Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was born in Russia in 1857. The fifth of eighteen children, Tsiolkovsky first imagined a place without gravity when he was 8. It was a small hydrogen-filled ballon that rose to the ceiling each time he let it go that excited his imagination. Tsiolkovsky’s mother taught him to read and write. Before he entered his teens, his life took a turn that would forever alter his path.
As Tsiolkovsky wrote later, ” Age of 10 or 11, the beginning of winter, I rode a toboggan. Caught a cold. Fell ill, was delirious. They though I’d die but I got better, but became very deaf and deafness wouldn’t go. It tormented me very much.” The reality of a profound hearing loss a the time and in the area that Tsiolkovsky lived meant that his opportunities for education were extremely limited. He needed to depend upon himself to set goals and seek knowledge on his own.
When he was 13, his mother died. At 16, he moved to Moscow to continue his studies, using the books available at the Chetkovskaya Library. His father supported him in this endeavor, but the financial support was limited. Still, Tsiolkovsky did what he had to. He found a mentor in a Russian philosopher, Nikolai Fredorovitch Federov, who believed that men would eventually be forced to move into space because there would be no room on earth after they learned to bring the dead back to life.
The notion of living in space appealed to Tsiolkovsky. It was also about this time that he read Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon. He recognized that the science in this book was faulty. That realization spurred him on to further study. Among his accomplishments was his Sixteen Stages of Space Exploration, published in 1926.
Read more about Konstantin Eduardovitch Tsiolkovsky in other posts and in the Chapter Ten: Rocketmen, Modeling Ships and Space Craft: The Science and Art of Mastering the Oceans and Sky.