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Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age SEPTEMBER 2015

New book accompanies historic new exhibition at the Science Museum in London

On 4th October 1957, Russia launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into orbit. Four years later Yuri Gagarin followed, the first man to venture into the cold dark reaches of space. What was it like for him, alone in the airless void, surrounded by untouchable stars? On his shoulders rested the dreams of a nation – for over a century Russian culture had been saturated with dreams of space travel, of cities on the moon, of travel to foreign planets. He swung around the planet in silence, and beneath him the space race surged on, mankind reaching higher, further; developing new technology; and always, always dreaming of those distant stars.

It is a peculiarly human characteristic: we dream of space, of the seemingly unreachable, of the near-impossible. Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age is a landmark new exhibition at the Science Museum in London tracing Russia’s unique development of this characteristic – for it was Russians who first entered space; who first sent up dogs, then men and women; who carried out the first spacewalk, and who led the way with developing space stations. But space travel is much more than the politics of the age, or the bold adventurers who went where no one had gone before. Behind these barrier-breaking feats lay a huge programme of rocket science, space technology and medicine, and the stories of these support activities behind the scenes are often as absorbing as the high-profile achievements.

The accompanying book, edited by Doug Millard, which Scala is publishing in collaboration with the Science Museum, brings together essays from expert contributors – from the daughter of the first woman into space, to Aleksandr Lazutkin who experienced the horror of a fire in orbit – along with illustrations of all the objects in the exhibition and additional historical images.

During September and October 2015 the book will be available only from the Science Museum, which is releasing it in paperback. From 30th October it will also be available as a hardback from all good bookstores.

The exhibition Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age opens at the Science Museum on 18th September 2015. You’ve got a little time before then – go outside, look up at the sky and think about the men and women who got there; what they have achieved; and the legacy they left. How we are still reaching onwards and upwards, and how sometimes – just sometimes – we achieve our wildest, strangest dreams.

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