‘Issledovanie mirovykh prostrantsv’ reaktivnymi priborami’ [‘Exploration of Space Using Reactive Devices’], pp. 45-75 in: Nauchnoe Obozrenie [Scientific Review], M. M. Filippov (ed.), no. 5, May 1903.

St. Petersburg: E. L. Porokhovshchikov, 1903.

First edition, extraordinarily rare, of the first published work on space rockets, preceding by 16 years the first publication on rockets by Robert Goddard and by 20 years that of Hermann Oberth. In his bibliography of works on spaceflight, NASA engineer Michael L. Ciancone writes: “Three men are widely recognized as the fathers of rocketry for spaceflight—Konstantin Tsiolkovskii (Russia), Hermann Oberth (Germany), and Robert Goddard (United States). Tsiolkovskii developed the theory underpinning human spaceflight and wrote small books on space travel and cosmology (the expansion of humans into the cosmos). The ‘holy grail’ of this genre is an article he wrote in the May 1903 issue of Nauchnoe Obozrenie [Scientific Review] on ‘Exploration of Space by Means of Reactive Devices’ in which he established the ‘rocket equation’ and addressed various aspects of future spaceflight.” “Tsiolkovsky had grasped the principle of reaction flight as early as 1883, and his ‘Exploration of Space Using Reactive Devices’ (1903) contains the first mathematical exposition of the reaction principle operating in space. In ‘Issledovanie mirovykh prostranstv reaktivnymi priborami’ . . . Tsiolkovsky set forth his theory of the motion of rockets, established the possibility of space travel by means of rockets, and adduced the fundamental flight formulas” (DSB). “Tsiolkovsky not only solved theoretically such age-old questions as how to escape from the Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational field, but he also described several rockets. The first, conceived in 1903, was to be powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen—a very modern propellant combination” (Von Braun & Ordway, History of Rocketry and Space Travel (1975), p. 42). Tsiolkovsky’s rocket of 1903 consisted of an elongated metal chamber housing both physical instruments and a human pilot, and partly occupied by a large store of substances which form an explosive mixture when combined. The exploding mixture flows in a controlled manner in the form of hot gases through tubes with flared ends, shaped like a trumpet, which are arranged lengthwise along the walls of the chamber. At the narrow end of the tube the explosives are mixed producing dense, burning gases; after undergoing intensive rarefaction and cooling, the gases explode outward into space at a very high relative velocity at the other, flared end of the tube. These gases propel Tsiolkovsky’s ‘reactive device.’ Until the 1960s it was believed that no copies of the present work had left Russia, but then a copy of the journal containing Tsiolkovky’s article was found in the Library of Congress. “In a note printed on the inside front cover of [his] 1914 pamphlet [with the same title, which forms a supplement to the present work,] Tsiolkovsky stated that the earlier works were unobtainable, and that he himself had only one copy. According to historian of rocketry Frank Winter, most copies of Tsiolkovsky’s 1903 paper were suppressed, as ‘the May 1903 issue of Nauchnoe Obozrenie also contained a politically revolutionary piece that led to the confiscation of almost all issues by the authorities’ (Winter, ‘Planning for Spaceflight: 1880s to 1930s,’ in Blueprint for Space, ed. Ordway and Liebermann (1992), pp. 104-5)” (historyofinformation.com). Not on OCLC.

The most important contribution of Tsiolkovsky’s 1903 paper was his solution of the basic problem of rocket dynamics, embodied in what is now known as the ‘Tsiolkovsky rocket equation’: if a rocket of initial mass M at take-off jettisons combustion products at speed U relative to the rocket (assumed to be constant), then, when the mass of the rocket has reduced to m its velocity will be

V = U log(M/m).

“Tsiolkovsky discovered and studied in detail the equation of the rocket motion with constant exhaust velocity and arrived at a very important mathematical result known as ‘the Tsiolkovksy formula’ … It follows from Tsiolkovsky’s formula for maximum velocity that: a. the greater the exhaust velocity, the greater the velocity of the rocket at the end of its powered flight. If the jet velocity is doubled the velocity of the rocket also increases two-fold; b. the velocity of the rocket at the end of its powered flight increases with the ratio of the initial weight of the rocket to that at the end of combustion. But the dependence here is more complicated and is formulated in the following proposition of Tsiolkovsky: ‘When the mass of the rocket plus the mass of the explosives of the rocket motor increase in the geometrical proportion, the velocity of the rocket increases in the arithmetical proportion’ … The important practical conclusion to be drawn from Tsiolkovsky’s formula is that if highest possible velocities are to be obtained at the end of the rocket’s powered flight, it is far more advantageous to increase the exhaust velocity than to increase the quantity of fuel … On the basis of his formula, Tsiolkovsky proved that with exhaust velocities of the order of 5 km/sec the rocket’s velocity would be high enough for interplanetary flight” (Kosmodemyansky (1956), p. 65-67).

“But his article on the theory of rocket dynamics also dealt with practical issues of rocket building, with the peculiarities and concrete design of individual assemblies, and of the rocket as a whole. Thus, for example:

In 1903 Tsiolkovsky suggested using fuel components to cool the walls of the rocket engine. He recommended that the walls of the engine chamber and nozzle be made of two layers, and that the liquid fuel be pumped through one of them. The flowing substance thus cools the hot wall of the engine. It would also be necessary to make the inside surface of the chamber and the nozzle of a material with high heat conducting properties to provide for more efficient heat removal. This forced cooling of the hot engine wall would ensure continuous operation of the rocket engine, and is a widely used practice in the present-day construction of liquid-propellant rocket engines.

Tsiolkovsky gave the following description of a rocket in his work of 1903: ‘Let us imagine the following rocket: an oblong metal chamber (of a minimum resistance form), supplied with light, oxygen, an absorber of carbon dioxide, a vaporous atmosphere, and other living organism secretions, intended not only for housing different physical instruments, but also an intelligent being operating the chamber … The chamber has a large stock of propellants which instantaneously form an explosive mass when mixed. These substances, flowing properly, and sufficiently uniformly burned at a definite spot inside the pipe that widens towards the end, resembling a horn or a musical wind instrument … It is obvious that this device … will provide definite conditions for moving upwards.’

For maintaining the rectilinear forward movement of the rocket, Tsiolkovsky recommened that the rocket engine be secured on Cardan joints so as to eliminate the pitch, roll, and yaw by means of respective inclinations (gimballing) of the engine nozzle. In his work of 1911, which briefly described the content of his article of 1903, Tsiolkovsky asserted: ‘The turning of the funnel, or a rudder in front of it, is the most simple method of guiding the rocket’s flight.’ Let us note that jet vanes placed inside the jet of hot gases flowing from the nozzle, and gimballing the entire engine, are widely used in present-day rocket engineering.

Tsiolkovsky also provided a formula for determining the propellant stock necessary to furnish the rocket velocity and to ‘quench it’, i.e., solve the problem of a soft landing on a planet without an atmosphere. He declared: ‘its [the rocket’s] velocity can grow in the required progression and in the desired direction; it can be constant and it can be uniformly throttled down to provide for a safe landing on a planet (underlined by Tsiolkovsky). The matter rests with a good burning controller.’

In his 1903 work, Tsiolkovsky repeatedly stressed that the propellant he suggested (liquid oxygen + liquid hydrogen) was one of the most efficient. He said: ‘Let us imagine a number of points whose abscissas express the sum (or a product) of atomic weights of the connected common bodies, and the ordinates express a corresponding energy of a chemical compound, then, drawing through the points … a smooth curve, we shall observe a continuous decrease of ordinates as abscissas are increasing, which proves our viewpoint.’ [Tsiolkovsky’s choice of propellants is especially remarkable – hydrogen was first liquefied only in 1898!]

“Tsiolkovsky’s deep and broad understanding of the most difficult problems of rocket engineering is really quite astonishing, especially when we consider that he did not receive a systematic education, as was essentially a self-taught person” (Kosmodemiansky (1977), pp. 118-119).

Tsiolkovsky’s 1903 paper also includes the first serious proposal for a space station. The idea had appeared in novels by Jules Verne in 1878 and Kurd Lasswitz in 1897, but “in 1895 the space-station concept was noted from a more technical viewpoint in a science-fiction story by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (‘Dreams of Earth and Heaven’). In 1903 [the present work] Tsiolkovsky expanded his description of the manned space station to include rotation for artificial gravity, use of solar energy, and even a space ‘greenhouse’ with a closed ecological system” (NASA SP-413 Space Settlements, 1977).

“Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was born Sept. 17, 1857, in Izhevskoye, Russia. He was the son of a Polish deportee to Siberia. At age ten he nearly became deaf from scarlet fever and had to quit school. He refused to be handicapped by his deafness and continued his education on his own at home. His family recognized his thirst for knowledge and sent him to Moscow to attend college. He was accomplished in both science and mathematics and became a teacher at Kaluga, Russia. Even as a teacher, Tsiolkovsky found time to learn. He read Jules Verne's stories of space travel and began to write science fiction stories himself. He introduced elements of science and technology into his stories, such as the problem of controlling a rocket as it moved between gravitational fields. Gradually Tsiolkovsky moved from writing science fiction to writing theoretical papers on topics such as gyroscopes, escape velocities, the principle of action and reaction, and the use of liquid propellant rockets …

“Tsiolkovsky is remembered for believing in the dominance of humanity throughout space, also known as anthropocosmism. He had grand ideas about space industrialization and the exploitation of its resources. Tsiolkovsky has been honored since his death in 1935. A far side moon crater is named in his honor. In 1989 he was invested in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame. The Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics in Kaluga, Russia, keeps the importance of his theoretical work before the public. In Russia, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky is called ‘the father of theoretical and applied cosmonautics.’ Although the Romanian Oberth and the American Goddard conducted similar research and arrived at comparable conclusions, there is no evidence that each knew details of the other's work. Therefore, all three of these scientists share the title of Father of Rocketry” (nasa.gov).

Tsiolkovsky’s ‘Issledovanie mirovykh prostrantsv’ reaktivnymi priborami’ was published in the May 1903 issue of Nauchnoe Obozrenie, a scientific and philosophical journal edited by the biologist M. M. Filippov. It published a wide range of articles, from science to politics; Filippov was particularly interested in using his journal as a vehicle for the diffusion of new biological ideas, especially those related to evolution. Spaceflight was something of a departure from Filippov’s main areas of interest, which may at least partly explain what seems to have been a considerable delay between the submission of Tsiolkovsky’s article and its publication. In fact, we know that much of Tsiolkovsky’s work was completed years earlier. He wrote a 142-page manuscript entitled ‘Free space’ in 1883, in which he not only indicates for the first time the reaction principle for motion in space but also gives sketches and a theoretical scheme for a reactive interplanetary vessel; but this was not published until 1956. A copy of the 1903 paper has survived which includes Tsiolkovsky’s autograph notes, including the rocket equation, dated May 10, 1897 (Kosmodemiansky (1977), p. 115). “For all its prescient brilliance, Tsiolkovsky’s manuscript reached Nauchnoe Obozrenie at a bad time, just after its publisher had died and the magazine was about to fold. (Some sources say that the manuscript was sent to the magazine five years before it was actually published.) Only a few copies of the magazine were distributed before the press run was confiscated, according to Galina Sergeeva, deputy director for scientific research at the State Museum of Cosmonautics, located near Tsiolkovsky’s house in Kaluga. ‘Until the 1960s, it was believed that this work had never made it outside Russia, when, with the help of American researchers, a copy of Nauchnoe Obozrenie containing Tsiolkovky’s article was discovered in the Library of Congress,’ Sergeeva said” (russianspaceweb.com/tsiolkovsky_kaluga.html).

A second part of Tsiolkovsky’s paper, with the same title, was published in Vestnik’ Vozdukhoplavania (Herald of Aeronautics), 1911 (nos. 19, 20, 21, 22), and 1912 (nos. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9). A third part, again with the same title, was, as its subtitle states, intended as a supplement to the first two parts; it was published separately in 1914 at Kaluga at the author’s expense. The 1903 paper was reprinted in 1924 under the title ‘A Rocket in Outer Space’, and all three parts were republished together, with some additions, in 1926 under the same title as the 1903 work; both reprints were published at Kaluga by the author.

No offprints of the 1903 paper are known, and it is virtually certain that none exist. We know of no copy of the second part of 1911/12 ever having appeared on the market, and the third part is also very rare.

Ciancone, Foreword to Spaceflight. An Illustrated Bibliography of Pre-1958 Publications on Rocketry and Space Travel, 2018. Kosmodemyansky, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. His Life and Work, 1956. Kosmodemiansky, ‘First works by K. E. Tsiolkovsky and I. V. Meshchersky on rocket dynamics,’ pp. 115-124 in: Essays on the History of Rocketry and Astronautics: Proceedings of the Third Through the Sixth History Symposia of the International Academy of Astronautics (Cargill Hall, ed.), Volume 1, 1977. Tsiolkovsky, Works on Rocket Technology, 1947, NASA translation TT F-243 (ia801600.us.archive.org/0/items/nasa_techdoc_19650027274/19650027274.pdf).



8vo (242 x 158 mm), pp. [iv], [1], 2-288, [3], 4-48. Contemporary half-cloth and marbled boards, spine ruled and lettered in gilt, decorative pink endpapers (binding a little rubbed, uniformly lightly browned due to the quality of the paper). A very good copy.

Item #4929

Price: $32,500.00