Birthday of Sergei Korolev

Today, we celebrate the birthday of a man who is almost single handedly responsible for extending the presence of humans beyond the planet Earth. This Sunday, January 12th is the 107th birthday of Sergei Pavlovich Korolev (Сергей Павлович Королёв), the “Chief Designer” of the Soviet space program.

Born in 1907 in the now Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr (Житомир), Korolev grew up to eventually become an aircraft designer and Red Army Colonel, but is most famous for his work with rocketry. He later spent for six years prison for supposedly misusing funds (on unsuccessful rocket experiments) and was even sent to work in a Siberian labor camp for some months, potentially causing the lifelong health problems that would lead to his death.

After his release from prison, Korolev quickly became the most prominent figure in the Soviet rocket program and oversaw the successful launches of the Sputnik and Vostok programs, which made Yuri Gagarin the first human in orbit. Thanks to his successes, he initiated the space race between the USSR and USA and reportedly, was in the process of designing a rocket that would have put a Soviet cosmonaut on the Moon before the Americans.

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