Cosmic Voyage (1935): Stalinist vision of the moon landing

Cosmic Voyage (Космический рейс,1935) is an absolutely hilarious Soviet movie about a lunar mission, in which an old bearded professor and his young and pretty female assistant spontaneously take a trip to the moon in a spaceship named Joseph Stalin. Seconds before the take-off Andryusha, a boy who is a great admirer of the scientist’s deeds,  jumps in the space ship and joins the crew.

In the 1930s it was considered to be dab manners to name anything not after Iosif Stalin

In the 1930s, to name anything not after Joseph Stalin was considered to be bad manners

Curious thing about Cosmic Voyage is that Konstantin Tsiolkovsky himself was the scientific consultant for the film. Tsiolkovsky is a major name in the Soviet space exploration history. Although he spent most of his life living in a log house 200 km from Moscow, his works inspired a lot of aerospace engineers and became a solid basis for the Soviet Space Programme.

Russian “mad scientist”, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Russian “mad scientist”, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

However, the Soviet pioneer of rocketry and theoretical astronautics was also a big day-dreamer. Being a representative of Russian cosmism – a crazy mish-mash of science, philosophy, religion, occult knowledge, esoteric beliefs and art, Tsiolkovsky believed that colonisation of space is necessary for the perfection of the human race, and will lead to happiness, immortality, carefree existence and overall utopia. He even wrote some sci-fi novels, the most popular one being On the Moon (На луне, 1893) (the novel is available in Russian and in French here).

Moon landscapes

Moon landscapes

As for the Cosmic Voyage, Tsiolkovsky got involved by the invitation from the director Vasiliy Zhuravlyov and from the very beginning took the film project extremely seriously. Specially for the film, Tsiolkovsky designed around 30 diagrams of the rocket aircraft that were formed into the ‘Album of Cosmic Voyages‘, published in 1947, and you can look through the pages of its virtual copy by clicking on the title. For those of you who speak French, the website itself will be of a particular interest, as it contains extensive information about the making of Cosmic Voyage, such as photos, production notes, correspondence with Tsiolkovsky, even notifications of money transfers to him (1000 rubbles for a single consultation).

Technically Cosmic Voyage is quite impressive for a 1930s product

Technically Cosmic Voyage is quite impressive for a 1930s product

It is quite common to compare Cosmic Voyage and Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon, 1926); however, having a lot in common, these films radically differ in their ideological background. Whereas Soviets went to the moon in order to widen the horizons of knowledge, mercantile Germans planned the trip solely to get their claws into the moon gold. Also, Marina, the professor’s assistant in Cosmic Voyage, setting aside the courtships of her lovely boyfriend, makes a decision to fly to the moon with her guru, whereas Lang’s woman in the moon is a sensual lady caught between two men.

Although Cosmic Voyage contains fallacies about space travel, in most things Tsiolkovsky got it absolutely right. Cosmic Voyage remains an extraordinary example of Soviet space travel cinema that is able to surprise the viewer with its special effects and visuals even today.