Alexander Kemurdzhian, Designer of the First Planet Rover

Alexander Leonovich Kemurdzhian was an outstanding design engineer, the founder of the Soviet scientific school of space transport engineering, and the designer of the first planet rover. He authored more than 200 scientific papers, including five monographs and more than 50 inventions.

The mission of Kemurdzhian’s life was the design of space technology and participation in the design of the world’s first automatic self-propelled apparatus for research on the lunar surface. He was the chief designer of the self-propelled chassis of the lunar rover.

Kemurdzhian was born in Vladikavkaz, in 1921. His father came from an Armenian family in Trabzon. Alexander grew up in Baku.

In 1940, Alexander came to Moscow and entered the Moscow Higher Technical School after Bauman. And in 1942 he volunteered at the front. Kemurdzhian participated in the battle of Kursk, forcing the Dnieper, Visla, Desna, and Oder. In 1945 he ended up in Pomerania.

In 1951 he graduated with honors from the Moscow Higher Technical School after Bauman and was sent to work in VNII-100. Since September 1951 Alexander Kemurdzhian’s life was inextricably linked with this organization, where he went from an engineer to chief designer and deputy director of the institute.

From 1959 to 1963 Kemurdjian was engaged in the design of land vehicles on an air cushion. Full-scale test mock-ups of combat reconnaissance and sentry machines on air cushions were set up called “crawlers”. This car could carry a crew of up to 12 paratroopers, and overcome swamps, off-road, and water boundaries.

In 1963 Kemurdzhian headed operations of the creation of a self-propelled chassis “Lunokhod”. From 1963-to 1973 A.L.Kemurdzhian headed works on the design and creation of the self-propelled automatic chassis of Soviet Moon rovers and Mars rovers. Under his leadership, planetary rovers developed as robotic transport vehicles of space appropriation, and his group developed the first-ever planet research vehicles – “Lunokhods”, Prop-M Rover (Apparatus of the Cross-Country Capability Estimate), apparatus for the jump movement at the moon of Mars, Phobos were developed. Devices designed under his leadership also yielded data on physicomechanical properties of the soil of the Moon and Venus.

After the Chornobyl disaster, Kemurdzhian was tapped by Soviet officials as a special adviser on the development and use of remote-controlled vehicles working in unsafe areas. In May 1986, he was sent to the disaster site to assess the working conditions of transport equipment.

Under his leadership, a remote-controlled specialized transport robot STR-1 was created, which provided substantial assistance in eliminating the consequences of the accident.

Kemurdzhian is a doctor of technical sciences, a professor, a laureate of the Lenin Prize, and was awarded the Orders of Lenin, Courage, Red Star, World War II, Honor, as well as medals of the FK of the USSR and combat medals. In 2006, the Federation of Cosmonautics decided to set an award – a medal after Kemurdzhian.

He was a member of several international scientific societies — the Planetary Society (USA), the European Geophysical Society (Germany), and a correspondent member of the Commission for Study of Outer Space (France).

Kemurdzhian’s name is included in the book “Outstanding People of the 20th Century”, published in Great Britain.

Alexander Kemurdzhian died on February 24, 2003. He was interred in St. Petersburg, at the Armenian cemetery.

In 1997 one of the minor planets of the Solar System was named after Alexander Kemurdzhian by the decision of the International Astronomical Union.


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