However, Ustinov directed him to focus on near-Earth missions using the very reliable Voskhod spacecraft, a modified Vostok, as well as on interplanetary unmanned missions to nearby planets Venus and Mars.
Ultimately, as a result of Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost in the 1980s, many facts about the space program were declassified.
Notable setbacks included the deaths of Korolev, Vladimir Komarov (in the Soyuz 1 crash), and Yuri Gagarin (on a routine fighter jet mission) between 19, and development failure of the huge N-1 rocket intended to power a manned lunar landing, which exploded shortly after lift-off on four unmanned tests.
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.
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.
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.
For example, the government in February 1962 abruptly ordered an ambitious mission involving two Vostoks simultaneously in orbit launched "in ten days time" to obscure John Glenn's Mercury-Atlas 6 that month; the program could not do so until August, with Vostok 3 and Vostok 4.
Unlike the American space program which had NASA as a single coordinating structure directed by its administrator, James Webb through most of the 1960s, the USSR's program was split between several competing design groups.
While the government and the Communist Party used the program's successes as propaganda tools after they occurred, systematic plans for missions based on political reasons were rare, one exception being Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, on Vostok 6 in 1963.