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Spacefarers: Images of Astronauts and Cosmonauts in the Heroic Era of Spaceflight (A Smithsonian Contribution to Knowledge) Hardcover – July 9, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1935623199 ISBN-10: 1935623192

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Editorial Reviews



This volume is based on a scholarly conference held at NASA headquarters in 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight. An emerging theme was the image of astronauts and cosmonauts in popular culture and the media in the US and Russia/Soviet Union. The book begins with a fine editorial introduction by Neufeld (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum). Next, nine scholars from the social sciences and the humanities address this broad topic. The first three chapters consider the images of American astronauts over time, from the early "heroic era" to the space shuttle period. The following three chapters take a comparative look at the American astronauts and the Russian cosmonauts, including an excellent chapter focusing on Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, in Russian and Soviet myth. The cult of Gagarin took on religious-like relevance in Soviet times, and continues to provide nostalgic and nationalistic comfort in rural Russia today. The final three chapters address astronauts exclusively in the space shuttle era, including a revealing analysis of the sexism the first six female astronauts chosen by NASA in 1978 faced. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic, professional, and general history of science/space exploration collections.   --J. Z. Kiss, University of Mississippi

About the Author

Michael J. Neufeld is a Museum Curator in the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. From 2007 to 2011 he served as Division Chair. Born and raised in Canada, he has four history degrees, including a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1984. Dr. Neufeld has written three books, The Skilled Metalworkers of Nuremberg (1989), The Rocket and the Reich (1995), and Von Braun (2007). He has edited three others, Planet Dora by Yves Béon (1997), The Bombing of Auschwitz (2000, with Michael Berenbaum) and Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (2010, with Alex Spencer).

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Product Details

  • Series: A Smithsonian Contribution to Knowledge
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press (July 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935623192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935623199
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,036,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Valerie Neal is a space historian and curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Her specialty is human spaceflight, space technology, and space science in the Space Shuttle era and beyond. She is keenly interested in space exploration generally, its place in American culture, and the achievements of women throughout the space program. At the Museum, she has collected more than 1500 artifacts of the shuttle era, curated three exhibitions and three documentary programs for the Smithsonian Channel (cable TV), published books and articles growing from her research, lectured in the USA and abroad, and given many interviews for US and other media. Before joining the Museum, she was a writer and editor for some 25 NASA publications on Space Shuttle and Spacelab missions, the Hubble Space Telescope and other Great Observatories, space science, and NASA History. She participated in underwater astronaut training in Alabama and mission support in Houston for four Space Shuttle missions. She has taught American Studies and writing courses at the University of Minnesota, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and Vanderbilt University. Valerie Neal holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in American Studies and a B.A. degree in English and History.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By J. Mulnix on October 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this collection of essays. My personal favorite chapter looked at the partnership between NASA and the IMAX Corporation for shooting movies in space and using astronauts to shoot footage. Growing up "The Dream Is Alive" was one of my favorite movies, so learning more about what went into making this movie and others like it was a treat.
Michael Neufeld points out in the introduction that "This volume had its origins in a conference held at the headquarters of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Washington, D.C., in April 2011. The conference "1961/1981: Key Moments in Human Spaceflight"... This book, however, does not present most of the papers that were given, nor are all the chapters based on papers read at the conference. Rather, in consultation with the NASA History Program Office, I decided that the one coherent theme that emerged from several papers was the image of astronauts and cosmonauts in the media, state propaganda, and popular culture. Social and cultural history of the first three decades of human spaceflight was prominent at the conference, reflecting the maturation of the space history subdiscipline and its growth beyond the traditional technical, programmatic, and political history narratives."
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