Contents

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p. ix

Illustrations

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p. x

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xxii

In October 1957 the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite. It shocked, surprised, amazed, and confounded the federal establishment in Washington. At the time I was working for the 140-year-old Washington Evening Star. Following the Sputnik announcement the Star commissioned me to do something that usually preceded a congressional vote on whether to go to ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

The authors would like to express their sincere gratitude to those who helped in the research and compilation of this book, which relates a number of complex and very personal stories. Such an undertaking would have been extremely difficult—if not impossible—without their support and assistance. Our foremost thanks must go to the spacefarers, both Russian and American, ...

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Introduction

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pp. xxv-xxvii

One momentous event begins this book, and another closes it. In April 1961 a human being rocketed into space for the first time, and in March 1965 another human floated out of a spacecraft on the first-ever spacewalk. The technological, political, and cultural momentum behind these two historic events, and the steps taken in between them, have already been well ...

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1. First to Fly

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pp. 1-36

When venturing into the unknown, the first step taken is often the biggest and the boldest. A young Russian pilot named Yuri Gagarin took humankind's first step into space. He died in his mid-thirties, so his image is fixed: a youthful icon symbolizing the first human journey above our planet. As President Lyndon B. Johnson wrote, "Yuri Gagarin's courageous and ...

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2. Lighting the Candle

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pp. 37-75

In May 1959, an attractive twenty-three-year-old air force nurse based at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida began work at her newly assigned job. At the end of a curious string of circumstances, Dee O'Hara unexpectedly found herself at the very heart of perhaps the greatest engineering endeavor ever undertaken, and doing what would come to be regarded as one of the ...

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3. The Pursuit of Liberty

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pp. 76-98

Hot on the heels of Alan Shepard's triumphant flight, a second manned mission was launched from Cape Canaveral. This one, however, came perilously close to ending in tragedy. At mission's end NASA would lose a precious spacecraft and come within a hair's breadth of losing an astronaut. Worst of all, that astronaut would almost drown within sight of a circling ...

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4. Flight of the Eagle

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pp. 99-126

Gherman Titov awoke gradually, after a deep sleep. If he had been dreaming, those dreams quickly vanished as he tried to make sense of a confusing rush of sensations. At first, he had no idea where he was, and a nagging headache wasn't helping as he tried to orient himself. He looked at his arms; to his astonishment, they were floating gently in front of him, and he could ...

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5. To Rise Above

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pp. 127-170

On 24 May 1962, a small spacecraft named Aurora 7 approached the west coast of Australia. Weightless inside the snug cabin, strapped to a custom-made contour couch, Lt. Cmdr. Scott Carpenter (USN) soared over the Muchea tracking station 146 miles below. The Mercury astronaut had already witnessed his first sunset. Below him it was already the middle of the night. ...

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6. Heavenly Twins

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pp. 171-197

At 11:30 a.m. on 11 August 1962, the seventh person to leave the Earth in a spacecraft was launched into orbit. It was a Soviet national holiday known as Physical Culture Day, and the much-rumored launch was dramatically announced in a special Radio Moscow broadcast to the nation, interrupting regular programs. The report had actually been held back for one hour ...

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7. The Two Wallys

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pp. 198-246

The bus carrying NASA administrator Dan Goldin's group of specially invited guests cautiously made its way back from the shuttle launch viewing area through a nighttime lightning storm. Like the weather, the mood at Cape Canaveral that evening in 1999 was somber; the launch of Eileen Collins, the first American woman spacecraft commander, had just been scrubbed ...

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8. A Change of Attitude

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pp. 247-288

It could almost have been an action scene straight from The Right Stuff, a movie that has attracted a cult following since it was first released in 1983. An overlaid caption tells us that we are at Cape Canaveral the day before the planned Mercury flight of acclaimed astronaut Gordon Cooper—the self-professed "greatest pilot you ever saw," according to the movie's ...

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9. A Seagull in Flight

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pp. 289-331

On 13 June 1963, the world's press was buzzing with mounting speculation about an exciting landmark in space exploration. Informed reports of an imminent spaceflight by a woman cosmonaut were freely sweeping around Moscow. These reports suggested that the history-making flight might last up to eight days and that the woman would not be alone in space. This ...

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10. Stepping into the Void

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pp. 332-384

It was an astonishingly simple plan and one quite breathtaking in its audacity. A gamble for glory that would earn acclaim and tremendous banner propaganda for the Soviet Union but that would subsequently attract justifiable criticism when the full facts were revealed. Words such as reckless, hazardous, and ill-conceived would later be attached to the first manned flight ...

References

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pp. 385-397