Yuri Vasilievich Kondratyuk (real name – Alexander Ignatyevich Shargey). 9 (21) June 1897 –25 February 1942. Soviet scientist, one of the founders of cosmonautics.


Life and Work:

1. “We found a small inconspicuous little book published in Russia immediately after the revolution. Its author, Yuri Kondratyuk, justified and calculated the energy efficiency of landing on the Moon according to the following plan: flight to the Moon orbit – launch to the Moon from orbit – return to the orbit and docking with the main ship – flight to Earth.” This recognition of American scientists is sensational: the American lunar program is based on the remarkable Russian scientist Yuri Vasilievich Kondratyuk’s works.


2. His real name was Alexander Ignatyevich Shargey. He was born in Poltava at the end of the 19th century: on June 21 (Gregorian calendar), 1897. His maternal great-grandfather was Anton Andreyevich Schlippenbach, a participant in the Patriotic War of 1812.


3. The future major scientist was born and spent his childhood in the house of his paternal grandmother, a midwife, and her second husband, a local doctor. It just happened this way: his father went to Germany to get an engineering education, and his mother got seriously ill and was put to an asylum.


4. Together with his father, Alexander Shargey moved to St. Petersburg and entered a gymnasium there. But Ignatiy Benediktovich Shargey suddenly died, and the boy returned to his grandmother in Poltava.


5. Before the revolution, the silver medalist of the Poltava Gymnasium entered the Mechanical Department of the Petrograd Polytechnic Institute, but was immediately drafted to the army – World War I was raging. He got enrolled to an ensign school, then he was sent to the Turkish front.


6. After October 1917, the officer was conscripted to the White Army. But Shargey deserted.


7. The former counter-revolutionary and White Army officer was in danger of execution. But Shargey avoided the execution – his stepmother obtained papers in the name of a Lutsk native, Yuri Vasilievich Kondratyuk, born in 1900. Alexander Shargey bore this name throughout all his short life. And gained posthumous fame under it.


8. In the early 1920s, Kondratyuk worked in the Ukraine, Kuban, and the North Caucasus as a greaser, railway car hand, and grain elevator mechanic. Hiding from the Cheka, he moved to Siberia, where it was easier to live under a false name.


9. In 1927, Kondratyuk found a job in Novosibirsk at the Khleboprodukt enterprise. His responsibility was building and mechanizing granaries.


10. Without using a single nail, Yuri Vasilievich built the famous Mastodon in the town of Kamen-na-Obi – an elevator designed for 13,000 tons of grain. And he immediately suffered for this. He was arrested and accused of sabotage: look, he has built an elevator without drawings and without nails, it will fall apart and ruin the people’s grain. I did not fall apart: Mastodon survived its creator for a long time and burned down only in the mid-90s.


11. Kondratyuk was sentenced to three years in prison. But the valuable specialist was sent to a special design bureau for imprisoned engineers to design coal mines.


12. Then a wind power plant in the Crimea happened in his life. Kondratyuk designed it together with Nikolay Nikitin – the future builder of the Ostankino Tower. It was not built, although the project is recognized as remarkable.


13. Yuri Vasilievich did not have time to do anything else – being a platoon commander assistant, Kondratyuk died in 1942 near the village of Krivtsovo in Oryol Region.


14. But what about space? Space was at the beginning, after the escape from the White Army. In his 1919 work under the long and unassuming title To Those Who Would Read to Build, Yuri Kondratyuk independently of Tsiolkovsky derived the basic rocket motion equation, described a four-stage rocket powered by an oxygen-hydrogen engine, and designed the very flight scheme that the US agency NASA triumphantly used in the lunar program.


15. The name thus proved prophetic: they both read it and built it. The second book The Conquest of Interplanetary Space is dated 1929 – at that time Kondratyuk was dealing with grain elevators in Siberia. This book proved useful to posterity as well: the method of supplying satellites in orbit, proposed by Kondratyuk, has been implemented as the Progress transport system.


16. In the mid-30s, Kondratyuk was persistently invited to work by Sergey Pavlovich Korolev, who was then working on cruise missiles. Having thoroughly considered the offer, Yuri Vasilyevich refused: he was afraid that the inevitable check would reveal his officer past.


17. After the flight to the Moon, American astronaut Neil Armstrong visited Novosibirsk to gather some soil near the house where Yuri Kondratyuk lived. “This soil is no less valuable for me than the lunar soil,” reportedly said the man who was the first to fly to the Moon “via Kondratyuk’s route.”


18. On October 18, 2014, Yuri Kondratyuk was admitted to the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA.