Spacefarers: Images of Astronauts and Cosmonauts in the Heroic Era of Spaceflight, edited by Michael J. Neufeld, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2013, 6.25 x 9.25 inches, 256 pages.
Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-935623-19-9, $29.95
The recent 50th anniversaries of the first human spaceflights by the Soviet Union and the United States, and the 30th anniversary of the launching of the first U.S. Space Shuttle mission, have again brought to mind the pioneering accomplishments of the first quarter century of humans in space. Historians, political scientists and others have extensively examined the technical, programmatic and political history of human spaceflight from the 1960s to the 1980s, but work is only beginning on the social and cultural history of the pioneering era. One rapidly developing area of recent scholarship is the examination of the images of spacefarers in the media, government propaganda and popular culture. How was space travel imagined in the visual media on the cusp of human spaceflights? How were astronauts and cosmonauts represented in official and quasi-official media portraits? And how were those images reproduced and transformed by in the imagination of film-makers, movie producers, popular writers, and novelists?
Spacefarers addresses these questions with nine contributions from scholars in the field of aerospace history, Russian and American history, and English literature. These essays are preceded by an introduction by the editor, NASM curator Michael J. Neufeld, who discusses their place in the historiography of spaceflight and social and cultural history. The book appeals to a wide variety of scholars in history, literature and the social sciences and includes a number of striking visual images.