Sergei Khrushchev graduated from the Moscow Energy Institute in 1958, after which he worked at the Vladimir Chelomei rocket-design bureau, where he was involved in the development of ballistic missiles and spacecraft. Credit: TASS.

He received various awards for his work in the Soviet Union, including the Medal of the Labor Hero, the Order of Lenin, the Lenin Prize and the Prize of the Soviet Union’s Council of Ministers.

But Sergei Khrushchev, who died in the United States, where he had lived for almost three decades, was largely overshadowed by his father, former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Nikita Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter, Nina Khrushcheva, told Radio Free Europe on June 19 that the former professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, died the day before at the age of 84.

She gave no further details.

Sergei Khrushchev graduated from the Moscow Energy Institute in 1958, after which he worked at the Vladimir Chelomei rocket-design bureau, where he was involved in the development of ballistic missiles and spacecraft, Radio Free Europe reported.

Before leaving Russia for the United States in 1991, he was a teacher at the oldest and largest Russian technical school — the Bauman Moscow State Technical University.

Khrushchev became a US citizen in 1999. He always maintained that he did not defect from the Soviet Union as the two countries were “no longer enemies.”

While in the United States, he taught political science and modern history at the Watson Institute for International Relations at Brown University, Radio Free Europe reported.

His older half-brother, Leonid Khrushchev, died during World War II at the age of 25.

Sergie recounted to Time magazine about the importance of Sputnik, technologically as well as militarily: the R-7 rocket that put the payload in orbit was principally used as an intercontinental ballistic missile, and it had much more propulsive muscle than anything in the American space arsenal.

The Soviets built on their early lead, putting bigger and heavier Sputniks in orbit and trumping all of those successes in 1961, when they launched Yuri Gagarin on a one-orbit, 88-minute flight, making him the first human being in space.

“Nikita was on the Black Sea resort working on one of his reports,” his son says. “[Sergei] Koralev [the Soviets’ chief spacecraft designer], called and told him ‘man is in space and we have to wait 90 minutes now [to learn if he comes home safely].’”

Nikita spent that hour and a half nervously, distractedly. “Koralev called the second time and said, ‘He’s back.’ And Nikita said, ‘Tell me, tell me. Is he alive? Is he alive?’”

Koralev assured him that Gagarin was very much alive. The celebration that followed, two days later in Red Square in Moscow, was massive. Indeed, Sergei recalls, “It was close to Victory Day after the Second World War.”

It all nearly came to ruin for the USSR, the US and the world at large in October of the next year, when the same Soviet missile technology that had allowed Moscow to put people and machines in space, was deployed in Cuba, targeting the American mainland with nuclear warheads, Time magazine reported.

The 13-day stare-down that followed was the closest humanity has ever come to a nuclear shooting war, and while Americans like to recall President John F. Kennedy as coolly, masterfully averting disaster while Khrushchev recklessly played with matches near the nuclear fuse, Sergei saw a different side of his father.

“I spoke with Nikita every day,” he says. “We lived together. When he came back we would walk around and I would ask him questions. I think he was a responsible politician the same as Kennedy and he didn’t want to start any war because he knew it would be a disaster for humanity.”

That, however, did not mean that the Soviet leader wasn’t capable of using the missiles he had deployed. “We knew that if you push your competitor into the corner, he will pull the button. And he [Khrushchev] was a person who could pull the button too, but all the time we tried to keep the door open.”

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