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Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin Paperback – April 12, 2011
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“An extraordinary and accessible examination of this enormous contribution to space exploration, supported by riveting first-hand anecdotes. Essential to any air and space collection.” ―Library Journal (starred)
“Well-written, engaging, and brow-raising in many ways.” ―SpaceCoalition.com
“This excellent narrative will keep you enthralled and give you new perspectives on an old name we're all familiar with.” ―Astronomy Magazine online
“This extraordinarily intimate account of the 1967 death of a Russian cosmonaut appears in a new book, Starman, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, to be published next month. The authors base their narrative principally on revelations from a KGB officer, Venymin Ivanovich Russayev, and previous reporting by Yaroslav Golovanov in Pravda. This version -- if it's true -- is beyond shocking.” ―Robert Krulwich, in his post on NPR.org
About the Author
Piers Bizony is author of the award-winning 2001: Filming the Future a detailed account of the making of Stanley Kubrick's film, The Rivers of Mars: Searching for the Cosmic Origins of Life and Island in the Sky: Building the International Space Station. He also lectures and organizes exhibitions on space-related subjects.
Jamie Doran of Atlantic Celtic Films is an international award-winning documentary producer. After seven years at BBC Television, he went into independent production, where many of his films have concentrated on lifting the lid of secrecy within the former Soviet Union.
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While following the course of Gagarin’s exciting but all too brief life, the book provides a fascinating glimpse behind the Iron Curtain into the early days of the Soviet space program. Struggling to compete with the Americans for the greater glory of their country, the Soviet scientists stumbled toward greatness as they rushed to figure out how to put a man in space. A great deal of trial and error was involved, and safety was not always priority one. The same was true for the U.S. The authors periodically check in with the American side of the space race to illustrate each superpower’s competitive standing and how decisions on one side influenced those on the other.
One surprising detail regarding Gagarin’s road to space is that the Soviets trained two cosmonauts for that first epic spaceflight, waiting until very late in the process to decide their fates. Only a few days before the launch was Gherman Titov notified that he would be sitting this one out while Gagarin rode into glory. There is some great insight into all the politics behind the final selection, as well as the political struggles behind other decisions in the space program. After his brief rocket ride, Gagarin became phenomenally famous and was treated as a national treasure, carted around the world to make countless personal appearances. He shouldered the role as best he could, but his first love was flying. He wanted to go back into space, hopefully on a moon mission, but the Soviet government treated their cosmonaut heroes with surprising overprotectiveness, not only hindering them from further spaceflight but also severely prohibiting their piloting of aircraft. Gagarin’s rise to greatness is inspiring, but the subsequent aftermath is often surprisingly tragic.
The authors dug up a great deal of documentation from Soviet archives and interviewed many key players in the space program, as well as Gagarin family members. While the research is extensive, the writing isn’t always all it could be. Rather than taking their documents and interviews and distilling them into a compelling and cohesive narrative, Doran and Bizony at times make you feel like you’re reading a bunch of documents and interviews. The research really takes precedence over the writing. There is a sort of magazine journalism style to the prose that sometimes feels out of place within an authoritative account of a man’s life. I also felt like the foreword promised more mystery and controversy than the story ultimately delivered. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal from this book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Gagarin is a great hero, yet like all heroes—as the authors point out—he had his flaws. The authors go beyond the superstardom to expose the humanity beneath, thereby bringing this stellar hero down to earth for us to appreciate more fully his accomplishments and struggle.
I grew up a child of the seventies living in the United States, where the Russians only personality according to all the news I got, was that they were bloodthirsty communists and never as the humourous multidimensional people with rich cultural heritage I came to know them to be.
Having been born in the late sixties, from the time I was aware of space as a concept, we were already ahead of them. By the time I was two years old, the United States had already beaten the Russians in the space race.
Yes, we were taught about Sputnik and the fact that the Russians put the first man ( and woman) in space was something mentioned , but not discussed in detail. This book, takes advantage of archives only recently opened, and interviews the people close to Gargarin, and the orginal Soviet cosmonauts, the "little eagles"
Gargarins life after his brief time in space, made him a worldwide rockstar- with all the trappings and temptation that comes with a meteoric vault into superstardom. It humanises him as a man and legend. Additionally this book also does a fantastic job of discussing the life and times of those other fathers of modern space flight that were in orbit around him. People like Alexi Leonov . It's fantastically researched biographical material and does a great job of not only telling Gargarins story, but the stories, life and times of many fascinating people around him. If you're a space dork, this book should be in your collection. I highly recommend it, and at just under four dollars for the Kindle version , it's a bargain of epic proportion.
Buy this book!!!
Yuri Gagarin was from a simple peasant family and he himself became fascinated with flight at an early age. He became one of the Soviet pilots screened from the armed forces to become a cosmonaut, one of thousands of men interviewed and tested for a purpose they would not be told until they had a small number of candidates. Out of the original group of candidates it would come down to Titov and Gagarin and at the last minute (almost) just down to Gagarin.
As the first man in space Gagarin became a celebrity in the USSR (something almost unheard of) and even around the world. He was an optimist, a positive person but the pressures of being Yuri Gagarin, First Man in Space started to wear down Yuri Gagarin, Soviet Air Force officer. His life ended tragically flying an old (even by Soviet standards) MiG trainer and the exact circumstances have never been explained to all concerned.
An interesting discussion of an icon of the Space Race Era. The authors wrote this in a very engaging style and the topic really came alive for me.