(January 12, 1907 – January 14, 1966)
This outstanding aerospace engineer was Soviet Union’s pride during the first two decades of the Cold War. Despite the meager resources at the disposal of the then U.S.S.R. (when compared to the vast wealth of the U.S.A. and her West European allies), Sergei Korolev’s ingenuity enabled the Soviets achieve several firsts. For example, his design-acumen facilitated the development of the first man-made satellite (codenamed Sputnik 1) in 1957. And prior to that, Korolev spearheaded the design and development of world’s first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (codenamed R-7 Semyorka) in 1953. He was so important to the then Eastern Bloc that his real identity remained a guarded secret (throughout his life): in order to shield him from possible assassination by their Western rivals. Following his launch of the first human (Yuri Gagarin) into space in 1961 using the Vostok 1 spacecraft, both his Ukrainian kinsmen and his Russian compatriots dubbed him the “Father of Astronautics”. From the onset of the Cold War in 1947 until his death in 1966, the inventiveness of Korolev’s team impressed the world, and ensured that the U.S.S.R. stayed well-ahead of the U.S.A. in the so-called space-race. Although the Soviets earned their lead, many experts opined that the U.S.A. inadvertently hindered herself: by remaining mistrustful of Wernher von Braun for too long. Indeed, the German-born von Braun was the world’s top rocket scientist then, but that takes nothing away from Korolev’s achievements. By demonstrating excellent leadership and resourcefulness, Sergei Korolev earned his victories. The 437-kilometer-wide Korolev lunar crater is named in his honor.