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Space, the Moon, and the Hungarians - an introduction

The Moon as seen by Apollo 12Puli Space Technologies is more than just a team sending a probe to the Moon. We are developing a wide range of activities connected to space sciences, and we consider it a top priority to let others get involved in this as well. We believe that our success depends on allowing many people to contribute to the discovery of the world outside our planet, no matter how small that contribution is. From a school project to professional scientific work, every such activity brings us a step closer to better understand the universe. It also gives a chance to the broader public to get a taste of the final frontier for humankind: space.

As a start, we are creating a campaign to promote scientific thinking and to raise general awareness about the importance of space in our everyday life. Since our team has many ties to the country of Hungary, our first program will mainly target the Hungarian audience and the country's role in space exploration. We will produce a series of articles on this page detailing Hungary's past and present projects aiming for the skies, with a special focus on Moon related activities.

The country has a surprisingly rich space history, mostly unknown to the general public. As the seventh nation to send a man to space, Hungary's first cosmonaut orbited Earth in 1980 decades before many of today's prominent powers. But apart from being involved in the Soviet space program and doing various experiments on several space stations, Hungarians also worked in the Apollo program back in the '60s, and are taking part in missions of the European Space Agency both in engineering and in scientific research today.

This article series by Puli Space Technologies aims to provide an overview of these topics and many more, so stay with us and get a glimpse of how such a small country set foot outside our home planet, in Space, the Moon, and the Hungarians.

By Máté Ravasz

The articles are:

An unexpected visitor at Andromeda

Space Exploration with Your Own Hands: Hunveyor Conquers the Field

Luna 16 and the Hungarians: a bit of Moon dust in Budapest

Zoltán Bay and the Moon radar experiment

Interview with Ferenc Pavlics, lead developer of the Apollo Lunar Rovers

Moon craters, named after Hungarians

Miklós Lovas and the impact of Luna-2

An unexpected visitor at Andromeda


Miklós Lovas hunted extragalactic supernovae for three decades with the Schmidt telescope at Piszkéstető. Many different phenomena also showed up on the countless photographic plates used to record the images of galaxies. Though some of them, the more interesting asteroids and comets were followed, resources did not permit it in all cases. And sometimes they were simply overlooked. The same happened with the pair of plates where a curious little visitor left its traces. Miklós showed me the photographs and asked me whether the story could be recorded as an interesting piece of history during the interview about Luna-2.

The two photographs were collected on the night of 15th and 16th of december, 1974. It was a tumultous period for the Konkoly Obsevatory: the 1m telescope was inaugurated during that time and László Detre, director for three decades died only a few months before. Those episodes may contributed to the neglect of the small streak next to the magnificent Andromeda galaxy: Miklós overlooked it too, might be considering it as a meteor or other error. He looked at them about half a year later when somebody asked for pictures of the Andromeda galaxy. Them, because photographs were always collected in pairs during the supernova patrol to have a control image. When he looked at the plates they almost knocked his socks off – the streak was there on the second plate, continuing where the first ended, fingerprints of a fast-moving, hence very close asteroid.

Last Updated (Friday, 10 June 2011 19:47)


Space Exploration with Your Own Hands Hunveyor Conquers the Field

a surveyor mockupA lot of ideas, a lot of measuring and above all teamwork was needed for the Hunveyor to be born. The experimental space probe model offers a great outlook to the world and immediately captures the students. We were talking to the man behind the Hunveyor dream, Szaniszló Bérczi.

It’s great to feel at home in the universe. Szaniszló Bérczi said this towards the end of our chat, but it is a great starting point to understand the motivation that actually gave birth to the first Hunveyor. It is not easy to sum up the history of the Hunveyors spreading over 15 years now, and indeed, we were jumping from topic to topic, touching upon the commitment of teachers, the secrets of Chinese characters to the false but comfortable goals suggested by the television. In the meantime however, a world view surfaced, that looked to the universe like a place where it’s good to be at home and to look around. With space probes for example.

Last Updated (Friday, 17 May 2013 11:07)


Luna 16 and the Hungarians: a bit of Moon dust in Budapest


While NASA and the Americans were doing their best to fulfill John F. Kennedy’s promise and go to the Moon by the end of the sixties – and possibly get back as well –, the Soviets were approaching the problem from a more practical and cheaper angle: they put away with man, and focused on the robot. When speaking of the Moon landing we usually recall the arrival of the Apollos there and almost everybody remembers Neil Armstrong’s words and steps. The Soviet Luna program – while producing remarkable results – was less successful in reaching the planet’s public. Not even us, Hungarians, who were actually involved in it – in a very exciting way.

The pearl of the program was undoubtedly the Luna 16: the first robotic probe that successfully fulfilled the mission and returned the first lunar sample. Otherwise it was the third in the row, having been preceded by Apollo 11 and Apollo 12.

Last Updated (Thursday, 31 March 2011 19:55)


Zoltán Bay and the Moon radar experiment

„I saw the Moon walking behind the tower and I asked the adults: If I walk to the top, could I touch the Moon?”

These words were said by Zoltán Bay at his childhood, when he looked up to our heavenly companion devoutly, although he was just a few years old. Maybe this childlike curiosity led to the point, when after four decades, with his successful radar experiment in 1946, though by just radio-signs, but he had reached the surface of the Moon.

Zoltán Bay enriches the team of those Hungarian scientists, whose work has sunk into oblivion. Like his many contemporaries, he composed and lived overseas, but his main discoveries and experiments were accomplished here, in Hungary. His life could have been turned into a totally different way, because before he had chosen his profession he could not decide whether he should choose to be an artist, a sociologist or a natural-scientist. Luckily his ideal, Loránd Eötvös, directed his life towards physics. If it had not happened so, maybe we would remind him as an average painter or as a fallen sociologist. Instead of this, they mention him as the father of radio-astronomy. Though, the way was really long to gain this appreciated rank.

Zoltan Bay

Zoltán Bay


Last Updated (Monday, 29 November 2010 08:11)


Interview with Ferenc Pavlics, lead developer of the Apollo Lunar Rovers

Ferenc Pavlics is one of the most outstanding minds of the era when Hungarians were forced to seek a career abroad, mostly because of the financial and political situation in the country. Pavlics emigrated in 1956, he made engineering drawings for the off-road department of General Motors and was later appointed to engineer there. He also got in touch with NASA due to his expertise in the field. He became the lead developer of the Lunar Rover of the Apollo Mission and was an advisor of the engineering teams of the Mars rovers.

His personal life was not less extraordinary. After his exodus to the States, he moved in the seventies to Austria, then to Germany and finally to Spain to contribute to General Motors' expansion in Europe. Now retired, he lives in the States again.

In the following interview he mentions many of his unique professional and personal experiences: NASA and the Lunar Rover, his relation with the astronauts, engineering of off-road cars, environmental protection and even the State Defense Authority of the communist Hungary!


Pavlics Ferenc a holdautó modelljével

Ferenc Pavlics with a model of the moonbuggy (TMT)

Last Updated (Sunday, 03 July 2016 21:42)

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