Alexander Kemurdzhian

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Alexander Leonovich Kemurdzhian
Born (1921-10-04)4 October 1921
Vladikavkaz, Soviet Union
Died 25 February 2003(2003-02-25) (aged 81)
St Petersburg, Russia
Nationality Russian
Ethnicity Armenian
Alma mater Bauman Moscow State Technical University

Alexander Leonovich Kemurdzhian (Armenian: Ալեքսանդր Լևոնի Քեմուրջյան, Russian: Алекса́ндр Лео́нович Кемурджиа́н; 4 October 1921, Vladikavkaz - 25 February 2003, St Petersburg)[1][2][2] was a pioneering scientist, of Armenian heritage, in the space flight program of the Soviet Union. As chief engineer-designer at the VNIITransMash, he designed the first rovers to explore another world - the Soviet Lunokhod rovers. Founder of the space transport machine-engineering science.


Was born in 1921 in Vladikavkaz. In 1940 started studying in Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School. In 1942 volunteered and served in field army since 1943 and until the end of war. Passed with fights a way from the Battle of Kursk to Pomerania.

In 1951 graduated with honors from the transport faculty of Bauman MHTS and was directed on work to Leningrad in VNII-100 (Nowadays: VNIITransMash - All-Russian Scientific-Research Institute of the Transport Machine-Engineering). In 1959 became the chief of department of the new movement principles. Was engaged in creation of the hovercrafts "Object-760", which received the name of "polzolyot" (Russian: "ползолет", that is ползти - to crawl, летать - to fly). Since 1969 - the chief engineer-designer - the deputy director of VNIItransmash. Since 1991 — the chief researcher.[3]

Planetary rovers[edit]

In 1963-1973 A.L.Kemurdzhian headed works on design and creation of the self-propelled automatic chassis of Moon rovers [4] and Mars rovers.[5] Under his leadership was developed the bases of planetary rovers design as robotic transport vehicles of space appropriation and were created the first-ever planet research vehicles - «Lunokhods», Prop-M Rover (Apparatus of the Cross-Country Capability Estimate), apparatus for the jump movement at the moon of Mars – Phobos.[6] By means of the devices, which were designed under the leadership of Kemurdzhian the data on physicomechanical properties of soil of the Moon and Venus was received

After the Chernobyl disaster, Kemurdzhian was tapped by Soviet officials as a special advisor with regard to remote vehicles doing exploration and other work in unsafe areas.

Before his death, Kemurdzhian traveled to the United States to visit with engineers from JPL and compare ideas on unmanned planetary rovers.

The Lunokhod programme, and specifically Kemurdzhian's work on it, was the subject of the documentary film "Tank on the Moon"[7] by French film maker Jean Afanassieff. The documentary premiered in the United States on the Science Channel on February 12, 2008.


"Everyone is capable of doing extraordinary things, each in his own way. Some are perfectly happy doing simple things in good spirits; others, however, concentrate on details. We are all different, and it really doesn’t matter if you focus on space travel or work in the fields. What is important is to do what you really want."

— Alexander Kemurdzhian

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