Nikolay Ivanovich



Soviet scientist

Participant of the Great Patriotic War (part of World War II).

Creator and leader of ground command and tracking stations (CTS), including the Simferopol CTS, which allowed to control flights of all Soviet military space vehicles.


  • Two USSR State Prizes
  • Four Orders of the Red Star
  • Three Orders of Lenin
  • First and second class Orders of the Patriotic War
  • First, second, and third class Orders «For Service to the Homeland in the Armed Forces of the USSR»
  • Medals «For the Defense of Moscow,» «For the Victory over Germany,» and «For Battle Merit»
  • Medals from the USSR Cosmonautics Federation; Sergey Korolev, Yuri Gagarin, Mikhail Ryazanskiy, and German Titov medals
  • Honorary rank «Honorary Radio Officer of the USSR»
  • Master of rifle and pistol shooting (revolver speed shooting, 50 pistol shooting)
  • Participant of the Moscow Victory Parade of 1945 (with the veterans column)

From Childhood We All Come

Nikolay Bugayev was born on May 27, 1923, in a village with a romantic Europe-sounding name Novaya Praga (New Prague) in the Kirovograd region of Ukraine. 

His father Ivan Bugayev was a hero of World War I. For his merits in battle, Nicholas II of Russia awarded Ivan Bugayev two Orders of Saint George and a flour mill as a bonus, where he labored throughout his life. Nikolay was the eldest child. Apart from him, the family parented three younger girls. 

Despite having many children, the mother, Anna Bugayeva, managed to combine running the household and a small sewing shop where she performed all duties alone—from controlling the production to selling products. His parents always worked hard and remained optimistic despite that life was tough. 

Their example charged the little Nikolay with lifelong unflagging energy, daring ability to invent, unquenchable zest for life, and, most importantly, love for people, common workers, that made him a unique specialist and a Real Man.


No Boys, But Aces!

On February 17, 1940, Nikolay was admitted to the newly established Orlov Infantry School without exams as an A-grade student of junior high school. 

That winter, the Nazi Hydra was raging in Europe, and the Soviet Union was mobilizing forces in wait for the imminent horrible strike. 

This led to the establishment of the Orlov Infantry School in January 1940. The School admitted boys from the Orlov, Tambov, and Voronezh regions. Retired Colonel N. Bogdanov would later recall: «The key mission of the new school was to develop a single teaching guideline with a focus on what one needs in war.» 



The program was designed to last two years. It was condensed to a minimum, so the study was very demanding. Each of the students realized what tremendous responsibility they bore in the hard times the country experienced. 

In June 1941, the school graduated its first students—with faces of boys yet hearts of valiant warriors. In twelve days, the War broke out.

In the beginning of the War

Thier Job Was to Defend Their Motherland

The young commanding officers reinforced officer ranks of the Orlov Military District. Nikolay Bugayev was assigned to command a platoon with the 120th Rifle Division that changed its name to the 6th Guard Division after the Yelnya Offensive. On June 10, 1941, Nikolay Bugayev was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to the Western Front. On June 24, 1941, Lieutenant Bugayev was injured in battle for the first time. 

The recovery took relatively little time. In September of the same year, he was appointed a Squadron Commander with the 43rd Army of General Konstantin Golubev. 


Nikolay Bugayev spent the fall of 1941 fighting near Naro-Fominsk. The Naro-Fominsk Defensive Operation was conducted from December 1 to December 5, 1941, as part of the Battle of Moscow. 

Chronologically, the operation started much earlier than December 1, namely in October. On October 13, 1941, the Commander of the Western Front issued the famous Order No. 0345 «On Raising Morales in the Army to Defend Moscow» that ended with the words «Not a step back! Forward to defend the Motherland!» 

As a result of the operation, the Soviet troops frustrated the last effort of the German army to make their way to Moscow, but the death toll among the Soviet defenders was terrible. On November 12, 1941, Commaner Bugayev suffered the second injury, a severe one this time.

In War

Wild Blue Yonder

As Nikolay Bugayev left the hospital in June 1942, he was sent to the airborne forces in Tula. He was assigned to the famed 106th Guards Air Assault Division that was later awarded a Second Class Order of Kutuzov. When serving in the division, Nikolay was promoted to senior lieutenant. 

Being an experienced paratrooper and of Training Battalion Deputy Commander, Bugayev was selected to participate in the Bukrin Landing Operation. In September 1943, when the Battle of the Dnieper was in full swing, his team landed far behind the enemy lines to help troops of the Voronezh Front to assault-cross the Dnieper. 




Along with the Vyazma Airborne Operation, the Dnieper Airborn Operation was the largest airborne operation undertaken by the Red Army in the Great Patriotic War. 

Although the operation never achieved its goals due to many planning blunders, the aggressive action of the paratroopers attracted large enemy forces and inflicted much life and vehicle losses. Fighting in the rear, the paratroopers displayed much combat heroism, valor, and stamina in battle. 

Nikolay Bugayev participated in the first Dnieper landing. During the operation, he received his third injury and was diagnosed with PCS, so he was released into inactive duty with the airborne forces until the beginning of 1945.

 In 1943, Nikolay Bugayev was appointed Principal Air Aide-de-camp of the training battalion of the 192nd Reserve Rifle Regiment. 

In December of the same year, he was appointed Section Chief for Officer Tracking and Completing of the 1st Reserve Rifle Division Command. Later, in the glorified spring of 1945 that Vienna, the Alps, and the Danube remember so well, Senior Lieutenant Bugayev participated in freeing Czechoslovakia as a paratrooper

War and Piece

The war was over. All people in the country wanted was life, work, and love. When he was treated after an injury in Gorky (today Nizhniy Novgorod), the handsome Nikolay met his future wife Yelena. The married on February 1, 1946. Those were hunger times, but the lust for life was stronger than the hunger and hardships of the post-war period. Soon, the Bugayevs’ home was full of children’s laughter. They had their first son Yuri on November 28, 1946, and their second son Alexander on March 6, 1952. Years later, the Bugayevs cheered over two granddaughters, Natasha and Lena, and a grandson, Sergey.

In 1946, Nikolay Bugayev, who had been promoted to Captain (in May 1946), served as an instructor with the airborne forces. When performing a night delayed jump, Nikolay injured his wounded leg. He was forbidden from making any more jumps, so he was transferred to the command staff as the Chief of Personnel of the 106th Tula Guards Air Assault Kutuzov Order Division.


Grandchildren at their grandfather’s

Grown-up grandchildren at Nikolay’s birthday

Pioneer Students

In 1951, Nikolay Bugayev graduated from high school and was admitted to the famous Budyonny Military Academy of the Signal Corps in Leningrad. At the time, everyone in the country longed for space. Officially, it was decided to establish a new kind of military forces, or the strategic missile troops. 

Complying with the decision, all military schools opened chairs and even departments to research the field. The Budyonny Military Academy of the Signal Corps prepared unique specialists in the field of radio technology, telemetry, communication, and command radio links (CRL). 

Students in the academy had to study a large number of subjects that were unique at the time. As there were no textbooks for some of these subjects, students enjoyed lectures by developers and makers of radio technologies. 



Training time in strategic missile science lasted additional 18 months in comparison to other fields and totaled to 5 years.

In early 1957, Sergey Korolev completed testing the R-7 two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. Later, the R-7 became the basis for a whole family of medium-lift launch vehicles that were vital to space exploration. The R-7 was adopted as the main vehicle to carry nuclear warheads to unlimited distances. 

Soon enough, it was clear that the R-7 required qualified maintenance and service. Future commanders of ground tracking stations (GTS) were selected from the best graduates of the Budyonny Military Academy. Experienced war officer Nikolay Bugayev, who graduated in spring 1957, was one of the selected ones.

In the academy


Nikolay Bugayev was assigned to GTS 3 located in Kazakhstan, 15 km away from Lake Balkhash. GTS 3 was engaged almost in all significant space exploration missions—from the flight of the first satellite to constructing the Buran spacecraft and Mir space station. 

Before taking the assignment, he had an internship at a plant manufacturing telemetry equipment. Upon completion of the internship, he was appointed Deputy Chair of Commission that was to verify that GTS 3 was fit for operation. The commission was headed by Andrey Vitruk, who later became the first Commander of the Command and Measurement Complex (CMC) that encompassed all GTSs. 


The commission was headed by Andrey Vitruk, who later became the first Commander of the Command and Measurement Complex (CMC) that encompassed all GTSs. Andrey Vitruk appreciated his responsible and meticulous deputy and recommended to assign him to command GTS 13 in Ulan-Ude that was being constructed at the time. 

By this period, Sergey Korolev managed to make the government launch a space exploration and rocket technology project in parallel to the military program. It was necessary to ensure continuous control of satellites. To do it, it was planned to establish new GTSs and tracking ships (TSs) to control spacecraft throughout their whole movement trajectory, not just when they are launched by carrier vessels.

GTS 3 in Kazakhstan

Siberiade: Bugayev's Station

On June 11, 1957, GTS 13 received a team of 17 soldiers and sergeants; two days later, Lieutenant Colonel Nikolay Bugayev took command of the station. The station has a permanent basing to the east of Ulan-Ude, near the Nizhniye Taltsy village. It took their families almost a fortnight to travel to the station. The convoy was put together in Gorky, it dragged across the great Russian spaces, stood stuck in sidetracks, and then dragged further again. Since the convoy was kept a secret, its passengers hardly received any hot water or warm food throughout their travel. Once a day, soldiers had a meal from a field kitchen set right on the platform, the rest was field rations. Officers and their families were allowed no warm food, this was strictly controlled by political workers and security agents escorting the convoy. The Bugayevs with their two boys, 11 and 5, endured hardships of the long travel. However, some passengers started to suffer from various disorders due to malnutrition and lack of hot water. Then Nikolay Bugayev committed an arbitrary act, ordering to establish the second shift in the kitchen to provide people with hot water and warm food. Lieutenant Colonel Bugayev was reprimanded for arbitrary behavior. On the upside, he brought his people to the destination without losses and in good spirits before exploring the wild Siberian spaces. 

Originally, three officers—the best graduates of the strategic missile troops (SMT)—came with the convoy. They were gifted engineers trained to work with tools and instruments, but they were unfit to face wild nature and, most importantly, hostile locals. Surrounded by century-old pines, the station lay in the middle of picturesque forestland. Initially, the spot was intended to settle there convicts after they serve their time in nearby penal labor colonies. 

That is why former convicts felt the military people and their families invaded and occupied their land, which they sometimes tried to win back by force. The war had taught Nikolay Bugayev to act with decision and play tough, and he pushed back against the «guests» at once. He introduced stronger guard duty with guards keeping watch in teams of two or three. A few times, the station personnel had to raise combat alert and arm themselves to beat off the locals.

By the time the first convoy arrived, the GTS could offer its passengers only wood frame buildings—an army barrack, a command office, and two utility facilities to install instrumentation. There was no water at the station. A water cart brought it once a day. Power was generated by two diesel units, and it was available only shortly. When the station personnel conducted work using the instrumentation, all living and utility rooms were shut off the grid. Neither people nor instrumentation could have made it through the winter in these conditions. Boris Pokrovskiy would later recall: «Honestly, it was pretty tough there. I had a chance to see it for myself when I visited the Bugayev’s Station, as it was called it at the CMC, with official business in winter. Instrumentation vehicle bodies froze completely through… What was worse, so did walls of wooden houses there. And some engineers had to live there with small children, even their chief had two small sons who struggled through Siberian winters with their parents.»

The GTS was complete by October 1957. By that time, there were 12 officers and 57 soldiers and sergeants serving at the station. When the second convoy came, Nikolay launched works to create better living conditions for the military personnel and civilians in parallel to installing and commissioning instrumentation. Within two months, he established a permanent power line, dug water wells, built a warm water tower, and opened a small food shop. Twice a week, a sales van came with commodity goods. Bugayev ordered to establish a hotel for industry representatives and two additional houses for officers and their families. Each living space was equipped with a stove. 

He also arranged consolidated firewood procurement. All school-aged children were registered for schools in the closest village. But most importantly, Nikolay Bugayev set up and running the operation of the ground tracking station by fitting GTS 13 with units SON-2, MRV-2M, RTS, and Bambook. As soon as on October 4, 1957, GTS 13 was receiving signals from the first artificial satellite. By the time it was being launched, the personnel of the station and telemetry tools were prepared. However, they only observed the satellite without taking any part in the process. 

To facilitate the launch and operation of the second and third artificial satellites, GTS 13 was equipped with the Tral-1S and Binocle-D units. From May 15, 1958, the GTS was routinely following up the third satellite that in essence was the first space laboratory. Within the course of the follow-up works, duty crews and station personnel had 109 communication sessions with the satellite and transferred information to the CMC.

In a tight timeframe, the Commander of GTS 13 managed to achieve the impossible: establishing a settlement in the middle of

The first officer house at GTS 13

Simferopol Cat

In August 1959, Nikolay Bugayev was transferred to command the strategic GTS 10 that was humbling and required an experienced engineer and a strong manager. 

The previous commander of the GTS had been expecting a coming promotion to CMC Executive Officer and had bothered only about performance targets of the GTS itself, disregarding the station’s infrastructure. The station was composed of a few wooden living buildings and a utility one, built of shelly limestone, a light and porous natural material that was popular at the time. 

However, Sergey Korolev put high hopes on this GTS and much responsibility on its commander as he saw it a future key comms center, image of the Soviet space. With his usual zeal, Commander Bugayev started beefing up the station’s infrastructure, working with its personnel, and, of course, maintaining operations at the ground tracking station. 

In next to no time, he constructed permanent utility and living buildings, as well as houses for officers. Permanent personnel number at GTS 10 reached 250 officers and over 1,000 military conscripts. They had to solve unique tasks, they were pioneers.

Sergey Korolev was preparing a new spacecraft family for Moon exploration as he wished to launch whole scientific labs into space, not just «dummies.» At the same time, Mikhail Ryazanskiy and Alexei Bogomolov led the development of new ground radio technologies, analog ones that used vacuum tubes (digital processing was out of the question then). These technologies required much space and were very heavy and sensitive to slightest vibrations and electromagnetic interference. 

As GTS 10 was located near the Simferopol-Yevpatoria highway and some villages, it was decided to install the new sensitive equipment in some other, more remote spot. After a long search, it was proposed to set up the equipment on the Koshka (Cat) mountain near the village of Simeiz.  The Kishka site was registered as a branch of GTS 10. Its development and fitting with equipment were in full swing, but no one knew if Commander Bugayev were to manage to complete the works before Luna 3 was launched, so the main facility of GTS 10 was always maintained in a standby mode. Virtually, Nikolay had to manage two GTSs at once. The timeframe was as tight as never before, the funds were short, but he managed to rally support from the authorities. On Bugayev’s request, a few officers were transferred to his station from GTS 13 in Ulan-Ude. 

These officers were the backbone of his coordinated team. 

To verify correct performance of the equipment at Koshka, a helicopter fitted to imitate Luna 3 equipment was assigned to the site. Regular flights around the mountain from the Black Sea demonstrated that the equipment was fully functional. By the time the Acceptance Commission comprised of Sergey Korolev, Mikhail Ryazanskiy, Aleksei Bogomolov, and Georgiy Tyulin arrived, all primary works on building utility facilities and installing the equipment at Koshka had been completed

Transmission antenna of the command radio line on the Koshka mountain that used to work with the Luna 3 station on the Koshka mountain (a trophy German antenna was used), left as a landmark.

Tougher Than James Bond

On October 4, 1959, a spacecraft was launched in the Moon’s direction. The carrier rocket was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and brought space station Luna 3 to the intermediate Earth orbit. The flight aimed primarily at bringing the station to such a trajectory that would allow it to make a ballistic flight around the Moon and capture its far side. The equipment aboard the station was to automatically develop the film and transmit received images to Earth, while the ground equipment on Koshka was to receive the images and process them (reduce noise, increase resolution). As soon as tracking means reported the station was on a trajectory towards the Moon that was close to the target one, members of the State Commission headed by Sergey Korolev and Mstislav Keldysh left Baikonur for Simferopol and arrived at Koshka in full. On Korolev’s request, GTS 10 performed a major run-through of the communication session, during which there was a curious occurrence that sparked a friendship between Nikolay Bugayev and Sergey Korolev. During the run-through, all equipment was synchronized with the central timing system, which had been never performed for or tested with the ground tools before. Earlier, both the helicopter, that had flown around the mountain to imitate a spacecraft, and the equipment on the mountain were synchronized with the usual portable time standard, which had sufficed for tests. In reality, they had to account for the distance to the Moon and the occurring lag. 

This very tiny lag after transmission of every image caused a total of almost 90 minutes of delay. Korolev who received reports that the film available at GTS 10 was not enough to last throughout the whole communication session flew into a rage since the prime cost of an image of the far side of the Moon was higher than that of a car. Most importantly, the value of each image was dictated by the historical significance of the event—for the first time in human history, people had a chance to view the far side of their natural satellite! Sergey Korolev contacted Moscow at once. He required that the necessary amount of film be prepared and delivered to Simferopol within four hours using his private airplane. 

Then, he called Bugayev and assigned him with the task of organizing the delivery of the film from the airport to Koshka before the start of the communication session. Nikolay Bugayev decided that it was impossible to do using a car as it was night, so he decided to pick up the film personally using the helicopter. Korolev got very angry. He believed it was reckless to leave the GTS in such a fateful moment, but Bugayev reasoned coldly that the equipment was fully functional and all crews were properly trained, put in place, and fully aware of their responsibility areas, while there was no officer at the station who had at least minimal paratrooper training and he would have to air-land as the helicopter cannot land on Koshka. Korolev trusted Commander Bugayev on this one. Nikolay picked up the film in Simferopol, arrived at Koshka, and helicopter-landed using a rope ladder. There were eleven minutes left before the communication session.

Far side of the Moon (one of the many pictures captured by Luna 3)


The communication session was a success. They received many images of the far side of the Moon that the whole world saw. When Korolev and Bugayev parted, the rocket engineer gave the bold Commander a hug and said: «Nikolay, we’ll view Mars and Venus, we’ll view them!» However, his resolve and valiance did Bugayev a disservice. Korolev fully appreciated how valuable the commander was and ordered to give him no vacation during launches. Over five years that followed, Bugayev enjoyed only one full vacation. 


The success of Luna 3 project demonstrated how important it was to establish a new deep-space communication complex with more sensitive and interference-resistant equipment since the tools located on Koshka required extra protection against saltwater environment. Besides, nearby roads had to be blocked and villages had to be shut off the grid when communication sessions took place on Kosha due to the weak resistance to interference. But stable functioning of communication systems was vital to both scientific success of flights and the lives of cosmonauts.

In Simferopol region, 18 km away from the city along the Simferopol-Yevpatoria highway, a spot was found with sufficient weather and earthquake resistance properties. In this location, construction of a vast complex began, with enormous beds built to house new receiver and transmission antennas, posterns carved in rock to lay power and communication lines, and a huge independent power center and many utility facilities established. As soon as another utility facility was constructed but before it was finished, equipment was ordered and installed in the so-called darkroom first. Equipment arrived with a team dispatched by the manufacturer and developer. Right on the spot, equipment parameters were verified, the equipment itself was calibrated, tuned up, and modified where necessary. This way, verified and tuned equipment took its permanent seat and was fully operational by the time utility facilities were completed and even before they were finished. 

With his usual zeal and adherence to the principle «Aiming at space, working on Earth,» the Commander of GTS 10 set up large-scale construction of living facilities and infrastructure. He built permanent houses for his personnel, a canteen, a stadium, a shooting ground, a club, and a library. On Bugayev’s initiative, a nearby brook was blocked to create a small pond. A pig farm was established at the station, and neither officers nor soldiers had to eat canned meet ever since at GTS 10. Besides, Bugayev kept the first wooden houses where officers had lived. The buildings were revamped and turned into comfortable hotels named Koroled House and Keldysh House. Sergey Korolev, and later Yuri Gagarin, loved to stay in the Houses and willingly offered deluxe suite to members of state commissions.

         One of the most important social objects was a school named Kuban Eight-Year School.  As soon as it was completed, a bus line was established between Simferopol and Shkolnaya (school) bus stop. It is by the name of Shkolnaya that the history of space exploration remembers GTS 10. By the time of Gagarin’s flight, Shkolnaya transformed into a regional political, scientific, and cultural center and became station No. 1, an example for everyone, in the Odessa Military District. Unofficially, the Simferopol GTS was called Bugayevka, and this name appears now and then in memoirs of veterans of space exploration.


GTS 10 became the key communication station—just as Korolev had planned. From the second piloted launch with German Titov, the following operation scheme was put in place: as soon as it was determined that the craft entered the set orbit, all members of the Technical management of the State Commission—Sergey Korolev, Mstislav Keldysh, Mikhail Ryazanskiy, and Aleksei Bogomolov—got on a place and were off to Simferopol, to Bugayevka. By the time they arrived, telemetry and medical indicators from the onboard sensor had been processed and deciphered, the craft’s position in space had been adjusted where necessary, and the object had been switched to normal operation. Traditionally, Sergey Korolev ran the first communication session himself. Then he and the GTS Commander assigned tasks for the coming sessions.

GTS 10 successfully ran all communication sessions, including the ones that took place during Yuri Gagarin’s first flight with Voskhod 1 and later in 1965 during the flight of Voskhod 2 when Alexei Leonov conducted the first spacewalk and Pavel Belyaev manually landed a spacecraft for the first time. The performance of officer crews and teams of visiting representatives from the industry was so flawless that managers of the industry started thinking of demonstrating the success of the exemplary GTS to the country leaders. Bugayevka had been attracting attention for quite some time by that moment, although for another reason…

The Simferopol GTS headed by Colonel Bugayev was constructed in the shortest time possible and on a literally empty spot. The GTS was so prosperous thanks to the unquenchable energy and wits of its Commander, as well as to being favored by higher ranks. To Sergey Korolev alone the GTS sent 18 Presentations that received his visa and were passed over to the USSR Central Committee and the Council of Ministers. Only honest, principled, and business-minded people truly committed to what they did could get at least some extra resources in the context of the rigid Soviet planned economy with funds planned for 5–7 years in advance. During the construction of Bugayevka, almost all rules and guidelines of planned economy were broked, but no commission ever found even one stolen ruble. Many people had mixed feelings about Bugayev’s frenzied activity. It seemed irrational to invest in anything besides technology when the history of space was being made. After all, human resources are expendable. But for Nikolay Bugayev, his people always came first. Almost all through the year of 1962, the station was being torn by constant audits and commissions, and only Nikita Khrushchev put a stop to them so that the station could breathe freely.

Task assignment before a communication session

TV shot of the Zarya system sent to Bugayev by Gagarin

Similar covers were used to send messages to TASS before flights and in case a flight was successful

TASS Management during a communication session with a cosmonaut

At the firing ground

Inspection General

In 1962, GTS 10 as the key communication station was visited by the highest authority in the USSR, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev. Everyone was aware of the great responsibility that fell on the station. Any malfunction during a communication session or any other fault in the GTS’s operation could cause shutting down a whole direction in the country’s space program. As usual, the Simferopol station was at its best. 

Nikita Khrushchev ran two successful communication sessions with cosmonauts Pavel Popovich and Andriyan Nikolayev. Nikita Khrushchev highly praised the performance of the Simferopol GTS but took a sideswipe at unnecessary luxury in the communication hall. He deemed it was unnecessary to pave a technical room with carpets. GTS personnel explained to the first secretary that the equipment in the hall was so highly sensitive that even human steps could upset its settings and disrupt a communication seession. Khrushchev was satisfied by the reply and the visit on the whole. Later, Khrushchev ordered similar farms to be established in other military stations and bases following the example of Bugayevka.

Khrushchev and Tereshkova in Simferopol


Khrushchev gives orders


Tsar Rocket

The space industry was developing rapidly, and the Special Design Bureau No. 1 (today the Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia) headed by Sergey Korolev could not research all necessary field within a single institution any longer. As advised by Korolev, the USSR Central Committee and the Council of Ministers ordered to create a system of key enterprises with responsibilities divided as follows: Korolev’s bureau aided by the newly established Mission Control Center (MCC) remained in charge of manned flights, while the so-called deep space—Venus and Mars research and unmanned Moon exploration program was entrusted to the Lavochkin Research and Production Association with Georgiy Babakin as Chief Designer.

As the «great Moon race» began, Korolev focused his efforts on a project to develop a super heavy-lift launch vehicle of N 1 class to launch a crewed mission to the Moon. In his idea, the N 1 vehicle was to carry a heavy (75 metric tonnes) orbital station to the Earth orbit ao that it could allow building heavy interplanetary vehicles to fly to Venus and Mars.


Meanwhile, the USA was developing a project to launch a crewed mission to the Moon—Apollo—under the charge of Wernher von Braun. But for astronauts to land on the Moon, they needed all possible information about its surface, and so large-scale Moon research started using automatic stations. As early as in 1961, US President John Kennedy sent a letter to Nikita Khrushchev with a proposal to join efforts to explore the Moon and moon space together as he realized that this was a very «heavy» budget item for one country. However, the First Secretary rejected Kennedy’s proposal since the USA was lagging behind the USSR in the Space Race at the time.

So the Americans launched the Project Apollo, NASA published their research schedule and started to report on its progress regularly. The American success urged the USSR to speed up their Moon exploration program (by contrast with the American one, it was top secret). From February to October 1967, 12 launches of N 1 were scheduled, but the country’s economy could nor provide enough resources for them. It was crystal clear that the USSR lost the race when Sergey Korolev, 59, passed away on January 14, 1966. 

His position as the Chief Designer of the Special Design Bureau No. 1 was offered to Vasiliy Mishin, his closes assistant. Unfortunately, Mishin had neither Korolev’s energy nor his authority. Out of the twelve scheduled launches of N 1, only four were performed, and the fourth one destroyed the launch site, so it was decided to shut down the crewed mission part of the Moon program.

In 1965, Nikolay Bugayev along with some other CMC officers was awarded the State Council of Ministers Prize for the results of Korolev’s part of the Moon exploration program.

First design test of the N-1 rocket

Successors of Space Exploration

The deep space and uncrewed Moon exploration direction entrusted to the Lavochkin Research and Production Association was researched under the leadership of Georgiy Babakin. On December 3, 1965, he launched carrier vehicle Molniya that brought probe Luna 8 to a trajectory towards the Moon. The mission set out a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, which turned out impossible because the probe could not reduce the speed. On December 6, 1965, the probe suffered a hard impact on the lunar surface. It was decided to reshuffle managers in the space program, so two-star General Georgiy Tyulin was appointed Head of the State Commission for the Moon Exploration Program, while Georgiy Babakin was assigned to be the Chief Technology Officer of the Moon program.

The reshuffle turned out fruitful. The first launch that the reshuffled Commission oversaw was the Luna 9 mission. 

On January 31, 1966, the probe was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and performed the first soft landing on the Moon ever on February 3, 1966. The probe landed in the Ocean of Storms. There were seven communication sessions with the probe with a total duration of 8 hours. During the sessions, Luna 9 transmitted landscape images of the lunar surface near its landing site. Once more, GTS 10 demonstrated flawless performance. All images were deciphered, processed, and shared with the government and mass media.

State Commission for the Moon Exploration Program—Babakin, Ryazanskiy, Bygayev

Picture of the Moon signed by the members of the State Commission

Preparation of a report for the Political Bureau of the USSR.

Work and Rest

On April 3, 1966, probe Luna 10 was launched to the lunar orbit to become the first artificial satellite of the Moon. The probe remained in the lunar orbit for 57 days. Within this time, GTS 10 had 220 communication sessions with the probe; the station and its personnel operated as one team, as a single organism, and never failed. For these two months, Bugayev organized round-the-clock operation of the station by introducing shifts. After work, GTS employees could go to Simferopol or to the sea if it was warm by special buses. Bugayev also organized tours to Crimean landmarks, the most popular of which were tours to famous vineyards Koktebel and Massandra.


In his book «Rank Slides and People,» one-star General Dmitriy Kyslitsin describes his recollections about how work and rest were organized in the Simferopol GTS: «My duty brought me together with commanders and personnel of various GTSs. But I have never seen such smooth organization of service hours and duty shifts as in the Deep Space Communication Center (GTS 10). No wonder new commanders of existing GTSs and commanders of newly established ones were always sent to the Simferopol GTS for mandatory internship that lasted two or three months.»

Here is what Colonel Victor Mazurin wrote in his memoirs: «Eleven years—from 1961 to 1972—I spent serving with Nikolay Bugayev as the Central Timing and Communication Means Chief. His workstyle included a set of certain techniques and methods to arrange operation so that the station could successfully perform its duties. 

His style was based on his vast personal and professional experience, as well as on a solid theoretical knowledge he acquired while studying in the Academy and delving into the capabilities of new technologies that arrived at his GTS. His method was supported by his keen intellect, will, and moral qualities. Bugayev always accounted for the best qualities of his team and for the conditions they were put in. He was a smart and clever manager because he realized that the success of missions depended on their energy, expertise, and concentration.»

State Farm «Koktebel»

Cosmic Overload

When the USSR realized it had lost the crewed lunar race, it speeded up its probe Moon exploration program. In 1966, three probes were launched in quick succession. They were Luna 11 (August 24), Luna 12 (October 22), and Luna 13 (December 21). 

The first and second probes were aimed at making high-resolution images of the Moon and at studying the structure of the Moon’s gravitational field. Finally, Luna 13 accomplished a soft landing on the Moon, made three full landscape shots of its surface, and took samples from the Moon’s surface to carry out the first analysis of lunar soil in automatic mode. 

GTS 10 was running at full blast, it conducted all scheduled communication sessions, received and processed all images and data of lunar soil analysis. At the same time, the station had other strategic tasks, such as continuing research on the Mars and Venus projects and the manned program, which could not be abandoned. 

After Bugayev’s report at the meeting of the Chier Designer Council, the burden on the Simferopol GTS was lessened. All work on the deep space project was assigned to GTS 16 in Yevpatoria that had been established to work with Mars probes but was still on standby for some reason. 

Besides, GTS 16 was charged with ensuring communication with orbital stations, the development of which was a priority in the field of manned missions. GTS 10 carried on its work and became the official key center for communication with the Moon.

Keldysh in Simferopol before Mars 1, Keldysh explores the Moon program

Draft pennant for the Mars 1 probe

Bugayev reporting on Mars 1 readiness

The report is over, we are launching it!

Keldysh, Babakin, and Ryazanskiy listening to Bugayev’s report on the progress on Venus

Space Cartoons

On April 7, 1968, probe Luna 14 was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Like earlier probes, it was aimed at gathering information about the lunar space to prepare for manned missions to the Moon. The probe had been fitted with new equipment for uplink and downlink communication that used the promising deep radio set (DRS) designed to be further installed on next-generation probes and crewed missions to the Moon L1 and L3. 

Scientists had also mounted new mechanisms on Luna 14 that were to be further used in lunar rovers so there was a need to test their sealings, lubrication, and bearings in operation.

The probe remained in lunar orbit for almost 75 days, in which about 300 communication sessions took place. However, there were multiple failures concerning the transmission of target commands in the probe’s operation. For example, instead of command «Bring solar panel to initial position» the probe performed the command to carry out an unscheduled telemetry session. 

Commander Bugayev almost never slept at home in that period because continuous equipment failures required his presence at communication sessions. He had regular and unscheduled meetings with the Technical Management and the State Commission. 

After another unsuccessful communication session, Nikolay Bugayev left for a meeting with the Technical Management that took place at the Special Design Bureau MPEI headed by Alexei Bogomolov. Bugayev brought not only routine reports on communication sessions, but also cartoon made by artists from GTS that presented the sessions as comics. Bugayev’s report sparked a long yet fruitless discussion, and then the Bureau Chief put off the meeting. The next day, the meeting continued in a narrow circle consisting of Aleksei Bogomolov, Nikolay Bugayev, and Mikhail Ryazanskiy, chief designer of radio technology systems. Bugayev reasoned that

the failures were caused not by equipment malfunctions, but rather by the overlapping of signals reflected from the Moon surface and coming from Earth. The equipment designed to work with lunar objects turned out to be too sensitive. It was decided to apply hardware-based techniques to increase resistance to interference. The Luna 14 case also demonstrated that lunar rovers needed to be guided by an operator on Earth because no program could account for the constantly changing conditions and surface profile on the Moon.

Babakin, Ryazanskiy, Agadzhayev, and Bugayev at the meeting of the State Commission

Permanent Lunar Commission

Thank you notes from cosmonauts after the mission

Permanent members of the Deep Space Commission: Keldysh, Babakin, Ryazanskiy, Agadzhayev, Buganov, Bogomolov

One Giant Leap for Mankind

The USA were in the final straight of their Luna program, and space scientists in the USSR realized they needed something to rival Project Apollo, otherwise they were running the risk of having the whole direction of the Soviet space program deprived of financing. But most importantly, unique teams of scientists could be disbanded. The finest minds of the Societ space science focused on the two most promising fields—development and exploitation of long-lived orbital space stations and research of plants in the Solar System using automatic interplanetary probes.

In 1968, when results of the piloted space program were reviewed, Soviet leadership decided to nominate some industry workers and military officers, including Nikolay Bugayev, for the State Council of Ministers Prize. Nikolay Bugayev was awarded the prize for the Luna program at the end of the same year.

In October 1968, the Commander of GTS 10 presented a report on lunar rover navigation at a scheduled meeting of the Technical Management in Simferopol. The American astronauts had no problems navigating the rover during the Apollo mission because navigation was performed from the Moon’s surface and they had constant visual contact with the rover. 


However, Soviet scientists had to navigate their rovers remotely using slow-scan television, and they were 300,000 km away from the Moon. So they had to make allowance for lags in command execution which sometimes reached 24 seconds. Needless to say, a slightest mistake of the operator, given the pitted lunar surface, could be fatal for the rover.

Nikolay Bugayev proposed constructing a training site with conditions most closely resembling those on the Moon, developing a training command line to imitate operating a real lunar rover, and

putting together teams of rover operators. So GTS 10 launched construction of a Lunadrome. One lunar rover was manufactured to work on the training site. It took almost a year to improve onboard communication systems and test ground equipment. Finally, the Luna 15 probe was launched in July 1969. The mission aimed at accomplishing a soft landing on the Moon, taking samples of lunar soil, and bringing them back to Earth. Unfortunately, the mission failed because of a malfunction in the onboard equipment. The probe failed to land safely, and connection to it was lost. And a day before that on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission took place and Neil Armstrong made the one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

State Prize award ceremony

Lunar Soil

It took another year to prepare the Luna 16 probe. The mission was launched on September 12, 1970, and turned out a perfect success. The probe accomplished a soft landing on the lunar surface, and operators navigated the drag head of the landing stage to take samples of the lunar soil in the Sea of Fertility. The samples were put into a special capsule, and the probe returned back to Earth with a Moon-Earth rocket on September 21. 

On September 24 at 4:50 am, the return stage of Luna 16 separated from the rocket, reentered Earth’s atmosphere at 8:10 am, and soft-landed in the USSR territory. The probe brought samples of the lunar soil with a total weight of 101 g. Luna 16 was the first robotic probe to return extraterrestrial material to Earth. Before the probe, this had been achieved only by crewed missions Apollo 11 and Apollo 12.

Luna 17

The next stage of work on lunar missions started from the Luna 17 spacecraft, which included adjusting the program of ground testing and improving radio-relay communication equipment. This lunar rover was developed in the Lavochkin Research and Production Association under the leadership of Georgiy Babakin.

By that time, a 70m×120m site was constructed at GTS 10 to resemble the lunar surface with all its pits, craters, ruptures, and scattered stones of various sizes. This is where lunar rover testing began. Two crews were trained to navigate the rover, each included a commander, a driver, a navigator, an operator, and a board engineer. It should be noted that the crews consisted of military officers who had no experience driving cars so that Eath driving skills did not interfere with their mastering new lunar reality.

The officers underwent a strict health check, same as cosmonauts, theoretical instruction, and hands-on training at the Lunadrome.

On November 10, 1970, Luna 17 was launched with a lunar rover onboard. It entered the orbit of the lunar artificial satellite on November 15 and landed successfully in the Sea of Rains on November 17. The rover descended to the lunar surface.

The research rover was navigated using a whole complex of telemetry control and processing equipment, or STI-90. The Rover Control Center consisted of the following:

— rover command point (RCP) that included control panels of the crew commander, rover driver, and high gain antenna (HGA) operator;

— navigator station;

— telemetry operative processing room.

The rover crew received television images and telemetry on Earth and sent commands back to the rover. Remote rover navigation had its specific features associated with the operator’s inability to perceive movement and the dependence of movement characteristics of the driving chassis on the ambient conditions (landscape and soil properties). The rover crew used the whole first lunar day (about 14.5 Earth days) to get used to the unusual images as pictures from the Moon were very hard, they lacked shadows. As expected, the time lag was the main difficulty. It took the radio signal 2 seconds to reach the Moon and return. The use of slow-scan television with framing rate from 1 frame per 4 seconds to 1 frame per 20 seconds. As a result, command performance lagged more than 20 seconds behind command input, which made the crew try to anticipate possible motion direction and barriers in the rover’s way. This required full attention and focus of the whole crew. The crews took turns controlling the rover; they had to shift every two hours because operators literally went down in this short time due to the stressful and challenging work.

For the first fortnight, the rover studied the location where Luna 17 landed. At the same time, the rover’s systems were tested, and the crews aquired driving experience. Apart from studying the lunar surface, the mission had another most practical task. It was aimed at training to search for the landing site of the lunar module within the framework of the preparations for a manned mission. On February 20, 1971, by the time the fourth lunar day ended, the rover completed all scheduled activities.



An analysis of inboard systems showed that it was possible to continue active exploitation of the rover on the lunar surface, so an additional rover program was developed. The rover remained in successful operation for 45 weeks. Within this time, the rover traveled 10,540 m and transmitted to Earth 200 telephotometric panoramas and about 20,000 SSTV images. The shooting from the rover allowed to obtain 3D images of the most interesting features of the lunar surface to study its aspects in detail.

On September 15, 1971, when the 11th lunar night came, the temperature inside the rover’s hermetic container started to drop since the isotope heat source in the night heating system was depleted. On September 30, the 12th lunar day came in the location of the rover, but it was never contactable again. All atempts to contact the rover were abandoned on October 4, 1971. The total time of the rover’s operation amounted to 301 days 6 hours and 57 minutes, which exceeded the period set by the design specification three times. The rover remained on the Moon. For a long time, its location remained unknown, until a team of physicists from the University of California in San Diego headed by Professor Tom Murphy found it in the pictures capture by US probe Lunar almost 40 years later.

Upon successful completion of the Luna 17 mission, GTS 10 was awarded a streamer flag from the USSR Council of Ministers as the best based in the strategic missile troops. All Chief Designers engaged in the Lunar Program arrived at Bugayevka to celebrate. In his congratulatory speech, Mikhail Ryazanskiy gave voice to the general opinion the team of nine Chief Designers who worked on Luna 17 had been complemented by an unofficial tenth one, namely Nikolay Bugayev. His explosive energy, vast experience, and encyclopedic knowledge had facilitated the flawless accomplishment of the Luna 17 and lunar rover mission.

At the gala dinner, a radical accident was shared that had taken place when the GTS had been preparing for a scheduled communication session. A few hours before the session, the connection between the receiver and transmission station and the rover control station went dark. Test measurements indicated a full rupture of cable 112. While the provisioning service was making urgent requests for additional cord with the manufacturer, Nikolay Bugayev at once saw the true cause of the accident. At the time, it was popular to make various bracelets, tags, and other small stuff from wire cable. The Commander dashed to the Sergeant School barrack and demanded that the stolen piece of cord be returned immediately. He promised that responsible ones would not be punished and that the necessary amount of wire cable would be delivered to the station for crafting within a couple of days. The cable was returned, the connection was established as scheduled, and there were no incidents during the session. In this case, it is wonderful how much trust the soldiers had to their commander.

The Luna 17 project displayed Bugayev’s skill as a leader and scientist as never before. For this job, he as a member of a team of military officers and industry representatives was nominated for the State Council of Ministers Prize for the third time. However, they never received the prize. After the USSR’s failure in the manned space race with the USA it would have looked unethical to reward the team with such a high honor, so the participants of the project were awarded orders and medals.


Later, GTS 10 took part in the last stages of lunar research using probes. Commander Bugayev managed missions from Luna 18 to Luna 21 that carried Lunokhod 2 (rover 2) to the Moon.

Picture from a Roskosmos calendar

Testing at the Lunadrome

Ryazanskiy, Keldysh, and Bugayev administer a rover driving test

Keldysh and Bogomolov in Simferopol after Luna 17

The Race Continues: Long-Lived Orbital Stations

Apart from the manned Moon race, the development and operation of long-lived orbital stations (DOS) was the second priority area in the field of space exploration.

The engineering design of LLOS had been developed by Sergey Korolev. After his death, it was assigned to the Special Design Bureau No. 51 that developed military LLOS named Almaz. In the middle of 1972, NASA announced the launch of a large research station named Skylab. In fear of being beaten in another area of the Space Race and left out of the history books, USSR leadership ordered on September 9, 1970, to re-assign the development of DOS to Special Design Bureau No. 1 that was headed by Chief Designer Vasiliy Mishin after Sergey Korolev had died. To catch up and overtake the USA and to be the first country to launch a long-lived orbital station, the staff of the Special Design Bureau No. 1 managed by Yuriy Semyonov used hulls manufactured for Almaz and solutions for a new spacecraft, Soyuz (7K-T). Hey worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week to develop this orbital station. The project named Complex DOS-7K was scheduled to be completed in October 1970. Despite the commitment of scientists, they could not meet the deadline, and the launch was postponed several times.

Unlike a standard spacecraft, the orbital station was to remain in Earth orbit for a long time. It was planned to operate independently for many months or even years and have enough space for cosmonauts to reside and carry out research. According to the specification, Complex DOS-7K was designed to harbor one by one two or three orbital missions with crews of three cosmonauts, their scientific tests, and medical and astrophysical research. The station’s design on-orbit life in the manned mode was three months.






"Thank You" as the Highest Honor

On April 19, 1971, Salyut 1—the first long-lived space station ever—was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to Earth orbit. Bu that time, all GTSs, included the one in Simferopol, had been fitted with new equipment to work with the DOS. 

Nikolay Bugayev had held a report in Moscow where he spoke in favor of making pairs of GTSs that would operate in synch. Since there were plans to have cosmonauts work at the orbital station for a long time, ground stations also had to keep communication lines with the station open for an equally long time and had zero margin for error as it could cause an accident or even kill the cosmonauts. The Commander of the Simferopol GTS proposed synchronizing the work of his base and GTS 16 in Yevpatoria.


On April 19m 1971, carrier vehicle Proton (UR-500K) was launched and brought the world’s first orbital station Salyut (DOS 1) to space. On April 23, manned spacecraft Soyuz 10 was launched. Its crew consisted of Vladimir Shatalov as the commander, Alexey Yeliseyev as an onboard engineer, and Nikolay Rukavishnikov as a test engineer. The next day, the spacecraft docked with the station, but the space link was not full. 

The link was not tight, and the electric circuit failed to couple. Shatalov tried to solve the problem and push the spacecraft tighter to the station using engines, but to no effect. The command station in Yevpatoria ordered the crew to undock, but then the spacecraft would not disconnect from the station. It was a serious emergency. It was Nikolay Rukavishnikov who saved Salyut. 

He broke the electronics module and cross patched some of the plugs. Soyuz 10 successfully undocked from the station, and the crew returned to Earth ahead of schedule on April 25.

Although the Soyuz 10 mission was a failure, Bugayev’s idea allowed the project team to gain valuable experience of cooperation and avert a disaster—death of the cosmonauts and destruction of the station. Afther this launch, all GTSs located along the trajectory of orbital stations were paired to work with DOS in synch. Naturally, no one was rewarded for the unsuccessful mission, but Nikolay Bugayev forever kept a letter signed by Mishin, Chertok, Rukavishnikov, and Shatalov—they thanked him for saving their lives and the station.

Silent Salute and Space Odyssey

Despite the failure with Soyuz 10, Mishin suggested that they should stick to the initial plan and send two more missions to the station.

On June 6, 1971, spacecraft Soyuz 11 was launched with a crew of Georgiy Dobrovolskiy, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev aboard. The next day, the spacecraft successfully docked with the Salyut station, the cosmonauts went over to it and started commencing the 250day program at once.

However, the Soyuz 11 mission ended in tragedy. On the evening of June 29, the cosmonauts took their stations in the descent module of the spacecraft and shut the hatch, but the sign «Hatch open» was still on. MCC ordered to repeat closing the hatch, but the sign would not blink off. And then once again — the sign was still on. 


The crew was getting nervous because an untight hatch of the descent module would mean sure death. There were no spacesuits in 7K-T spacecraft. They checked tightness by depressurizing the utility module. When it turned out everything was all right, MCC ordered the crew to undock and descent.

After midnight on June 30, the spacecraft’s engines were switched to the deceleration mode. About 2 am, a helicopter search party found the descent module in the expected location and landed. 

The search team ran up to the module, and it took no more than a minute to open it, but the cosmonauts showed no sign of life. Medics tried to resuscitate them right on the spot but to no effect. The cosmonauts suffocated.


On July 29, 1972, another Proton carrier vehicle launched orbital station DOS 2 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It was planned to send a crew of Alexey Leonov and Valeriy Kubasov to the station. 

On the 182nd second of the mission, the engine unit went dead in the second stage of the carrier, and the station crushed. It was clear that both the station and Soyuz spacecraft needed improvement. So it was decided to return to the military DOS version, the Almaz station, from which it all had begun. 

The first successful launch of the Almaz military station under the name of Salyut 3 took place only a year later, in the night from June 24 to 25, 1974. A few days later, Soyuz 14 docked with the station, and a decades-long Space Odyssey started.



In July 1973, Nikolay Bugayev was awarded the Lenin Prize and appointed CMC Chief Engineer. Officially, his position was called «Chief of testing and operation of control and measurement means and automated CMC control system.» After his re-assignment, the fame of the legendary GTS 10 faded, and GTS 16 in Yevpatoria became the key space communication station.

When Bugayev took up the office, he saw that CMC services were a mere formality, and every GTS solved its provision problems by itself, depending on their command’s connections. Naturally, not every problem could be solved at the GTS level. First of all, issues related to metrology and assurance of measurement uniformity needed to be addressed. It was also necessary to get up and running work with reference standards, operating checks of measuring means, and cross-checking of measuring tools. In fact, Bugayev has to establish a metrological service from scratch.

In his short service as the Chief CMC Engineer, Bugayev achieved astonishing results. He established a United Metrological Service, Standardization Laboratory, Procurement Division for Spacecraft Control Means, Cryptosecurity Department, and United Service for Safety Rules Oversight and Compliance. He also organized an air service to monitor the health of means of orbit parameter measurement and telemetry signal control. At some GTSs, he ordered to mount equipment for visual observation and receipt of visual information. Under Bugayev’s leadership, special equipment was developed to receive and process telemetry in real time. He also launched works to design automated systems to transmit commands from MCC to GTS and then to controlled objects to carry out these commands.

Needless to say, such progress was possible only thanks to Bugayev paying much attention to communicating with his people as they were the ones carrying the working load. The CMC Commander knew everyone among his personnel, including their full names, rank, and even position—this concerned not only officers but privates too. All people who served under his command thought very highly of their Commander. This is what Colonel Mazurin, who served as Bugayev’s Technical Deputy for many years, says about Bugayev in his book: «Each of the Deputies was fully responsible for all aspects of life of the division they were in charge of. Commander was extremely strict but fair when it came to assigned jobs and special tasks. Bugayev almost never micromanaged because he believed they were competent, experienced, and trained enough to complete set tasks. He controlled us by outcomes of our activities. He had a very operational mindset by nature, he had all issues and problems sliced and diced, he always chose the most complex and urgent of them and demanded that they were solved first. Bugayev had much stamina, he was determined, independent, decisive, and yet tactical and forward-looking. His main criteria when evaluating people were their attitude towards what they did, responsibility, and care for their subordinates. As a commander, he could bite the bullet and never took it out on his personnel for mistakes in the work. Bugayev always supported proactivity if it did not steer away from the key tasks but would always make this joke about no initiative going unpunished.  And his base was always ahead of everyone in terms of innovation. He was also a strong supporter of sports, crafts, and activities…»

Bugayev’s truly encyclopedic knowledge in various engineering fields allowed him to «speak one language» with great space scientists, such as Korolev, Mishin, Chertok, Ryazanskiy, Bogomolov, Keldysh, Babakin, and Tyulin. 


However, the new CMC Commander’s teeming activity was a thorn in the flesh of some people from the top tiers of space troops, and they often put spokes in his wheel. It will just suffice to mention the introduction of fuel quotas for military vehicles. The quota was the same for the Chief Engineer, who had to visit facilities located all over Moscow and its surroundings every day, and for an armchair official. The CMC Commander reached his quota within ten days and then paid for the fuel out of his own pocket.

In the end, the restless Bugayev whose boiling activities disrupted the unhurried lifestyle of top ranks in the strategic space troops, so it was decided to get rid of him. In May 1977, he was promoted to two-star General (or one-star General? Information in various sources differs) and discharged with honors in June. 

Korolev Readings at the USSR Academy of Sciences

Celebratory report on Luna’s work

No Rest for the Zealous

After Nikolay Bugayev’s retirement from the military, his former fellow officers and colleagues offered him a position as a lead engineer at the Research Institute for Automatic Equipment. In his 54, Bugayev was full of energy and was not going to have a boring retirement. 

The department to which Nikolay Bugayev was assigned was literally boiling from his vigorous activity, while he set about studying a new field. Every day, his sons brought him books and journals on theory and practice of automatic regulation system development, and then they took his notes to a bookbindery that bound the notes into large notebooks, each 200 to 300 pages thick. 

A year later, Bugayev was appointed team leader, and the department was given a weighty R&D plan.


It should be noted that Nikolay Bugayev had begun on thesis papers before. 

In his archives, five thesis paper plans were discovered, the first one was dated 1969, but only the retirement allowed him to work standard hours and put his idea into life. According to the last thesis paper plan dated 1988, his thesis work discussed and described lunar rover control algorithms.  

The previous four plans all had the following footnote: «Materials given to comrade XXXXX.» This means all of Bugayev’s thesis drafts were viable and served as the basis for candidate theses of four people.

Nikolay Bugayev also purchased a typewriter and mastered it because he believed a researcher that is willing to leave some scientific legacy for their descendants should find the time and get it into shape.


Bugayev enrolled in an English language course and even passed qualifying examinations for the Candidate’s degree. In school and the Academy, he learned German that he called the language of chemistry. At the same time, he realized the value of English for a space engineer. This omission in his education Bugayev corrected when he was already retired. Later on, he successfully translated technical texts on the theory of automatic control. 

They were the pioneers

"I Can't Be Weak"

In 1992, two-star General Bugayev was appointed Head of the department. He was finishing his thesis paper. Besides, he was socially involved as a member of the Space Troops Veterans Council.

It came out of the blue when the energetic Nikolay Bugayev started to suffer from health issues. This was how the twenty years of stressful work manifested themselves. Needless to say, the war injuries took their toll too. First, it was the heart, and then his sight started failing him. Bugayev was not the type of person to give up. Even in the hospital, he asked to bring him engineering books and journals, no fiction.

Nikolay Bugayev almost finished his thesis when he had another heart attack. He recovered again but called on a family meeting and announced that he decided to retire, this time for real. At first, his family and colleagues from the institute tried to talk him out of this idea because a person with so much zeal and keen intelligence cannot sit around doing nothing, but Nikolay Bugayev flatly refused to listen to them: «I can’t be weak. If I work, I want to put everything in it.»

However, Bugayev remained active with the Veterans Council. At one meeting, he raised the issue of putting the history of space exploration by Soviet scientists on record. His idea was that space veterans had to divide into teams by fields and describe the events that the great spacefaring nation saw in retrospect.

At the time, many materials were still classified, and every story was checked for disclosure of strategic engineering information. 

These should be described only in general terms. Nikolay Bugayev’s son had a chance to read some of the storied before they were censored. One piece described what happened to Sergey Korolev in the labor camp once. A group of real criminals «sentenced» him to death, but their foreman came across his diaries with projects of various craft and saved him.  The second story described Yuri Gagarin’s monolog at a lunch with Bugayev in the Korolev House at GTS 10. Korolev had just died, Gagarin cried as he recalled his last days. When he and Bugayev were parting, Gagarin gave him a rare picture of Korolev in military uniform after he had returned from Germany. The backside of the picture showed the words «To Gagarin from Korolev» and a later note «To Bygayev from Gagarin.»  Unfortunately, these uncensored stories did not survive till our days.

Nikolay Bugayev always stayed tuned on what was going on in the space industry. Every morning, he fetched fresh newspapers and put all publications related to space on files, that totaled to a whole archive. When there was news that the Simferopol GTS was removed from the Russian spacecraft control network and Ukraine was unable to maintain its equipment, Bugayev entered into correspondence with the State Space Agency of Ukraine to avert the death of the unique equipment. 

He wished to preserve the history of space exploration, Lunadrome, and other events from this space odyssey.  For several years, the Veterans Council struggled to establish a museum at GTS 10, but they were denied their request. Today, the legendary GTS 10 is a distressing scene—ruins and wild grass.


Nikolay Bugayev passed away on December 17, 2003, and was buried at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery in Moscow. Every year on the Cosmonautics Day, April 12, former fellow officers, colleagues, and people who have an interest in space exploration history come to Bugayev’s grave.

He was a great man, and a whole great era faded away with him. But he will always live in our hearts as far as we remember his history—history of a great nation, the USSR, exploring space. May Nikolay Bugayev’s memory and glory live forever!

All guns — fire! Salute! Salute! Salute!

August 2020

Bugaev Nikolay Ivanovich