Space Race and Cold War: A Book Review


by Boris Chertok

Reviewer: John A. Jaksich

Midnight Launch of Sputnik IFrom text

Midnight Launch of Sputnik I
From text: Rockets and People Vol 2 –source image also available from NASA–as well

The four volume series, Rockets and People by Academician Boris Chertok is a transliterative memoir/account from the Russian language of the space race—from its inception to the partial-democratization of the Soviet Union. The author—Boris Chertok—not only witnessed the space race, but was a major figure for the Soviet Union’s space race.

Mr. Chertok began his career as an electrician but progressed exponentially during space race. Mr. Chertok witnessed and partook in the taking of many of Germany’s WW II rocket scientists immediately following the war. He, eloquently, describes how the Soviet Union propelled themselves after WW II into a “space age” super power. His account, unarguably, portrays truths which may point to a manner in which how the Soviets used the “scientific method” in “exclusive” manner, in ways that serve as a warning to those who may believe that (religious) fundamentalist tendencies should trump more balanced ways of human behavior.

Sputnik 2

Sputnik 2


Sputnik 2 with dog Laika on board

(From Vol 2, page 390):

[ M. V. Keldysh, ed.

1) detachable protective fairing 2) mechanism

to separate the fairing 3) instrument to

study solar spectra in the short-wave range

4) framework for instruments 5) spherical

container with radio-transmitter 6)

thermally regulated cabin for experimental

animal 7) air regulator 8) air regeneration

system 9) food container 10) light 11)

antenna 12) intermediate compartment. ]

Moscow, Nauka, 1980

The account is a more “true” history of the Soviet Union’ s rise prior and during the space race (an account which is free from the heavy-handed approach of totalitarian censorship).

In short, Chertok’s account of the space age is portrayed in a way which is “not really spoken of”—by speaking of people involved, one does not need to invoke an inherent nationalism—because it is already there in the fine print of history.

The books are available from or are readily available from the

(The image in this review is taken directly from the text(s) of the series)


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Chertok, B. E. (Boris Evseevich), 1912–

[Rakety i lyudi. English]

Rockets and People: Creating a Rocket Industry (Volume II) / by Boris E.

Chertok ;

[edited by] Asif A. Siddiqi.

p. cm. — (NASA History Series) (NASA SP-2006-4110)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

1. Chertok, B. E. (Boris Evseevich), 1912– 2. Astronautics—

Soviet Union—Biography. 3. Aerospace engineers—Soviet union—

Biography. 4. Astronautics—Soviet Union—History.

I. Siddiqi, Asif A., 1966- II. Title. III. Series. IV. SP-2006-4110.

TL789.85.C48C4813 2006



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