The Lebanese Rocket Society

Synopsis: From 1960 to 1966, a space project was undertaken in Lebanon. Several rockets, which became larger and more powerful with time, were launched from the hills surrounding Beirut by a group of scientists, university students and army experts. This group, led by Manoug Manougian, was called: The Lebanese Rocket Society.
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes:
93 min

I was born in 1969.

A few days after

a man walked on the moon.

The USSR and the US

were fighting over earth and sky.

Space and science reigned.

In any case

that's how I imagined it.

I was born in 1969.

A few weeks after

a man walked on the moon.

The time of revolutions

and militancy

of dreaming and pursuing

those dreams.

That's how the story came to us.

First, we saw the image of a rocket.

Not just any rocket

a rocket with the colors

of the Lebanese flag.

Did the Lebanese dream

one day of conquering space?

Impossible to believe.

At the beginning of the 60's

a small group of students

from Haigazian University

led by Manoug Manougian

a mathematics professor

launched rockets

into the Lebanese sky.

They produced the first

rocket in Middle East.

Oddly we had never heard

anything about their story.

It is like a secret

hidden, forgotten story.

The Strange Tale of the

Lebanese Space Race

Under "Lebanese rocket"

this is what we get.

And if we typed "rocket"

or "conquest of space"?

It's not exactly the same thing!

And no trace of our rocket.

At the University

where this project started

the Armenian Haigazian University

we search through the archives.

We find several editions

of Armenian newspapers of the time

but we can't decipher them.

We ask a student

to translate them for us.

There aren't many details.

But there are some dates

of relatively successful

rocket launches

that seem to soar higher and higher

going gradually from 12 km to

more than 450 and eventually 600 km!

It is hard for us to believe.

Even the student is surprised.

So it was not a joke!

We find few images of the rockets.

In the University's yearbook

from the 60's

a surreal photograph.

Manoug Manougian

founder of the space project

that's him.

Over there, some of the students

who worked with him on the project:

Garabed Basmadjian

Hampar Karageozian

Hrair Antablian

Simon Abrahamian, John Tilkian

Jean-Jacques Gubekian

Hrair Sahagian...

These faces, these gazes...

These young students

are maybe the children

of Armenian orphans who by

the thousands, in 1915, fled Turkey

crossed the desert

settled in Lebanon

after their community's genocide.

Gradually, they integrated

political and cultural life

becoming one of Lebanon's

most important communities.

And now a new finding:

they dreamt of a rocket and built it!

We search.

In dailies and newspapers.

Indeed the Lebanese space project

captivated front pages often.

It seems serious, ambitious

totally in synch

with the research of the time.

At the outset of the 1960s

while NASA in the United States

was readying to send Apollo

its first rocket, into space

and the USSR, to launch

its first manned spaceflight

with Yuri Gagarin

Manougian and the students

of the modest Haigazian College

began exploring

spacecraft propulsion.

What was this wild challenge

for such a small country?

How is it possible

that we've never heard about it?

Why hasn't anyone

ever told us their story?

Stranger still, is the fact that

images of the rockets

were never part

of our collective imaginary

but absent from the nostalgic

roster of Beirut's 1960s

the so-called Switzerland of the

Middle East and its Dolce Vita.

This absence surprised us.

How can we forget

Harry Koundakjian's impressive images

we had first come across

at the Arab Image Foundation?

There are only about ten.

When Harry left Lebanon

he might have taken

the others with him.

We find other photographs

that yet need to be indexed

like photographer

Assaad Jradi's images.

2, 4, 6, 8, 10...

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "The Lebanese Rocket Society" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 2 Aug. 2021. <>.

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