Alexander Kemurdzhyan – Designer of Soviet Marsokhod and Lunokhods

Alexander Kemurdzhyan – Designer

The name of “the father of the Soviet Marsokhod and Lunokhods,” as Kemurdzhyan (October 4, 1921 – February 25, 2003) was called, had been kept secret for a long time. In his interviews with reporters, Kemurdzhyan introduced himself as Alexandrov, Leonovich, Uglyov… But today, scientists from all over the world know him.

In 1988, the International Biographical Center in Cambridge included Kemurdzhyan in the encyclopedia “Prominent people of the twentieth century.”

Kemurdzhyan was an academician at the Tsiolkovsky Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, a member of the US Planetary Society, and several other international scientific societies. Since 1997, a small planet numbered 5933 has born the name of Kemurdzhyan.

Alexander Kemurdzhyan was born in Vladikavkaz but spent his childhood and school years in Baku. In 1940, he entered the Bauman Moscow State Technical University. But the beginning of WWII interrupted his studies.

Kemurdzhyan had a “white ticket” (a document issued to those who were ineligible for compulsory military service) and was not drafted into the army. However, from the first days of the war, he was eager to go to the front. “He was distinguished by patriotism and civic responsibility,” said Vladimir Kemurdzhyan’s son about his father.

Nevertheless, the persistent young man managed to achieve his goal – in 1942, he went to the front after graduating from the Leningrad Artillery School. Kemurdzhyan fought in the Battle of Kursk and went through Ukraine and Poland to reach Germany.

After graduation, Alexander Kemurdzhyan worked for many years at the Mobile Vehicle Engineering Institute. In 1969, he became the chief designer of the institute. Under his leadership, a new direction titled space transport engineering was developed. The foundations of the theory, design, and testing of planetary rovers were developed as well.

Kemurdzhyan also was the organizer of the creation and successful use of self-propelled chassis in the world’s first mobile lunar laboratories, Lunokhod-1 and Lunokhod-2.

In 2010, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Lunokhod-1, Roscosmos issued medals named after A. L. Kemurdzhyan. At a memorable meeting in honor of the 90th anniversary of Kemurdzhyan, these medals were awarded to his colleagues and associates. The participants of the event also laid flowers at the grave of the scientist buried in the Armenian section of the Smolensk cemetery.

An important point in the biography of Kemurdzhyan is the elimination of the consequences of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Under his leadership, a project was implemented to create and operate the STR-1 robotic complex designed to clear rubble and deactivate the roofs of the third reactor. He was a direct participant in the emergency works on the Chernobyl roofs, for which he was awarded the Order of Courage.

Today, the Armenian community of St. Petersburg along with the Mobile Vehicle Engineering Institute often initiates events to perpetuate the memory of the scientist. Among these events is the publication of a two-volume book dedicated to Kemurdzhyan.

The son of Alexander Kemurdzhyan, who, by the way, followed his father’s footsteps and also worked at the Mobile Vehicle Engineering Institute, said that in the near future, a collection of poems by Kemurdzhyan which he had composed throughout his life would be released. A talented person is indeed talented in everything.

Yelena Bespalova

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