Space Programs

Rocket History

Who pioneered the world’s first successful space program?

The man credited with creating the world’s first successful space program was the Ukranian scientist Sergei Korolëv (1906–1966). In 1931 Korolëv became director of the rocket research group in Moscow; he worked there for many years, but his work was interrupted by World War II. After the war ended, he returned to rocket research and helped incorporate captured German technology into the rocket program of the former Soviet Union. His work bore bountiful fruit: in August 1957, he launched the first Russian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Less than two months later, a rocket based on the ICBM was used to launch Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth. In 1959 Luna 3 was the first space probe to send back pictures of the far side of the Moon. Then, in 1961, Korolëv led the design and construction of Vostok 1, which carried the first human being into space: Yuri Gagarin (1934–1968); and in 1963, the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova (1937–) was launched into space. In 1966, the Venera 3 capsule was the first spacecraft to land on another planet—Venus—and the Luna 9 probe was the first spacecraft to land on the Moon. Korolëv was so important that the government of the Soviet Union kept his identity secret—referring to him only as “Chief Designer of Launch Vehicles and Spacecraft”—until after his death in 1966. He was buried in the Kremlin Wall, an honor reserved only for the most distinguished Soviet citizens.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Astronomy Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App