To commemorate the momentous 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering journey into space on 12th April 2011, a series of five books – to be published annually until 2011 – will explore this half century, decade by decade, to discover how humanity’s knowledge of flying, working and living in space has changed. Each volume will focus not only upon the individual missions within ‘its’ decade, but also upon the key challenges facing human space exploration at specific points within those 50 years: from the simple problems of breathing and eating in space to the challenges of venturing outside in a pressurised spacesuit and locomotion on the Moon.
The first volume of this series will focus upon the 1960s, exploring each mission from April 1961 to April 1971 in depth: from the pioneering Vostok flights to the establishment of the first Salyut space station and from Alan Shepard’s modest sub-orbital ‘hop’ into space to his triumphant arrival at the Moon’s Fra Mauro foothills almost a decade later.
The Introduction sets the scene with early plans to explore space, balloon flights and such details as the development of pressure suits. Each of the Vostok missions is then covered in depth, together with unmanned precursor flights, subsequent plans and the development of Voskhod. Chapter 2 studies the Mercury missions together with unmanned and monkey flights, the development of the Redstone and Atlas boosters and the ill-fated Dyna-Soar, while the twin Voskhod missions, including the first three-man space crew, first spacewalk and plans for subsequent Voskhods to extend time in space are covered in the third chapter. Each of the Gemini missions are
then described, as well as why and how the United States managed to achieve such a ‘lead’ over the Soviet Union, practising techniques for lunar landings, the development of spacesuit technology for extravehicular activities, ‘Blue Gemini’ and the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. The Soyuz 1 and Apollo 1 tragedies and aftermath, including redesign, changes to future plans and the effect of Korolev’s death precede a chapter on the United States’ drive for the Moon, up to Apollo 14, including the challenges facing the first lunar explorers, the consistency of lunar soil and the development of spacesuits to handle locomotion. This first volume ends with an analysis of Soviet direction changes from lunar exploration to long-term space stations (Soyuz 3 to 10 and the development of Salyut 1) and the progress of the human space program in the 1960s and plans for space exploration in the next decade.
Each of the next four volumes will follow at yearly intervals, the final one coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s epic journey