The race for space for a long time was a dream of von Braun’s rocket scientists, and Sergei Korolev (Russian: ÃÂ¡ÃÂµÃ‘â‚¬ÃÂ³ÃÂµÃŒÂÃÂ¹ ÃÅ¸ÃÂ°ÃŒÂÃÂ²ÃÂ»ÃÂ¾ÃÂ²ÃÂ¸Ã‘â€¡ ÃÅ¡ÃÂ¾Ã‘â‚¬ÃÂ¾ÃÂ»Ã‘â€˜ÃÂ²) in Russia, but any of their hopes were dashed by the political forces, and the general feeling that building rockets for space exploration was a fantasy, and probably couldn’t be done.
However, things can take a U-turn, as the author of SpaceRace points out. Von Braun was struggling for recognition of his ideas, just as Korolev was in Russia. Von Braun, the former Nazi and SS officer, and Korolev, the former Gulag prisoner had their independent struggles, but kept their dream of using rockets for space, and tried, in their own way to make their views heard. In von Braun’s case, he finally authored a multi-piece article that was published in Collier’s magazine, and its publication was a sensation for the American public. And a bit of scare for the Russian Korolev, who now was convinced that the Americans were funding a space program. They weren’t. Korolev had the courage to present his ideas to Stalin, and was supported in building a very large rocket, that superceded anything that von Braun and his German scientists had accomplished.
Still, space exploration was not the motivation for rocket development. The delivery of thermonuclear weapons was!
However, things change. In 1956, both the Americans and the Soviets (in their separate and secret ways), decided that they should develop a rocket and use it to put a satellite in orbit in conjunction with the 1957 Geophysical Year, in which scientists from around the world were collaborating to study the Earth. Putting a satellite into orbit would establish either country as the master of space exploration.
The Americans set to work to put into orbit a small satellite; the Russians, on the other hand wanted to put a 5 ton satellite in space—of course it was the Soviet political and secret police that were behind such an idea. Korolev and his rocket scientist colleagues were shocked at this as they were constructing a rocket that would carry a 3 ton payload.
Well, we know that Korolev and his team put Sputnik into orbit on October 4, 1957 using the massive R-7 rocket. Korolev and his team waited for the satellite to pass over them after the first orbit listening for the beep, beep, beep…and the rest is history.
Korolev’s Massive R-7 Rocket, Sputnik at the top