Many leading engineers were killed, and Korolev and others were imprisoned in the Gulag.
Although the Katyusha was very effective on the Eastern Front during World War II, the advanced state of the German rocket program amazed Russian engineers who inspected its remains at Peenemünde and Mittelwerk after the end of the war in Europe.
Further planned developments called for a manned Earth orbit flight by 1964 and an unmanned lunar mission at an earlier date.
—was charged to accelerate the manned program, the design of which was combined with the Zenit program to produce the Vostok spacecraft.
The United States' announcement in July 1955 of its plan to launch a satellite during the International Geophysical Year greatly benefited Korolev in persuading Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to support his plans in January 1956, in order to surpass the Americans.
Plans were approved for Earth-orbiting satellites (Sputnik) to gain knowledge of space, and four unmanned military reconnaissance satellites, Zenit.
Further notable records included the first interplanetary probes: Venera 1 and Mars 1 to fly by Venus and Mars, respectively, Venera 3 and Mars 2 to impact the respective planet surface, and Venera 7 and Mars 3 to make soft landings on these planets.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine inherited the program.
Russia created the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, now known as the Roscosmos State Corporation, The theory of space exploration had a solid basis in the Russian Empire before the First World War with the writings of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), who published pioneering papers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and in 1929 introduced the concept of the multistaged rocket.
Practical aspects built on early experiments carried out by members of the reactive propulsion study group, GIRD (founded in 1931) in the 1920s and 1930s, where such pioneers as Sergey Korolev—who dreamed of traveling to Mars multiple rocket launcher.
During the 1930s Soviet rocket technology was comparable to Germany's, but Joseph Stalin's Great Purge severely damaged its progress.
Unlike its American competitor in the "Space Race", which had NASA as a single coordinating agency, the USSR's program was split among several competing design groups led by Korolev, Mikhail Yangel, Valentin Glushko, and Vladimir Chelomei.