Travelling at almost 18,000 miles per hour--ten times faster than a rifle bullet--Gagarin circles the globe in just 106 minutes. From his windows he sees the earth as nobody has before, crossing a sunset and a sunrise, crossing oceans and continents, witnessing its beauty and its fragility. While his launch begins in total secrecy, within hours of his landing he has become a world celebrity - the first human to leave the planet.
Beyond tells the thrilling story behind that epic flight on its 60th anniversary. It happened at the height of the Cold War as the US and USSR confronted each other across an Iron Curtain. Both superpowers took enormous risks to get a man into space first, the Americans in the full glare of the media, the Soviets under deep cover. Both trained their teams of astronauts to the edges of the endurable. In the end the race between them would come down to the wire.
Readers of Stephen Walker’s fine new account of how Yuri Gagarin, a 27-year-old Soviet air-force major (he was promoted from lieutenant while circling the Earth), became the first man in space will discover quite a bit about Gagarin the man, but a great deal more about the program that put him into orbit 60 years ago, on April 12, 1961 ... The story of the early space race (and particularly, perhaps, to a Western audience, its lesser-known Soviet side) is of such intrinsic interest that it would be difficult to make it dull, and Mr. Walker, a documentary filmmaker as well as a writer of nonfiction, does not. On the contrary, he tells his tale with verve ...
Energetic history of the first years of the space race, focusing on Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin ... Though not the first historian to recount the Soviet Vostok program and its successors, the author does good work in contrasting it in detail with the American astronaut program ... Walker’s depiction of Gagarin’s succumbing to the 'rock star' syndrome after his orbit, a feat he would never again match, is especially affecting. A welcome addition to the literature of space exploration, shedding light on the Soviet contribution.
... vivid ... Jumping back and forth between developments in the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Walker captures the uncertainty and tension of early test flights ... Walker draws on archival records, memoirs, and interviews with family members to profile key players in the space race ... This entertaining and carefully researched history achieves liftoff.