Soviet Space Program

The Soviet space program is the rocketry and space exploration programs conducted by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the Soviet Union or U.S.S.R.) from the 1930s until its dissolution in 1991. Over its sixty-year history, this primarily classified military program was responsible for a number of pioneering accomplishments in space flight, including the first intercontinental ballistic missile (1957), first satellite (Sputnik-1), first animal in space (the dog Laika on Sputnik 2), first human in space and Earth orbit (cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1), first woman in space and Earth orbit (cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova on Vostok 6), first spacewalk (cosmonaut Alexey Leonov on Voskhod 2), first Moon impact (Luna 2), first image of the far side of the moon (Luna 3) and unmanned lunar soft landing (Luna 9), first space rover, first space station, and first interplanetary probe.

The rocket and space program of the USSR, initially boosted by the assistance of captured scientists from the advanced German rocket program, was performed mainly by Soviet engineers and scientists after 1955, and was based on some unique Soviet and Imperial Russian theoretical developments, many derived by Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovskii, sometimes known as the father of theoretical astronautics. Sergey Korolyov (also transliterated as Korolev) was the head of the principal design group; his official title was "chief designer" (a standard title for similar positions in the USSR). Unlike its American competitor in the "space race", which had NASA as a single coordinating agency, the USSR's program was split among several competing design groups led by Korolyov, Mikhail Yangel, Valentin Glushko, and Vladimir Chelomei.

Because of the program's classified status, and for propaganda value, announcements of the outcomes of missions were delayed until success was certain, and failures were sometimes kept secret. Ultimately, as a result of Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost in the 1980s, many facts about the space program were declassified. Notable setbacks included the deaths of Korolyov, Vladimir Komarov (in the Soyuz 1 crash), and Yuri Gagarin (on a routine fighter jet mission) between 1966 and 1968, and disastrous experiences with the huge N-1 rocket intended to power a manned lunar landing, and which exploded shortly after launch on each of four unmanned tests.

The Soviet Space Program was dissolved with the fall of the Soviet Union, with Russia and Ukraine becoming its immediate heirs. Russia created the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, now known as the Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS), while Ukraine created the National Space Agency of Ukraine (NSAU).

Read more about Soviet Space ProgramSputnik and Vostok, Internal Competition, After Korolyov, Incidents, Failures, and Setbacks

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