On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person in history to leave the Earth’s atmosphere and venture into space. His flight aboard a Russian Vostok rocket lasted only 108 minutes, but at the end of it he had become the most famous man in the world. Back on the ground, his smiling face captured the hearts of millions around the globe. Film stars, politicians and pop stars from Europe to Japan, India to the United States vied with each other to shake his hand.
Despite this immense fame, almost nothing is known about Gagarin or the exceptional people behind his dramatic space flight. Starman tells for the first time Gagarin’s personal odyssey from peasant to international icon, his subsequent decline as his personal life began to disintegrate under the pressures of fame, and his final disillusionment with the Russian state. President Kennedy’s quest to put an American on the Moon was a direct reaction to Gagarin’s achievement–yet before that successful moonshot occurred, Gagarin himself was dead, aged just thirty-four, killed in a mysterious air crash. Publicly the Soviet hierarchy mourned; privately their sighs of relief were almost audible, and the KGB report into his death remains secret.
Entwined with Gagarin’s history is that of the breathtaking and highly secretive Russian space program – its technological daring, its triumphs and disasters. In a gripping account, Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony reveal the astonishing world behind the scenes of the first great space spectacular, and how Gagarin’s flight came frighteningly close to destruction.