degenerated into a two-launch scheme. The first launch would deliver a Ye-8-2 robot rover to place a homing beacon at a safe location for the manned landing; and a reserve unmanned LK-R lander to provide a way home in case the primary LK lander failed on the lunar surface. The second launch would result in the single-crew LK lander setting down near the beacon and reserve lander.|
|MKBS - Secret Origin of Mir and Soyuz T The MKBS was an N1-launched, nuclear-powered orbital battle station that would assure Soviet dominance of space through use of beam weapons. It was developed in 1969-1974, only to be ended when the N1 booster necessary to put it in orbit was cancelled. However the spacecraft and systems developed for it became the basis for the Soviet manned space program of the 1970's and 1980's.|