This volume is based on a scholarly conference held at NASA headquarters in 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight. An emerging theme was the image of astronauts and cosmonauts in popular culture and the media in the US and Russia/Soviet Union. The book begins with a fine editorial introduction by Neufeld (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum). Next, nine scholars from the social sciences and the humanities address this broad topic. The first three chapters consider the images of American astronauts over time, from the early “heroic era” to the space shuttle period. The following three chapters take a comparative look at the American astronauts and the Russian cosmonauts, including an excellent chapter focusing on Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, in Russian and Soviet myth. The cult of Gagarin took on religious-like relevance in Soviet times, and continues to provide nostalgic and nationalistic comfort in rural Russia today. The final three chapters address astronauts exclusively in the space shuttle era, including a revealing analysis of the sexism the first six female astronauts chosen by NASA in 1978 faced. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic, professional, and general history of science/space exploration collections. –J. Z. Kiss, University of Mississippi
TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE
Spacefarers provides a nicely textured overview of twentieth-century astroculture as well as a generous sampling of its neglected byways. It is a valuable sign of what can be achieved in this growing field.
Spacefarers is a valuable addition to the growing scholarship about humans in space and will be of interest to space historians, social and cultural historians of the Cold War, and media studies scholars.
From the Hardcover edition.