Chernobyl was a nice place to be terribly half a century or so ago. Named after the wormwood, the wild growing there, the town has a small population, a river that clear and open country for camping and watching the stars had walked. So that was where Sergei Khrushchev, an engineer of 34 years, with a small group of other people stopped by his father Nikita, 75, the former leader of the Soviet Union, in the predawn hours of July 21 1969 days before he had been a glorious one for humanity and especially for the part of humanity, the Americans were. Only a few hours earlier, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, went outside, has established a set of tools and planted a flag. That the flag for the Soviet side made a less beautiful day. Since 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite put into orbit, they had the two nations were in a race American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts on the surface of the moon to the earth. In 1969, the Soviets had a terrible race was; just three weeks before the landing of Apollo 11, their huge, experimental N1 moon rocket blew up on the launch pad, which is one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. The dream of the Americans beating was over and the Soviet engineers knew. Now the former premier, who led the early years of the space race is reduced Americans after the news of success as all other Soviet citizens. Since the half-century anniversary of the landing approaches, the Soviet Union is a thing of the past and Chernobyl is a radioactive ghost town, since 1986 explosion at its nuclear power plant, but Armstrong and Aldrin left footprints on the moon unchanged. Sergei, who makes an appearance in the new documentary Hunt for the moon, over three nights on PBS debuts on Monday, spoke with TIME about this extraordinary night in 1969 and the space race that preceded it. “We were traveling by car and stopped at Chernobyl,” he said in a recent telephone interview, speaking of Newport, RI, where he was a professor at the Naval War College. “It ‘was just a lot’ of the river. One of our friends had a small telescope. We talked about how we boasted that we were for the first time on the moon. But like all the other people around the world, now we are proud of humanity. we saw the moon through the telescope and looked at nothing, “Obtaining the fix history in one place. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter Time History Sergei other many other things they had seen, though most memorable in the first decade from 1958 until 1968, when deputy head of the Institute regulator of the Moscow government, the development of guidance systems for missiles, submarines , space and lunar vehicles vehicles. He started to work only after the great triumph of Sputnik, and it was easy to have a future Soviet domination in orbit and beyond imagining. “I have with my father, at the time of Sputnik, was in Kiev,” said Khrushchev. “He had visited some military exercises and has been working with the local authorities. It was a routine visit, but of course he knew it would be a beginning, and I knew.” The word of the launch will not arrive until the evening, when father and son were dinner at the Mariinsky Palace with the officials, the residence of the leader of the Ukrainian Republic, An aide left the room and was smiling, then delivered the message to Nikita, who announced guests for dinner. “He said, ‘I’ll tell you, is a great achievement, but it is a mystery: We launched a Sputnik’,” says the young Khrushchev. “He moved from talking about local issues, how important was it Sputnik. The officials were disappointed. They thought their businesses were much more important,” the Soviet leader was right about the importance of Sputnik, technologically and militarily. The R-7 rocket, which put the payload in orbit mainly intercontinental ballistic missile has been used as, and had a lot more muscle than any other thing in the US arsenal driving. Basta (Sputnik Would Nikita Khrushchev deserves the title of Man of the TIME 1957) as an important global prestige has been called for the introduction of the Soviets an important asset in a bipolar world available to rent by the capitalist communists, the east-west sides. The Soviets on their early lead built to put the bigger and heavier Sputnik into orbit, and in 1961 to overcome all these results when they called on one song Yuri Gagarin in life, flight 88 minutes, making him the first man in space be . “Nikita on the Black Sea is working on one of his reports was,” says the son. “[Sergei] Koralev [the designer spacecraft Soviet leader] called me and said, space man, and we have to wait 90 minutes per hour [to learn when you return home safely]. ‘” Nikita spent this hour and half nervous, upset. “Koralev called for the second time and said, ‘your back him da.’Und Nikita said,’ Tell me, tell me. Is he still alive? Is he alive?” Koralev, she assured him that Gagarin was very much alive. The party that followed, two days later, on Red Square in Moscow, was huge. Actually, Sergei remembers all came almost ruined the USSR, the United States and the world in general in October next year, when the same Soviet missile technology “E ‘was close to the day of victory in the second world War.” Moscow had allowed to put humans and machines in space, was used in Cuba, the Americas targeted nuclear warheads. The 13-day look down below, never both at the humanity to a core shooting war came, and to remember while Americans like this cool President John Kennedy, disaster masterfully AVERT during Khrushchev carelessly with matches close to nuclear safety, Sergei played saw a different side of his father. “I’m with Nikita spoke every day,” he says. “We lived together. When he came back, he would go around, and I would ask questions. I think it was a political manager Kennedy himself and wanted to start a war because he knew it would be a disaster for humanity.” This does not mean that the Soviet leader was not able to had used missiles of use. “We knew that if you push your opponent into a corner, will pull the knob. And he [Khrushchev] was a person who could draw to the button, but all the time he had tried to keep the door open.” Sergei also challenges the American vision that if the US intelligence to the existence revealed the secret use in Cuba, was an embarrassment for Moscow and personally Nikita Khrushchev. In fact, effective Soviet leader shrugged his shoulders. “He was surprised that Americans have seen the missiles so late,” he says. “It showed the weakness of US intelligence.” Although, American power has been demonstrated in a space over the next teen years, first with the flight of the one-man Mercury spacecraft, then the two men Gemelli, then the three-man Apollo, the gradual progression driven before Mondlandung five more that followed, and open to nine total lunar missions. Khrushchev accused the defeat of the Russians in the space race as much about planning long-rang and intelligent technology of the American program on travel and competition within the Soviet space industry, fought in different groups for different spatial patterns and recognition I want to be that, with the construction that were used. The younger if Khrushchev himself grew so much about the old feuds of the Cold War that he and his wife emigrated to the United States in 1999 and became American citizens in 1991. still teaches part-time at the War College, where he became a spirit engineering his teachings and brings the historical eye. These historical instincts are brought to bear in its seat on Apollo 11 landing, even 50 years later, it reminds us that the achievement was much, much bigger than a victory of a nation in a grainy-up competition. It ‘was a triumph for the entire species. July 3 Correction: The original version of this story false information the name of the Soviet Union’s main rocket designer. It ‘been Korolev not Koralev.