Computing in the Soviet Space Program











Living Being and Spacecraft: A Comparison

by Konstantin Feoktistov

from Viktor Pekelis, Cybernetic Medley, trans. Oleg Sapunov (Moscow: Mir, 1986), pp. 286-287.

Konstantin Feoktistov

Cosmonaut and spacecraft designer Konstantin Feoktistov, 1964 (RGANTD, photo no. 0-4739) 

Voskhod spacecraft

The Voskhod spacecraft on which Vladimir Komarov, Konstantin Feoktistov, and Boris Egorov carried out their 1964 flight


Living being


Data acquisition and processing; exchange of data with other living beings; means of data acquisition (eyes, ears, senses of touch and smell) and data processing (central and peripheral nervous systems) Acquisition and processing of data about environment and position (angular orientation and distance), acceleration thrust; acquisition of "new" data with the aid of relevant means (distance-measuring, radio, optical and gyro equipment); means for processing the data acquired (data processing computer centers, shipborne computers and crew)
Survival in environments changeable over a wide range, normal internal conditions which provide for reliable functioning of the organism, means of maintaining internal stability (heat transfer through skin, blood circulation, etc.) Space flight in environments changeable over a wide range (high g loading and strong vibration at launching and reentry, thermal reentry shock, space vacuum, cyclic solar radiation, micrometeorite impacts, etc.); life-support and survival system which provides for normal functioning of crew and equipment (leak-proof compartments, thermal insulation, control of temperature and atmosphere aboard spacecraft)
Faculty to orient and move in space owing to the organs of coordination and balance (eyes, inner ear labyrinth) and the means of locomotion (legs, wings, etc.) Maneuverability for trajectory adjustments and environmental moment control; means of position control  (optical, gyro, radio and other computerized equipment linked to appropriate controls: mass-expulsion jets, spinning pitch wheels, etc.) and means of momentum control (thrusters, rocket stages, electrical propulsion engines of space probes) 
Food for replenishing lost energy Shipborne supplies of food, water, oxygen and power to meet the needs of crew and equipment; means of power generation and facilities for reclaiming shipborne supplies of expendables and partly consumable stock
Reserve strength required in case of emergency or recuperation from serious injury or illness; reserve strength should never be used to support rudimentary material needs as is often the case in games and during other activities Adequate safety factor of structure, standby systems and individual items of equipment, reserve power in excess of the requirements that are needed to carry out missions, regular tests of individual items of equipment and spacecraft as a whole
Automatic coordination and synchronization of all internal functions Coordinated control of all shipborne systems, adjusting equipment for good functioning in changeable conditions of space mission

A question which involuntary arises is how will man and automaton share the responsibility aboard a spacecraft?

According to Feoktistov every operation that can be automated on board a spaceship should be automated. The designer treats every person as an [additional] fraction of the payload. A man assigned to cope only with control functions is an unjustifiable luxury. No craft is designed to carry dead weight. It must have a payload that performs a kind of useful work. This can be, for example, research. Therefore, steps must be taken to render spacecraft control simple and executable without high skills and during a minimum time. Every second of space flight is very expensive and must be utilized with a maximum effect.

site last updated 7 January 2003 by Slava Gerovitch