On May 22, 1896, a school teacher from a Russian provincial town of Kaluga, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, derived a formula on rocket travel into space, entering the world of space travel decades before “Sputnik” became the first object of propulsion into space.
Nearly deaf from childhood, self educated, modest, Tsiolkovsky dedicated his life to the theories of space travel and rocket building and is called the father of astronautics. Russian cosmonaut and space engineer Konstantin Feoktistov said this about his remarkable work: “Clearly, there is no doubt that scientists today are putting into practice the technological ideas of Tsiolkovsky. He could not have imagined all the complexity of space travel in his time. But what amazes me is that he was able to seriously talk and think about all this 'from scratch,' with striking accuracy in defining various details.”
Indeed, his independent ideas of a space elevator, multi-stage rockets, and liquid and hydrogen fueled engines were way ahead of his time. Not only a great scientist, engineer, and inventor, but a philosopher and a dreamer, he writes in his book: “To place one's feet on the soil of asteroids, to lift a stone from the moon with your hand, to construct moving stations in ether space, to organize inhabited rings around earth, moon, and sun, to observe Mars at the distance of several tens of miles, to descend to its satellites or even to its own surface - what could be more insane! However, only at such a time when reactive devices are applied, will a great new era begin in astronomy - the era of more intensive study of the of heavens.” These seemed to be only dreams and theories at the time, but Tsiolkovsky practically predicted what future generations would make into a reality.
Tsiolkovsky was entirely devoted to his work, so occupied with his writings and building models that he isolated himself from others and never had guests over to visit. He had a big family; his wife and seven children (only two daughters outlived their father) all lived on Tsiolkovsky’s small teachers’ salary.
His work was mainly dismissed by science centers, and he was only formally recognized for his achievements after the revolution and the creation of the Soviet Union in 1921. He was granted a lifetime pension which allowed him to retire and fully apply himself to his studies.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky died on September 19, 1935. As well as influencing a generation of astronauts and engineers, the launch of Sputnik in 1957 was timed to commemorate 100 years from his birth. But possibly the greatest monument to his life is a giant crater on the moon's far side that is named after him.