Koroljov, Sergej Pavlovitsj.

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Korolyov, Sergej Pavlovitsj, born 12-01-1907 in Moscow, grew up in Ukraine during the troubled times of the revolts against Tsar Nicholas II. His father, Pavel Yakovlevich Korolev, was born in Mogilev to a Russian soldier and a Belarusian mother. His mother, Maria Nikolaevna Koroleva (Moskalenko/Bulanina), was a daughter of a wealthy merchant from the Ukrainian city of Nizhyn (then part of the Russian Empire), with Zaporozhian Cossack heritage. His mother also had Greek and Polish ancestry. In the 1920s he studied aeronautical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute in Kiev – a fairly new field, as the aircraft was just two years older than him. His fascination, however, was not in flying through the sky, but in flying above the sky: in imitation of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, his heart was with the stars.

After graduating, Korolyov joined the Gruppa Isutcheniya Reaktivnovo Dvisheniya (GIRD, Reactive Movement Research Group) in the early 1930s, researching rockets and space travel. After two years, this group transitioned into the RNII (Scientific Reaction Drive Research Institute), a research group under military supervision; the military began to see the usefulness of missiles.

  However, this group never produced a working missile: during Josef Stalin’s Great Purge, all members of the group were interned. Korolyov spent the period 1938-1940 in captivity, mostly in a gold mine in Kolyma, Siberia. His rescue came when war with Nazi Germany seemed inevitable and Stalin began to see the usefulness of aeronautical engineers. Korolev was put to work in a sharashka, a prison camp for scientists, along with fellow prisoner Sergei Tupolev.

“Lead designer” for ballistic missiles. After the war, Korolyov, here with daughter Natasha L and niece Ksenia , was released and appointed chief engineer (“Chief Designer”) of a group working on the R-11, a Russian ballistic missile. Before this work was finished, however, on 01-04-1953, Korolyov was allowed to work on the R-7, the (planned) first intercontinental missile. To this end, Korolyov was made available a research facility near Moscow, which was later called Star City. Korolev’s practical and pragmatic approach to business was the reason Star City was so successful in such a short time. At that time, Korolev’s reputation was already legendary as a rude but respected management genius.

SputnikIn early 1957, the United States announced its intention to put an artificial moon into orbit around the Earth, in accordance with Arthur C. Clarke’s idea. Immediately seized by the possibilities, Korolev proposed to outrun the Americans. His R-7 suddenly took on a completely different purpose than a weapon of war: on 04-10-1957, the R-7 put the Russian probe Sputnik into orbit before the American launch. With this, the space race was born.

After Sputnik, success piled on success – probes were launched and the Soviet lunar landing program started. A whole series of Luna probes were launched to prepare the way and discover how to bring humans to the moon. There was no hesitation in selling failure as a success: an early Loena 1 probe that should have entered orbit around the moon in January 1959, missed its target and is still orbiting the Sun.

The next really great success was on 12-04-1961: cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin completed the first manned space flight aboard Vostok 1. Then followed a neck-and-neck race with the Americans to reach the moon, which the Soviets reached. seemed to be winning at the end. While the Americans had to contend with delays and failures of their Apollo program, Russia’s Vostok and Voschod probes orbited the Moon (first taking photos of the far side of the Moon to Earth in 1963) and landed gently on the Moon to find landing sites and explore the terrain. Korolyev also designed moon rockets, such as the N1.

Death and burial ground of  Korolyoy, Sergej Pavlovitsj.

However, Korolyov would not see the outcome of all his hard work. Two days after his 59th birthday, he underwent surgery on his hemorrhoids. Korolev died on the operating table. His urn can be found in the Kremlin wall. Vasily Mishin became his successor in the space program.


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