Russian Language Blog

Outer Space: Russia Was Here First Posted by on Jun 3, 2015 in History, Soviet Union

Though I was not alive during the most of the Cold War, I have read about it. One of the greatest aspects of it was the “Space Race.” The intense rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States prompted both countries to allocate huge amounts of resources into putting mankind into outer space. In my opinion, this race was a great example of how competition can certainly bring about stellar results. As for who won this competition, it is not important, at least not to me; what is important is that the Soviet Union and the United States were able to accomplish such great feats in such a short amount of time. Putting men into space not too many years after man first experienced flight is remarkable – it could even be considered miraculous. This post is about the Russian side of that “Space Race.”

After the defeat of Germany in World War II, both the United States and Soviet Union raced to capture German scientists, engineers, and their technology. Fortunately for the Americans, they found Wernher von Braun first because he surrendered to them for fear of being mistreated by the Russians. He was the inventor of Germany’s V-2 Rocket during the war and later proved to be a tremendous asset for America and NASA. Prior to the war, Soviet rocket technology shared parity with the Germans, according to some, but Stalin’s Great Purge set the program back by plucking out various scientists and engineers such as Sergei Korolev and either killing or imprisoning them. Despite this major setback, the Soviets still managed to inch closer and closer to putting a man into orbit.

Eventually the Russians would have a strong and stable rocket that was designed, at first, to carry nuclear warheads to the United States – it was called the R-7. Once they realized the potential of this rocket, it was decided that it would be a suitable delivery system to put a satellite or a man into orbit. As many remember, Sputnik 1 – the first man-made object in space – was launched on 4 October, 1957. This small satellite sent back data to Earth about the upper atmosphere, conditions in space, and so forth. Some say the real significance of Sputnik was that it proved to be the catalyst for the “Space Race.”

Russia was the first country to put a living being into orbit in 1957. Laika, a mixed-breed dog, made one giant leap for mankind and an even larger leap for animals. In 1961, Russia sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit via Vostok 1. Russia would go on to send up the first space station, Salyut 1, in 1971.

Though the Russian and American space programs had much success during their short histories, one cannot imagine how much more might have been achieved had the two nations worked in a spirit of cooperation.

Another facet of this topic that is worth mentioning is space tourism. A number of people have successfully purchased and completed a voyage into outer space. Richard Garriott, an American video game developer, was one of them. In 2008 he completed his voyage aboard a Russian spaceship. His story is detailed in an exciting documentary called “Man on a Mission.”

The topic of space exploration is a very broad one. I don’t believe I even scratched the surface in this post… However, I was fortunate enough to find this documentary on the subject; it is offered in Russian with English subtitles. 

Here is another interesting documentary on the subject, in English :-).

На этом все. Всего хорошего!

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About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


  1. Richard:

    Спасибо Женя!!! 🙂 Превосходный пост!

    “Though the Russian and American space programs had much success during their short histories, one cannot imagine how much more might have been achieved had the two nations worked in a spirit of cooperation.”

    Я с Вами совершенно согласен!!! Это бы было лучше если СССР и США работали вместе.

    Предвкушаю смотреть “The Red Stuff”!


  2. Richard:

    “The Earth is the cradle of Humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”

    ~ Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

  3. Jenya:

    Ричард, спасибо и удачного просмотра! Кстати, Вы часто упоминаете Циолковского. Про него на youtube тоже есть интересный фильм (in Russian with English subtitles):

  4. Richard:

    Jenya, thanks for the link to the documentary on Tsiolkovsky. He was a brilliant man who was years ahead of his time! I think he was just born in the wrong century. Tsiolkovsky was a dreamer and we need more dreamers. Hopefully Humanity will get its act together and make his dreams a reality!

    • Jenya:

      @Richard Ричард, всегда пожалуйста! I think the best way to learn any language is by absorbing content (reading, watching, listening) that you personally find interesting. That is one of the reasons I do not like to do posts on grammar, I simply do not find this type of learning productive. One certainly has to familiarize oneself with the grammar of their target language but I think the textbooks are more than enough for that. Beyond that continuous listening and watching of native speakers (read YouTube and things like that) is what is far more effective than posts on endings and cases :-). Всего хорошего!