After Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the earth, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev took to telling party meetings that Gagarin had seen 'no God in space.' When the USSR beat America into orbit it was a triumphant victory not just for the Soviet Union, but for communism itself.
Following Sputnik, the first dogs in space and Gagarin's world-changing flight, the USSR continually followed each mission with a bigger and more audacious successor, and their policy of not reporting failures meant that all the world saw was the USSR going further and faster whilst NASA could barely get off the ground.
To the rest of the planet, communism was flexing its muscle as the West floundered.
In 'The Communist Cosmos', Angus Roxburgh tells the story of how the Soviet Union saw space as the key to its global superiority; how the space programme's chief designer Sergei Korolev was hatching plans for manned missions to the moon, Mars and Venus long before anyone dreamed they could be possible; and how ultimately Soviet superiority in space came to an abrupt end
Producer: Chris Walker
A City Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 4.
Angus Roxburgh explores the years when the Soviet Union ruled space.