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Much has been written in the West on the history of the Soviet space program but few Westerners have read direct first-hand accounts of the men and women who were behind the many Russian accomplishments in exploring space. The memoirs of Academician Boris Chertok, translated from the original Russian, fills that gap. This official NASA history series document has been converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction.

In this third volume of the series, he describes the historical launch of the first cosmonaut, Yuriy Gagarin. He also discusses several different aspects of the burgeoning Soviet missile and space programs of the early 1960s, including the development of early ICBMs, reconnaissance satellites, the Cuban missile crisis, the first Soviet communications satellite Molniya-1, the early spectacular missions of the Vostok and Voskhod programs, the dramatic Luna program to land a probe on the Moon, and Sergey Korolev's last days. He then continues into chapters about the early development of the Soyuz spacecraft, with an in-depth discussion of the tragic mission of Vladimir Komarov.

Contents: The Cold War * Preparation for Piloted Flights * The First Piloted Spaceflight: "We're Off" * The Cuban Missile Crisis . . . and Mars * Strategic Missile Selection * Correcting the Great Ones' Mistakes * After Gagarin, Others Will Fly * Man and Woman * The Voskhods and the First Spacewalk * Radio Engineering Digression * Star Wars * Spying from Space * The Hard Road to a Soft Landing * Last Launches Under Korolev * The Molniya-1 Communications Satellite * Molniya-1 in Space (and more) * Korolev's Last Days, Death, and Funeral * Birth of the Soyuzes * Flying the Soyuz * The Death of Komarov * "On the Distant Star Venus . . ." * First Rendezvous and Docking * Heart-to-Heart Conversation * Zond-4 * Gagarin's Birthday and Death * Academic Digression

Siddiqi writes: "We finally have what might be called the full bloom of the Soviet space program. Here, Chertok describes his impressions of the apex of Soviet achievements in space exploration, from the halcyon days of the launch of Yuri Gagarin into orbit in 1961 to the first piloted Soyuz mission in 1967.
Chertok devotes a significant portion of the volume to the early years of Soviet human spaceflight. These include a chapter on the Vostok and Voskhod programs, which left an indelible mark on early years of the "space race," a lengthy meditation on the origins and early missions of the Soyuz program, and a gripping account of one of the most tragic episodes of the Soviet space program: the flight and death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov during the very first piloted Soyuz flight in 1967. Additional chapters cover robotic programs such as the Molniya communications satellite system, the Zenit spy satellite program, and the Luna series of probes that culminated in the world's first survivable landing of a probe on the surface of the Moon. Chertok also devotes several chapters to the development of early generations of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and missile defense systems; his narrative here skillfully combines technical, political, personal, and strategic concerns, highlighting how these considerations were often difficult to separate into neat categories. In particular, we learn about the Soviet drive to develop a workable solid propellant ICBM and the subsequent arguments over the development of second general ICBMs in the late 1960s, a fight so acrimonious that contemporaries called it "the little civil war." Chertok's chapter on the Cuban Missile Crisis provides a radically unique perspective on the crisis, from the point of view of those who would have been responsible for unleashing nuclear Armageddon in 1962 had Kennedy and Khrushchev not been able to agree on a stalemate. Two further chapters cover the untimely deaths of the most important luminaries of the era: Sergey Korolev and Yuriy Gagarin.

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