Correcting the record on Soviet space pioneer Yangel

I would like to note a small error in the Looking Back section of the October issue (always one of my favorite reads). Regarding the Oct. 25, 1971, entry about the death of Mikhail Yangel — he was not the head of the Soviet Union’s space program from 1966 until 1971. The source (Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1971) probably reported it that way. But, we now know that Yangel was running his own missile and space design bureau in Dnepropetrovsk — OKB-586. He did get his start in rocketry working for Sergei Korolev, but that was for a brief period (1950-52). In 1954 he was named the Chief Designer in Dnepropetrovsk and ran that organization until his death. When Korolev died in 1966, his organization (OKB-1) was taken over by his deputy, Vasili Mishin. Neither Mishin, Yangel, or (the other space/missile designer) Vladimir Chelomei “ran” the Soviet space program. While they were important players (and competitors), all of them reported to the Ministry of General Machine Building — though ultimately, in the post-Khrushchev era, the space program was largely “run” by the Communist Party Secretary for the Defense Industry and Space — i.e., Dmitri Ustinov.  

Bill Barry, former NASA chief historian 

AIAA Member 

South Hadley, Massachusetts


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Correcting the record on Soviet space pioneer Yangel