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9 Apr, 2021 20:27

‘Beyond’: UK author presents ‘exciting’ new book on Yuri Gagarin at Russian embassy in London, 60yrs since 1st manned space flight

‘Beyond’: UK author presents ‘exciting’ new book on Yuri Gagarin at Russian embassy in London, 60yrs since 1st manned space flight

The first spaceflight by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is a feat of humanity in itself and the Western public needs to know more about it, writer Stephen Walker said as he presented his new book at the Russian embassy in London.

The non-fiction thriller 'Beyond,' which details the events around the pioneering manned space flight of 1961, was unveiled a few days before the 60th anniversary of the iconic Vostok-1 mission.

"On April 12, 1961, this young man – Yury Gagarin – sits in a padded sphere essentially on top of the biggest rocket in the world and eleven minutes later, he's looking down on that world as no human eye ever did," Walker said.


What had been achieved by this 27-year-old and the whole Soviet team behind the launch "transcends nations, peoples and actually holds all of us – human beings – in its excitement and in its spectacle," he added.

Walker said that it was "terribly important" for him to tell Gagarin's story to the English-speaking audience, which arguably knows much more about the US Apollo program to conquer the Moon.

NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong stepping on the Moon on July 20, 1969 was a "spectacular and incredible" event, but what the USSR managed to pull off five years before that was "a greater first," the author insists.

Gagarin was "the first person to step into the cosmos; the first person to start a journey we are all on now – you can't surpass that moment as a moment in all of our history," he said.

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The book took years to write and required several trips to Russia, during which Walker interviewed many witnesses of the historic events of 1961. Those included the likes of late cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov, who was Gagarin's close friend and the first man to go on a spacewalk, and many lesser-known figurers, who worked behind the scenes to make sending the first human to space possible.

'Beyond' is no standard biography, as the book only focuses on the last several months preceding Gagarin's celebrated flight. The author also put a lot effort into showing the human side of the first man in space, trying to look into the fears and doubts that Yuri hid behind his branded smile ahead of the mission that had an estimated success rate of less than 50/50.


Russia's ambassador to the UK, Andrey Kelin, has praised Walker for his "balanced" approach, as the author manages not to favor any side while depicting the space race between the Soviet Union and the US.

'Beyond' is an "exciting read," which feels like a novel, despite being fully based on facts, the ambassador said, adding that the book would be eye-opening not only to English-speakers, but also to the Russian public.

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