Russian Rockets and the Power of Goodness, Part 2

It was late Tuesday, May 25th. My time was running out. My Russian visa was to expire at midnight, Wednesday the 26th. The Moscow airport declared that all flights were full and would not sell me a ticket for an earlier flight than my originally scheduled flight for Friday, May 28. Even the Russian Aerospace officials could not get them to budge. It looked like I would be spending some time in the Moscow jail and be paying a huge fine. I decided to try a different approach. I called back to Denver and asked Douglas to contact a United/Lufthansa airline desk and see if they would sell me a ticket from Moscow to either Frankfort or Munich, Germany, at about 10:30 p.m. on the 26th. “It’s a done deal,” came his reply minutes later. Now, I had a legitimate reservation in the system that the folks in Moscow would have to acknowledge. Now, I really had to get to work in the time I had left.

Tuesday evening a meeting was called where I was introduced to all the Lockheed Martin team, the NPO Energomash rocket folks, and the Moscow and Khimky medical officials. I was able to explain what Project C.U.R.E. would be doing to bring relief to the depleted medical system that was serving the Russian Aerospace scientists and technicians. I bragged on Lockheed Martin’s desire to help the Russian scientists in their time of family need. We explained the time pressure we were under to see and assess all the medical facilities before I had to leave. They were all extremely appreciative and cooperative. 

During the hours of Wednesday we were able to visit and assess all the major hospitals and polyclinics within the Khimky area. I was very pleased I had brought with me some gifts. I had lugged the medical books, the Colorado photo books, and the new stethoscopes with me all across Africa and England. But it was worth the effort. The doctors were so overwhelmed whenever I would make a presentation of a gift. Lapel pins were important status symbols in Russia. At one point, Dr. Alexander removed his trophy lapel pin commemorating the sixty years of space endeavors at Khimky and pinned it onto me. I was moved by his show of honor and affection. When it came time to present him with a gift, I gave him one of Dr. Netter’s collector’s books on the Anatomy. He could hardly speak.

Dr. Boris Pavlov was eager to point out something quite new to his hospital facility. He just smiled and grinned at me when he showed me the new Russian Orthodox Chapel that had recently been built within his hospital. There, , doctors, nurses, and patients alike, could go and pray to God. I thanked him for showing the chapel to me. He said as soon as I spoke he knew that I was a sincere Christian.

I was dead tired, but I had requested one more official meeting. It was with the Russian customs authorities to thoroughly discuss the shipping in of the donated medical goods. The meeting proved to be one of our most productive meetings while in Russia. The director estimated how much value to declare on each container load of the donated medical goods, and gave me other absolutely necessary tips for a successful delivery.

After some hassle from the airlines and customs folks, I was able to board the earlier flight and leave Moscow for Frankfurt, Germany, about an hour before my visa expired. Lockheed Martin had never needed to be convinced of the superior design and function of the Soviet rockets. By purchasing the store of Soviet rocket engines, at least three things were accomplished: (1) the U.S. program was able to sop-up the inventories of rockets out of Russia, adding to U.S. national security; (2) Lockheed Martin would be able to corner the market on supplying rocket engines for future space travel and commercial launch in satellites and exploration vehicles; and (3) the advanced technology of the Russian program would be available not only in hard metal merchandise, but also in intelligence and manpower of the Russians to the American space program.

It really was an historical event of great significance when the two nuclear superpowers of the world were now joined in a common program of peaceful achievement. Project C.U.R.E. had been able to play a very small, but very key, part of what had transpired with the NPO Energomash and Lockheed Martin joint venture. I was told later that not only did President Boris Yeltsin approve and sign the deal, but encouraged the process, because of the love and concern that the American scientists had shown for the struggling Russian rocket scientists of the aerospace program.

Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not venture. It is because we do not venture that they are difficult.” I am coming to understand more and more that there is great strength in kindness and gentleness, and our acts of kindness are really stepping stones to our own fulfillment. At any rate, I have decided to see if we can continue to significantly shake our world with kindness and gentleness. I had been away for nearly the entire month of May. I was returning home very tired, but I believed I was “the happiest man in the world.” Hearing later of the successful inaugural launch of Lockheed Martin’s Atlas III rocket powered by the Russian RD 180 rocket engine really made me a happy man!