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In 1963, on Khruschev’s orders, he propelled the first woman into space, Valentina Tereshkova, which enabled the Soviet Union to make propaganda mileage by claiming that under communism women were treated equally to men.

After 1961, under President Kennedy, American efforts intensified while the Soviet programme suffered from infighting after Korolev’s death at 59 in 1966, following an operation that went wrong.

It was spherical in shape with antennae sticking out of it and carried instruments for measuring radiation, magnetic fields and meteorites.

It also carried metal pendants which it scattered on the surface on impact, with the hammer and sickle of the USSR on one side and the launch date on the other.

The Luna programme continued and in 1966, the year of Korolev’s death, Luna 9 made the first soft landing on the Moon.

In the end it was of course the Americans who won the race, in 1969, when their astronauts first walked on the Moon.

In January 1959 the spacecraft Luna 1 (which Korolev called Mechta, ‘the Dream’) was launched at the Moon, but missed by around 3,700 miles and went into orbit between the Sun and Mars. At just past midnight Moscow time on September 14th it crashed some 240,000 miles away on the Moon not far from the Sea of Tranquillity (perhaps a not entirely appropriate location).

Korolev and his people were listening as the signals coming back from the spacecraft suddenly stopped.

To American astonishment and dismay, the Russians at first took a commanding lead.It was an astonishing feat of navigation and it was now possible to draw a tentative map of the Moon’s hidden side.While the Americans were in disarray, with their space efforts publicly failing (Russian setbacks were kept strictly secret), Korolev went on to put the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.They DO NOT gather any information about you that could be used for marketing or remember where you've been on the internet.Cookies linked to services provided by us and our partners, such as 'Like' and 'Share' buttons.

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