The man who masterminded the Soviet Union's early triumphs in military and civilian rocketry was born today in 1906. Sergei Korolyov launched his first liquid-fueled rocket in 1933 and helped develop the world's first two-stage rocket in the 1940s. In the 1950s, with the blessing of Nikita Khrushchev, then head of the Soviet state, he created rockets that menaced the United States and touched off the space race. Among them was the R-7, the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile. More than just a weapon, the R-7 carried the world's first satellite, Sputnik I, into orbit in 1957, and a modified version of the same rocket continued launching satellites into the 1990s. Korolyov also oversaw the development of the rocket that carried Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961--the first manned space flight in history. As the Soviet rocket program's chief designer, he went on launching crews into orbit until his death in 1966.
[Source: Emily McMurray, Ed. Notable Twentieth Century Scientists. Gale Research Inc. ITP. 1995.]