|Died||February 25, 2003 (aged 81)|
Saint Petersburg, Russia
|Alma mater||Moscow Bauman Higher Technical College|
|Known for||designing Lunokhod 1, the first lunar rover|
Aleksandr Leonovich Kemurdzhian[a] (Russian: ?; October 4, 1921 – February 25, 2003) was a Soviet engineer who worked at VNIITransmash. He is best known for having designed Lunokhod 1, the first ever lunar rover.
Kemurdzhian was born to Armenian parents on October 4, 1921 in Vladikavkaz, today the capital of North Ossetia. His father (b. 1898) and mother (b. 1901) were volunteers in the Russian Civil War with the 11th Red Army who happened to be in Vladikavkaz at the time of his birth. His Turkish-Armenian paternal grandparents were from Trebizond who settled in Batumi in the late 19th century. His mother was from Rostov-on-Don. His family settled in Baku, Soviet Azerbaijan when he was 5. He grew up there and considered Baku his hometown. His unskilled parents lived in poor conditions. In 1939 began working as a Russian announcer at the Azerbaijani radio.
In 1940 he enrolled at Bauman Higher Technical College in Moscow. With the start of the Eastern Front of World War II in 1941, he and other students of the tank department were assigned to repair damaged tanks until the institute was evacuated to Izhevsk. In early 1942 he volunteered to join the Soviet Army. He participated in the battles of Kursk, the Dnieper, and the Vistula-Oder Offensive. He served in the 162nd Infantry Division of the NKVD. He rose to the rank of senior lieutenant by the time he was demobilized in 1946. For his services, he was awarded the Order of Courage, Order of the Red Star (1944),Order of the Patriotic War (1945, 1995), the Order of the Badge of Honour,Medal "For Battle Merit". Due to the disruption caused by the war, Kemurdzhian graduated from the department of tracked vehicles of Bauman Higher Technical College in 1951, some 11 years after enrolling.
In 1951 Kemurdzhian began working at the Leningrad-based All-Union Scientific-Research Institute No. 100 (VNII-100, now known as VNIITransmash), whose "primary expertise was building tanks for the Soviet Army." Kemurdzhian's research focused on continuously variable transmission in tracked vehicles. In 1957 he defended his kandidat nauk thesis. Kemurdzhian led research on air-cushion vehicles (hovercraft) from 1959 on.
Between 1963 and 1973 Kemurdzhian headed the team assigned to develop the chassis for the Lunokhod programme. His team designed both Lunokhod 1 (1970) and Lunokhod 2 (1973). In 1969 he was named deputy director and chief designer at VNIITransmash. Under his leadership, the institute became a leader of space transport engineering. In 1971 he became Doctor of Technical Sciences after defending his dissertation based on his work on Lunokhod 1. He was named professor in 1977.
Kemurdzhian was personally interested in spaceflight and "remote-controlled space probes," which was known to Sergei Korolev. In September 1963 Korolev met with VNIITransmash engineers to discuss the possibilities of developing lunar rovers. The design sketches for the first lunar rover were completed by September 1965. Kemurdzhian provided the main report on the possibility of creating the lunar rover.Georgy Babakin, director of OKB Lavochkin, and Kemurdzhian worked closely to design the Ye-8 in 1966. In 1967 a final lunar rover design was reached and a prototype was constructed. Early models were sent to the moon on Luna 11, Luna 12 (1966) and Luna 14 (1968). Lunokhod 1, the finalized version, was designed by Kemurdzhian and Babakin. Kemurdzhian is credited with being the chief designer of the self-propelled chassis of Lunokhod-1.
Lunokhod 1 was carried to the moon by Luna 17, which was launched on November 10 and landed on the moon on November 17, 1970. It was the "first successful rover to operate beyond Earth" and the "first self-propelled, crewless vehicle to operate on the moon." It weighted 756 kg (1,667 lb) and was 4.42 m (14.5 ft) long and 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in) high. It carried cameras, transmitters and scientific instruments. The remote-controlled robot traveled some 10.54 km (6.55 mi) in 10 months and sent back some 20,000 photos and 200 panoramas. It also completed over 500 lunar soil tests.
In response to the Chernobyl disaster, Kemurdzhian lead a team of researchers to develop, in May 1986, the robot STR-1 (-1) to support the Chernobyl liquidators to investigate and cleanup the area. In Chernobyl he was exposed to excessive radiation and was treated in a Moscow hospital for radiation burns.
Kemurdzhian retired in 1998. In 2000 he became a founding member of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics (StPB RAC). In November 2000 he was the chief speaker at the 30th anniversary of the Lunokhod meeting held at the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater. His last public appearance took place in mid-January 2003. A few days later he suffered a hip fracture and was hospitalized. He died in Saint Peteresburg on February 24 or 25, 2003. He was buried at the Smolensky Armenian cemetery in St. Petersburg.
Kemurdzhian is recognized as the "founder of the Russian school of design of planetary rovers." For his work on lunar rovers, Kemurdzhian received the Lenin Prize in 1973. A minor planet discovered on August 26, 1976 by Nikolai Chernykh at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory was named 5933 Kemurdzhian. He was a member of the The Planetary Society, the European Geosciences Union, and other learned societies. Documents, photos, and other archival materials on Kemurdzhian are kept at the Russian State Archive of Scientific-Technical Documentation.
Malenkov described him as follows: "A sharp mind, quick wit, and immediate response in all, including unexpected, situations; professionalism, encyclopedic erudition, commitment and hard work, multiplied by boundless energy; natural qualities of a leader of any assembly of people or experts, gathered by chance or by virtue of production relations; a charming conversationalist, a poet, and a great storyteller..."
Kemurdzhian, Alexander (October 4, 1921 -February 25, 2003): Russian. Kemurdzhian designed Lunokhod 1, the first space-exploration rover, which roamed on the Moon in 1970.
The development of a self-propelled chassis for the LUNOKHOD was led by A.L. Kemurdzhian, Leningrad scientist, designer, and close collaborator of G.N. Babakina. Jointly with their closest associates, Babakin and Kemurdzhian were granted a patent for the design of the chassis (Malenkov, 2013).