Nowhere did Tuesday's launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket echo as powerfully as in Russia. The private U.S. company continues to produce technical feats on which the Russian space industry has given up: First the consistent reuse of rockets, and now the successful launch of a rocket with as many as 27 engines.
The Soviet Union tried something similar in the 1960s and early 1970s. Sergei Korolev, the rocket designer who launched the first satellite and the first man into space, began the development of what came to be known as the N-1, a 30-engine superheavy rocket capable of taking a 75-ton space station to orbit and perhaps to the Moon, Mars and Venus. Finished after Korolev's death in 1966, the N-1 was test-launched four times. Each of the launches failed, largely because of the difficulty of running so many engines at the same time.