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Sergei Korolev
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    (January 12, 1907-January 14, 1966)
    Born in Zhytomyr, Ukraine
    Rocket scientist and spacecraft designer
    Designed the Soviet Union's first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)
    Oversaw the Soviet space program
    Died while undergoing surgery to remove an intestinal polyp
    The first three moon probes launched under his command failed (1958).
    Cosmonaut Alexey Leonov said, 'Everyone around him was on tenterhooks, afraid of making a wrong move and invoking his wrath.'
    His favorite expression was, 'We are all going to be whacked, and there will be no obituary.'
    He ignored his doctors' orders to cut back on work, leading to cardiac arrhythmia, gallbladder inflammation and other health problems.
    Due to state secrecy policies, his role in the Soviet space program was not revealed until after his death.
    He lost most of his teeth while imprisoned in a gulag during the Great Purge of the late 30s.
    He was described as 'a man with unlimited devotion to his job and his ideas.'
    Under his leadership, the Soviet space program achieved a number of firsts, including the first man-made satellite (Sputnik I, 1957), the first successful moon probe (Luna 2, 1959) and the first man in space (Yuri Gagarin, 1961).
    Some historians suggest his sudden death was a key reason the Soviets lost the race to put the first man on the moon.
    He was given a state funeral with his ashes interred in the Kremlin wall.

Credit: C. Fishel

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