April 12, 2017

"As Gagarin toured the globe, the space program's chief designer remained at home and unknown."

Smithsonian: That Sergei Korolev ran the Soviet Union’s rocket program wasn’t revealed until after his death. By Kat Eschner

'“Gagarin became the face of Soviet space supremacy,” McKie writes, “while Korolev was the brains. The pair made a potent team and their success brought fame to one and immense power to the other. Neither lived long enough to enjoy those rewards, however.”

'Korolev was in his mid-fifties when the Vostok I went up, while Gagarin was just 27. Korolev had already survived some of the USSR’s foundational moments, according to the European Space Agency. He had all of his teeth broken during torture and served in a labor camp during the Stalinist purges, and later helped to create weapons during World War II while still technically a political prisoner. He even led a Soviet weapon development team which developed the first Scud missile.

'His team went on to develop the R-7 rocket, which was powerful enough to put the Sputnik satellites (and Laika, the tragic dog aboard Sputnik 2) into orbit, before the U.S. launched its first satellite. “Korolev and the R-7 rapidly scored yet more firsts,” writes the ESA: “the first probe to the Moon, the first picture of the far side of the Moon and the first probes to Venus and Mars.”'

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