Russia boasts a rich history of scientific invention across a wide variety of fields, from the Sputnik satellite to the coronavirus vaccine of the same name.
On the 60th anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space, here are some of the country's most notable scientific and technological achievements:
- Sputnik satellite -
In one of the most significant modern inventions, Russia launched the first artificial satellite on October 4, 1957.
At the time, the beep-beep sent back to Earth from Sputnik-1 represented the start of the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War.
Sent to space by an intercontinental ballistic missile, which forced Washington to realise that Moscow would be able to strike its territory.
The Soviets maintained their lead in the initial years of the race. They boasted the first manned flight to space by Gagarin on April 12, 1961, the first spacewalk four years later by Alexei Leonov and the first lunar probe in 1966.
But the United States beat them to the moon with the first manned landing in 1969.
- The AK-47 -
Ten years before Sputnik, Russia had invented a more nefarious tool: the Kalashnikov assault rifle, also known as the AK-47 and created by Soviet military engineer Mikhail Kalashnikov.
With some 100 million Kalashnikovs currently in circulation, the weapon became ubiquitous globally for its low price and reliability in harsh climates from frozen tundras to dusty Middle Eastern environments.
The weapon also became a symbol of struggles against colonisation and still adorns the flag of Mozambique, representing the struggle for national sovereignty.
- Tetris and Kaissa -
Less deadly was Russia's invention of Tetris, though it is just as popular around the world.
The tile-matching video game was thought up in 1984 by software engineer Alexei Pajitnov, whose stated ambition was to make people happy through computers.
Russia also used software to revolutionise an existing game: chess.
The chess powerhouse, which as the Soviet Union held the world title from 1948 to 1972, invented the chess computer programme Kaissa that won the world computer chess championship in 1974.
- Hypersonic weapons -
But the bread and butter of Russia's inventions has long been military technology.
Most recently Russia has led the way, it has claimed, in developing hypersonic missiles that can go faster than the speed of sound, which would render existing missile defence technology useless.
Vladimir Putin in 2018 unveiled a nuclear hypersonic missile system dubbed Avangard that he described as "invulnerable".
The Russian president said its creation represented a technological breakthrough comparable to the launch of Sputnik.
- Sputnik V vaccine -
Harkening back to Sputnik even more recently, Russia registered the world's first coronavirus vaccine, which it named Sputnik V, in August 2020 in the midst of the world's worst pandemic in a century.
Although the move triggered criticism both at home and abroad over the fast-track procedure, a leading medical journal later said it is safe and highly effective.
The vaccine has been registered for use in dozens of countries.
Liftoff! Pioneers of space
Paris (AFP) April 7, 2021 - Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space 60 years ago next week.
He was one of several stars of the Cold War space race between the Soviet Union and the United States who would became heroes to millions.
But the technology that sent them into orbit had less glorious origins in the dying days of Nazi Germany.
- The Germans -
Many of the key rocket scientists behind both the American and Soviet space programmes were Germans, who had worked on Adolf Hitler's "secret weapons", the V-1 and V-2 rockets.
Some 1,600 German rocket experts were secretly taken to the US in the dying days of World War II, while the Russians rounded up about 2,000 in one night at gunpoint and sent them to work in the Soviet Union.
Wernher von Braun
The inventor of Hitler's V-2 rocket -- the world's first guided ballistic missile -- was the architect of the US Apollo programme that would put a man on the Moon.
Brought across the Atlantic with his brother Magnus, he came up with the Saturn V rocket that powered the American lunar missions. He died in 1977 still advocating manned missions to Mars.
Kurt H. Debus
A friend of Von Braun, Debus was Hitler's flight test director for the V-1s and V-2s.
In 1952, he began the building of rocket launch facilities at Cape Canaveral in Florida and was later director of operations of what would become the Kennedy Space Centre, overseeing the flight by the first US astronaut Alan Shepard and the Moon missions.
- The Soviets -
The first man in space, Gagarin was chosen from 3,000 candidates.
He completed a single 108-minute orbit aboard Vostok-1 on April 12, 1961 after declaring "Let's Go!"
He died in 1968 at the age of 34 in a still unexplained plane crash.
Gagarin's understudy for the historic 1961 flight, Titov, never got over the disappointment.
Four months later, he orbited the Earth 17 times on Vostok-2. He was elected to the Russian parliament in 1995.
The then 30-year-old made the first spacewalk in history from Voskhod 2 in 1965.
It lasted 12 minutes and nine seconds and nearly killed him as his spacesuit inflated due to the lack of atmospheric pressure. He had to bleed off some of the oxygen, risking death.
Leonov later took part in the groundbreaking Apollo-Soyuz mission that opened a new era of space cooperation between the Soviets and the US in 1975.
The first woman in space, she spent nearly three days in orbit in June 1963.
She had to overcome a host of problems during the flight, which were not revealed until after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
She remains the only woman to have carried out a solo mission.
Chief Soviet rocket engineer Korolev clocked up successes from the launching of Sputnik 1 to Gagarin's historic flight. His role was only disclosed after his death in 1966.
Komarov became the first person to die in space on April 23, 1967 after a 26-hour flight on Soyuz 1.
A parachute failed on re-entry, causing his craft to plummet to Earth.
- The Americans -
The first American in space, Shepard's flight on Freedom 7 on May 5, 1961 was suborbital, rising to an altitude of 116 miles (186 kilometres).
He later commanded the Apollo 14 in 1971 and became the fifth person to walk on the Moon, where he played golf.
The first American to orbit the Earth in February 1962, he was later elected as a US senator, serving until 1999.
In 1998, at the age of 77, Glenn became the oldest person to go into space when he journeyed aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
In June 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to be sent into space, on the space shuttle Challenger.
She also took part in a 1986 commission that investigated the loss of the vessel. She died of cancer aged 61 in 2012.
Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Despite slightly fluffing his line -- "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind" -- it has since been etched in history.
His fellow crew members were Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, who followed 20 minutes later, and Michael Collins, who remained alone in lunar orbit.
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