Beyond: The Astonishing Story of the First Human to Leave Our Planet and Journey into Space

Stephen Walker. Harper, $29.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-297815-8
Film director Walker (Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima) marks the 60th anniversary of the first manned space flight in April 1961 with this vivid account of the Cold War–era space race. Jumping back and forth between developments in the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Walker captures the uncertainty and tension of early test flights that sent stray dogs, a chimpanzee, and a mannequin named Ivan into space, and details covert intelligence-gathering operations, including a CIA mission to “kidnap” a key part of the Soviet R-7 rocket from an exhibition in Mexico City. The book’s centerpiece is a dramatic, minute-by-minute account of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s ascent into orbit and near-catastrophic return to Earth (a faulty valve delayed his engine compartment from separating at the designated moment, threatening to destroy his capsule upon reentry into the atmosphere). Walker draws on archival records, memoirs, and interviews with family members to profile key players in the space race, including U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard (who reached space 23 days after Gagarin) and Russian rocket engineer Sergei Korolev, who was “removed from all public discourse” after 1957 in order to protect the secrecy of the Soviet missile program. This entertaining and carefully researched history achieves liftoff. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 02/03/2021
Release date: 04/20/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-0-06-297819-6
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