When we left the Soviet Union they had somewhat successfully landed a probe on Venus and they had completed the automatic docking of two Soyuz 7K-OK spacecrafts. However they did not reach their goal of a circumlunar flight in time for the 50th anniversary of the glorious revolution.
The circumlunar plan involved 3 new spacecrafts. First the Soyuz A 7K spacecraft, capable of carrying three men, (2 men for a circumlunar flight) into space and returning them to earth. The 5.5 ton spacecraft has three modules, the orbital module, the re-entry module, and the service module.
The second new spacecraft is the Soyuz B 9K booster stage, with a fueled mass of 18 tons. After docking with the 7K, the 9K is capable of boosting the combined spacecraft out of earth orbit on a course to the moon.
The third new space craft is called Soyuz V 11k tanker. It has a mass of 5 tons. It is used to ferry fuel from the earth to the 9K Booster. It will take 4 tankers to fill the 9K booster with enough fuel to push the Soyuz 7K on a path to the moon.
Around noon on January 14th, Boris Chertok was alone in his office studying a folder of classified mail that had accumulated during the past few days. He had asked not to be disturbed. Suddenly his subordinate ran in and shouted, “Sergey Pavlovich died!”
Chertok responded “Are you out of your mind? Which Sergey Pavlovich?”
“Ours, our Sergey Pavlovich Korolev! His wife telephoned from the hospital!”
Chertok stood absolutely dumbfounded, having no idea what to do next. This can’t be! This really shouldn’t be happening! A few seconds later he called the Kremlin for verification.
Sergei Korolev’s life paralleled in many ways the life of Wernher Von Braun. Like Von Braun, as a young man, Sergei Korolev was inspired to dedicate his life to the technology for space exploration after becoming acquainted with the work of a great space pioneer: Hermann Oberth in the case of von Braun, and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in the case of Korolev. Both began their careers in space development through serious study, participation in amateur rocket societies, and then support from the military…