Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965

Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965

Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965

Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965


It was a time of bold new technology, historic moments, and international jousting on the final frontier. But it was also a time of human drama, of moments less public but no less dramatic in the lives of those who made the golden age of space flight happen. These are the moments and the lives that Into That Silent Sea captures, a book that tells the intimate stories of the men and women, American and Russian, who made the space race their own and gave the era its compelling character. These pages chronicle a varied and riveting cavalcade of human stories, including a look at Yuri Gagarin's harrowing childhood in war-ravaged Russia and Alan Shepard's firm purchase on the American dream. It also examines the controversial career of cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, and the remarkable struggle and ultimate disappointment of her American counterparts. It tries to uncover the truth behind the allegations that shadowed Gus Grissom and Scott Carpenter and then allows the reader to share the heart-stopping suspense of Alexei Leonov's near-fatal first space walk. Through dozens of interviews and access to Russian and American official documents and family records, the authors bring to life the experiences that shaped the lives of the first astronauts and cosmonauts and forever changed their world and ours.


One momentous event begins this book, and another closes it. In April 1961 a human being rocketed into space for the first time, and in March 1965 another human floated out of a spacecraft on the first-ever spacewalk. The technological, political, and cultural momentum behind these two historic events, and the steps taken in between them, have already been well chronicled. This book certainly makes reference to these broader stories; it does not attempt to explain them.

Many books about this period of rapid spaceflight advances have described the space programs of the world in grandiose, lofty terms. Without doubt, enabling a human to leave the confines of Earth’s atmosphere for the first time was a defining moment in human evolution, a bold step into a wider universe and understanding of our place within it. Space exploration has added to the general body of human knowledge, allowing us a new and remarkable view of who we are as a species and where we live. Today, it is almost impossible to imagine a time when we saw the Earth as the limit of our reach or when we had not seen photographs of our planet from above the atmosphere.

Into That Silent Sea describes in vivid detail the key moments when such visions of humankind’s future and place were first realized, but it does not seek to give an overall view of what we have learned from flying into space. That is left to the large body of authoritative works on the subject. There are also histories that examine our push into space in the 1960s from a far more down-to-earth perspective. Undeniably, the pursuit of technological advances and achievement in that decade was due primarily to Cold War politics and national prestige. Both played an integral role in explaining the rapid advance of the so-called space race and why it stagnated when the decade was out.

Other authors have chronicled the timing that allowed innovative and even daring technology, ever-shifting global politics, and key political deci-

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