Mary Roach

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Soviet sculpture renders all its subjects larger than life, but few more so than Yuri Gagarin, who became the first man in space on April 12, 1961, nearly 50 years ago. A gleaming, 125-foot-tall titanium statue of the world’s most famous cosmonaut stands at the nexus of three freeways in Moscow, arms outstretched like a cold war superhero.

Gagarin’s achievement, and the Soviet playbook that shaped it, made him the most celebrated Soviet hero since Lenin, a triumph of nationalist glory, a role model for the young, a hypermasculine sex symbol. His deification set the “right stuff” tone that NASA would follow with its own astronauts: the lumbering icons in their puffy, complicated suits, incapable of error or weakness or even, it sometimes seemed, emotion.…  Seguir leyendo »