It is difficult to recognize the person who was involved in the creation of Soviet aircrafts in 82-year-old beekeeper and gardener Anatoly Malakhov. He received the Order of the Badge of Honor for the lunar rover, the engines for which were made in Voronezh. Now, Malakhov prefers the grass near the house near Voronezh. The retired engineer told reporters RIA "Voronezh" journalists about 33 years dedicated to the space industry.
A hereditary Cossack originally from the Salsk steppes of Pryazovia (the Azov Sea littoral), Anatoly worked as a driver on the collective farm from the age of ten. In 1954, he tried to enter the Kharkov Aviation Institute and got four fives and two fours in the entrance exams. But while being checked by the credentials committee, he blurted out that his father had been in captivity during the war.
– Dad always taught me to tell the truth, not to equivocate. So I acted like a complete moron, – the pensioner still sighs. – I should’ve answered the question of whether the father had fought affirmatively, and that would’ve been it. Who would’ve even looked into it?
When Anatoly's father was in the concentration camp, he noticed that the Germans were relatively soft on Ukrainian prisoners of war.
– And we, the prisoners from the Rostov Region, always spoke a little Surzhyk, a South Russian dialect consisting of a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian words.” So they decided to pass as Ukrainians. They began talking in Surzhyk, the Germans believed them and let them go. They followed the advancing fascists towards the Don, walking at night and hiding during the day. Long story short, Mikhail Sergeevich Malakhov returned home in the summer of 1943 and immediately became a collective farm brigadier. Secret agents didn’t give him a hard time, and so for my father, the war had ended, – the man explained.
The help from an information officer
After the failure at the Aviation Institute, Anatoly wanted to apply for a flight school, but because of his right eye’s poor vision, he didn’t have a chance. As he was banned from the skies, Anatoly had to enter the Novocherkassk Polytechnic Institute for the “Automation and Remote Control” specialty.
In 1960, the young electrical engineer came to the pre-diploma practice to the Voronezh Electromechanical Plant. He remained here to work, first as an engineer, then as the head of the technical control bureau. And starting with 1964, Anatoly was already working as the head of the experimental department of the enterprise. All the plant’s new products were passed through his department.
– In those years, it was obvious that we are noticeably inferior to the United States in modern measuring equipment. When it was time to literally create a pilot plant from the ground up - the Research Institute of Electromechanics, - we faced an insoluble problem: how to equip it, where and how to get the equipment from. We were constantly sent non-committal replies in which the words “not possible” were repeated. In 1968, I went to Moscow to get into the State Planning Committee, but they gave me excuses too, – the pensioner recalls.
Then Anatoly decided to break into the Council of Ministers of the USSR, which was chaired by Alexei Kosygin. This story sounds like a fantasy, but Malakhov managed to hook up with the senior information officer of the USSR Council of Ministers apparatus, Alexander Nazarov. He told him the long story of how the space industry of the USSR - largely due to the equipment - was still inferior to the United States. Nazarov picked up the phone, called someone, and the very next day Malakhov met with the right people.
The result of short negotiations was the delivery of 293 units of equipment, very scarce back then, to Voronezh.
An engine with no spark
– To put it simply, our Voronezh enterprise made electric machine converters for all domestic satellites that were launched at that time, – Anatoly Malakhov explained. – We also developed the power scheme for the Mir station launched into orbit in 1986. By the way, it was in namely in Voronezh that converters for the first domestic Earth satellite, launched in 1957, were manufactured. Our enterprise made up to 20 scientific developments a year. And for the lunar rover, the engines for the trolley of which we manufactured in Voronezh, I was awarded the Order of the Badge of Honor.
Malakhov can talk about engines for hours, but a layman who does not speak the terminology would understand little. Within ten minutes of conversation on this topic, the RIA “Voronezh” correspondent understood that the issue at hand was a fundamentally new for that time brushless electric engine, which did not spark at work.
– Lunokhod 1, launched in November 1970, had worked on the Moon for almost 11 months and during this time it had covered 10.5 thousand km on our Voronezh engine, – the pensioner recalls with pride.
The espionage turmoil
During the Cold War, the USSR and the USA tried to retrieve space secrets from each other.
– One time, the chief designer of our enterprise, Evald Lodochnikov, even went to the exhibition of space technology in Canada with someone else's documents! And another time, we were delivered an American radio-controlled projectile "Rattlesnake", the engine of which we had studied up and down.
Anatoly Malakhov also told about how pilot cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov had died in April 1967, piloting a new spacecraft Soyuz-1. The fact is known to all, but there are also details that only the inner circle knows.
– It safely descended from the orbit and began to decline when two parachutes were released from the descent vehicle. Due to the failure of the orientation system, they reeled around the spacecraft, which entered the dense layers of the atmosphere at high speed and burned there. So it fell for over 20 minutes. Komarov understood that he was dying, and all this time he was desperately cursing on the radio.
During the years of work in the space industry, there were plain mystical coincidences in the life of Anatoly Mikhailovich.
– One day in May 1988, when we were working on Buran, we tested one of the power sources of an electric motor on a small test site near Voronezh. That day I was at my country house, and suddenly came the call: "Come urgently!". It turned out that the igniter exploded, and this item (not a very big loss) was destroyed. But the most surprising thing was that I had dreamt of this accident a few days prior to it. I remember that I woke up then and thought: “It’s a good thing it happened in a dream!”. And a few days later, the reality caught up with this strange dream.
The linden grove
All today's aspirations of Anatoly Malakhov are associated with bee colonies and a linden grove which he began to plant two years ago on the edge of his land lot in Ramonsky District of the Voronezh Region.
– The grove is my old dream, – the retired engineer explains. – First, there will be enough place for the bees. And secondly, the air filled with linden aroma is magic. I am no longer young, I want to leave something behind me. Before that, my entire legacy used to be a cosmic thing, and now I want the grove to roar in the wind and make people happy.