RUSSIA JOURNAL - 1999 (Part 2: Russian Rockets and the Power of Goodness)

Moscow, Russia: Tuesday, May 25, 1999: The head of the Russian Federal Space Agency personally directed the tour, pointing out the historical progression of the Russian rockets since 1908. He kindly answered all of my questions and pointed out the difference in basic design between the US rockets and the Russian rockets. It was easy to see why they could get over three times the thrust, efficiency, and payload lift out of their design. What used to take three separate rockets on the end of an American Atlas rocket, the Russians could accomplish with only one of their designs, which relies on fewer moving parts and superheating the fuel before it is reinjected into the chamber.

The director showed me the rocket engine that had thrust Sputnik into orbit and the engine that had launched Soviet astronauts first into space. I asked about the huge, green, clustered rocket engines, and he told me that those were the ones that had been loaded with nuclear warheads and aimed at every major city in the US during the Cold War. I shivered.

When the director concluded my tour, I asked if I could possibly have a photo of the two of us in front of the rocket engines. I fully expected him to laugh and good-heartedly deny my request. But he answered, “Sure, Dr. Jackson, it would be my privilege to be photographed with you in front of the world’s largest and most powerful rocket engines. After all, you are now one of the family.”

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The balance of the day was spent visiting hospitals and clinics for the Needs Assessment Studies. Dr. Levashova and Dr. Fatsarova’s Energomash polyclinic was first. I was very pleased that I had brought some gifts to present to the Russian doctors. I had lugged medical books, Colorado picture books, and new stethoscopes with me all across Africa, England, and Moscow. But it was worth the effort. The doctors were so overwhelmed whenever I presented each of them with a gift.

Next we assessed the largest institution of the eighteen Dr. Alexander Novikov controls. The Moscow city hospital was in pretty bad shape. The doctors I met who were heads of the different departments simply begged for consumable supplies. They couldn’t get their hands on sufficient quantities of gloves, tubing, needles, syringes, sterilization goods, or medications. I was really impressed with Dr. Alexander. He shoulders a lot of responsibility.

Lapel pins are important status symbols in Russia. At one point, Dr. Alexander removed his trophy lapel pin commemorating sixty years of space endeavors at Khimki and pinned it on me. I was moved by his expression 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 human anatomy. He could hardly speak.

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We then hurried to Dr. Galina Monastyrskaya’s pediatric hospital. It was getting late in the evening, but her entire staff had stayed to meet us and show us through the institution. We decided to visit two more hospitals before we quit for the day.

Another of Dr. Alexander’s hospitals is the main surgery hospital in Khimki. They perform only surgeries there. I was shocked as I walked the halls and talked to the doctors. They desperately needed anesthesia supplies, surgical instruments, ostomy supplies for cancer surgeries, lab equipment, and reagents. The surgeons in the orthopedic department begged me for bone screws, plates, wires, implants, casting material, crutches, wheelchairs—everything.

It was getting dark when we visited the last hospital for the day—the main city children’s hospital. This was another institution under the control of Dr. Alexander. A lot of children with asthma and upper-respiratory problems, as well as infectious diseases, are being treated at the hospital. I really shouldn’t visit extremely needy children’s hospitals and then return to my hotel and try to sleep. Too many mental pictures came crashing into my overloaded mind. It was late when I returned to the hotel, and I was too tired to even go downstairs to eat.

My time was running out. My Russian visa expired midnight tomorrow. I had figured that the departure date on my Russian visa could very easily be extended for one more day. I was so wrong. The officials at NPO Energomash had taken my passport and visa as soon as I arrived and approached the customs and immigration folks in Moscow on my behalf. Even with all the clout and influence of the Energomash officials, the visa people said “Nyet! If he remains in the country without a valid visa, he will go to jail and pay a very huge fine.”

The Moscow airport declared that all flights were full and would not even talk about selling me a ticket for an earlier flight than my originally scheduled flight for Friday. It looked like I would be whisked off to jail and digging for some financing to pay a hefty fine. I decided to give it one more try. I called Douglas in Denver and asked him to try to contact United/Lufthansa airline direct and get them to sell him a ticket and reservation for me from that end either to Frankfurt or Munich, Germany out of Moscow at about 10:30 p.m. on the 26th. A few minutes later he called back, “It’s a done deal.” Now I had a legitimate reservation in the system that the folks in Moscow would have to acknowledge. No jail for me this time.

Wednesday, May 26–Friday, May 28

Wednesday morning I got up, ate breakfast, packed everything, and checked out of the Aerostar Hotel even before Jim Sackett arrived. As we climbed into his car, I explained that whatever we were planning to do in Moscow, I needed to do it in time to catch my evening flight out of Moscow before my visa expired at midnight.

It was perhaps the most beautiful day I have ever seen in Russia. Before I arrived, it had been cold and rainy. But Wednesday was gorgeous. The flowers began to pop out, and the grass and trees started to turn bright green. I caught myself almost enjoying Moscow.

There were two very important appointments to be completed before I could leave. First, I had saved until Wednesday morning the Needs Assessment Study at Novogorsk Hospital No. 119, which is located just outside Khimki. The hospital is completely surrounded by a beautiful birch-tree forest. The hospital was built twenty-five years ago for the Russian Federal Space Agency employees. Before the collapse and bankruptcy of the Soviet system, it was considered a premier hospital. It still boasts 250 of Russia’s best doctors and lots of high-quality medical equipment, but it also suffers like all the other Soviet medical institutions.

Dr. Boris Pavlov personally met with Margarita Kirillova, Jim Sackett, and me and hosted our tour. As we walked the halls, Dr. Pavlov not only described the superb health-care services that once existed within the complex but was also eager to point out something quite new to the facility. He just grinned at me when he showed me the new Russian Orthodox chapel that was recently built in the hospital. Doctors, nurses, and patients alike go there to pray to God. I thanked Dr. Pavlov for showing me the chapel. He had sensed from my presentation about Project C.U.R.E. at our introductory meeting that I am a sincere Christian.

Following lunch, Margarita, Jim, and I returned to the Energomash headquarters for our final meeting. I had requested an official meeting with the customs authorities to thoroughly discuss the logistics of shipping the donated medical goods to Russia. The meeting with the woman director proved to be one of our most productive meetings in Moscow. She estimated how much value to declare on the load and offered other absolutely necessary tips for a successful delivery.

While sitting at the conference table drinking a cup of terrible coffee across from the customs official, I began to think about Project C.U.R.E. and the methods and procedures we’ve adopted over the years. One of the reasons we’ve been so effective around the world is because we insist on meeting and doing business with government officials, as we did at the meeting on Wednesday. The very fact that we’re willing to go to the various countries around the world, personally meet with the decision makers, and work with them directly makes Project C.U.R.E. unique. Project C.U.R.E. doesn’t follow the customs and procedures of other humanitarian organizations that simply want their staff to sit in their trophy offices in Washington, D. C. or New York and send supplies to places they have never gone and to people they have never met in person. I breathed a prayer of thanks to God for helping us see new and creative ways to get the work successfully accomplished and for the energy and good health to actually go and fulfill the necessary requirements to guarantee the success and appropriateness of the donations.

After some hassle from the airlines and customs folks, I was able to board a 7:30 flight and leave Moscow for Frankfurt, Germany, before my visa expired. Because of my change of flights and overnight stay in Germany, the airlines managed to lose my luggage. So instead of flying through Washington, D.C., to Denver, I had to change flights again and travel through Chicago and on to Denver.

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. On this present trip, I’ve been away for nearly the entire month of May. I’m really tired and ready to go home. But God honored our efforts with the medical clinics in Diorbivol, Senegal; performed miracles in Nouakchott, Mauritania; brought about results in England that we never could have hoped for otherwise, and blessed my efforts once again in Russia with incalculable success. I’m returning home tired, but I’m still the happiest man in the world.

END NOTE TO READER: 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 compassion that the American scientists had shown for the struggling Russian rocket scientists of the aerospace program. Hearing later of the successful inaugural launch of Lockheed Martin’s Atlas III rocket powered by the Russian RD 180 rocket engine was very rewarding for me.