Space and its wondrous objects have always held a fascination in man's mind since time immemorial. Exploring the moon and planets and visiting others world has always caught the fancy of every human being. But that dream lingered on through the ages and it took the determination and the race between two men to realize that dream. Today, on the 50th anniversary of the launch of first man in space, we will tell you how the story began.
While the story begins as the space race between two World War II allies started, you first need to know about the individuals who deserve credit for the seemingly unattainable feat.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was a Russian rocket scientist who is considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics. Born deaf and partially blind, he self taught and theorized ways for man to explore space by using multistage rockets fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. His mention is important because his works served as an inspiration and his ideas were put into practical use by future generations of rocket scientists around the world and most prominently, the two pioneers of rocket science - Sergei Korolev of the USSR and Wernher von Braun of Nazi Germany. Sergei Korolev and another Soviet rocket scientist Valentin Glushko studied his works as youths. It has been known that von Braun possessed a copy of one of his books and almost every page had annotations by von Braun.
Sergei Korolev was one of the top most Soviet rocket scientists and pioneer of his time. He and his group of fellow engineers had already launched the Soviet Union's first liquid propelled rocket as early as 1933. He had a dream of man exploring space in general and Mars in particular. Just as his career was taking off, he was incarcerated in the gulag on false charges during the Great Purges of the late 1930s, he was sentenced to 10 years hard labor imprisonment and it seemed that his dream of space exploration would never be fulfilled. But by 1942, the Soviet Union needed someone capable of leading the fledgling space programme and Korolev was the only person deemed capable of that responsibility. Accordingly, he was released and made the Chief Designer and worked with Valentin Glushko who served as rocket engine designer.
Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun was a leading German rocket scientist under the Nazi regime. He also shared Korolev's dream of manned space exploration and was a rocket scientist par excellence. His talent for rocketry was soon recognized by the Nazi leadership and he was recruited to develop rockets to be launched to enemy territory. Thinking that he will eventually be able to convince the leadership to let him design rockets for manned space exploration, he did not resist the offer. He was the mastermind behind the development of the dreaded V-2 rocket, poised to snatch victory for Nazi Germany. The V-2 could reach over four times the speed of sound and could go past the stratosphere, taking just six minutes to travel the 200 miles to London from Peenemunde on the Baltic coast and was unstoppable at that time.