Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Starman the truth behind the legend of Yuri Gagarin

Starman the truth behind the legend of Yuri Gagarin by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony

This is a book which I've had on my list for a while. I enjoy history especially around the cold war. The Space race was prohibitively expensive and would probably never happen without the Soviet US rivalry.

Yuri Gagarin the first man in space was a pawn in a political drama that played around him.

A few things that I thought were of interest::

  • - Gagarin didn't actually land in a capsule, he parachuted out. This was deliberately kept a secret by the Soviets so that they could claim a few world records.
  • -The Vostock capsule was all automated, the only way it could be overridden was if Soviet ground control gave the Cosmonaut the code to override. (By the time they got it, it probably would have been to late...) Gagarin was secretively given the code anyway!
  • -The first flight by Gagarin had major re-entry problems which was never mentioned at the time by the Soviets.

There were a number of things in the biography which I wanted to find out, such as his relationship with his children and wife. Where are they there now? I think it is a glaring omission in some ways.

Much of the novel left me wondering about the sources. Were they 'official Soviet' or now latter. One of the new bits of information to come to the book was from an ex-KGB person Russayev. Yet it would seem according the what I could find on the net, there is little or any information who this Russayev, if he ever was known to Gurgarin.

One of the most harrowing of chapters was the first doomed Soyuz flight, which was piloted by Komarov. Things just kept on going wrong during the flight until its doomed decent. This event was eavesdropped by US Security agents in Turkey. Gagarin was the emergency cosmonaut and months prior to the flight thought that the ship was not adequately tested and ready for flight. The whole episode would make a great hollywood movie.

The last chapter by the authors sums up his life and character which I think on the whole is correct yet they throw in the line: "He was an adulterer who never really betrayed his wife and family" I found this conflicting as two separate incidents are revealed where he attempted adultery.

This is a good biography, but not brilliant. Much about the man is yet to be revealed.


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