Into That Silent Sea


Into That Silent Sea

Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965

Francis French and Colin Burgess
With a foreword by Paul Haney

Outward Odyssey: A People's History of Spaceflight Series

440 pages
20 images and a frontispiece


September 2009


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eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2007


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About the Book

It was a time of bold new technology, historic moments, and international jousting on the final frontier. But it was also a time of human drama, of moments less public but no less dramatic in the lives of those who made the golden age of space flight happen. These are the moments and the lives that Into That Silent Sea captures, a book that tells the intimate stories of the men and women, American and Russian, who made the space race their own and gave the era its compelling character.
These pages chronicle a varied and riveting cavalcade of human stories, including a look at Yuri Gagarin’s harrowing childhood in war-ravaged Russia and Alan Shepard’s firm purchase on the American dream. It also examines the controversial career of cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, and the remarkable struggle and ultimate disappointment of her American counterparts. It tries to uncover the truth behind the allegations that shadowed Gus Grissom and Scott Carpenter and then allows the reader to share the heart-stopping suspense of Alexei Leonov’s near-fatal first space walk. Through dozens of interviews and access to Russian and American official documents and family records, the authors bring to life the experiences that shaped the lives of the first astronauts and cosmonauts and forever changed their world and ours.

Author Bio

Francis French is the director of education at the San Diego Air and Space Museum and the coauthor with Colin Burgess of In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965–1969 (Nebraska 2007).
Colin Burgess is a former flight service director with Qantas Airlines and the author of many books on spaceflight, including Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon, available in a Bison Books edition.
A NASA public affairs officer from 1958 to 1969, Paul Haney was known widely as NASA’s “voice of mission control.”


“[Into That Silent Sea] dispenses with distracting technical jargon and nationalistic jingoism to deliver ten superbly composed, thoughtfully balanced chapters about the astronauts and cosmonauts who flew Mercury and Vostok/Voskhod missions. . . . Avid readers will revel in the authors’ masterful compilation of these straight-forward, detailed mini-biographies.”—Air Power History

“Eminently readable, well-crafted. . . . The merits of this popular history rest in the elegant narrative and the authors’ thoughtful awareness of the space explorer genre.”—Air & Space Smithsonian

“French and Burgess’s history will engage the space-program audience.”—Booklist

“A well-written account about the Americans and Russians who were the first to fly into space. . . . [The book] offers some excellent profiles of these individuals that are accessible to both newcomers to space history and well-read enthusiasts alike.”—Space Review

"For space fans, this is a good read."—Choice

Into That Silent Sea is an excellent reminder of just what Gagarin and other trailblazers did and how they became international celebrities in their own right. We seem to have forgotten just how new the frontier of space was. . . . Many people today seem to view space programs as an extravagance or with disinterest. For those who remain interested in those programs and have read the prior histories and memoirs, it never hurts to be reminded of just how pioneering the first steps were.”—Tim Gebhart,,

“I enjoyed every page of this nearly 400-page tome. I was disappointed to finish it simply because I wanted to read more. . . . If you’re new to this field of reading I’d highly recommend starting with this book. The background on the spacefarers is very interesting.”—Today in Space History Blog

“The straightforward yet engrossing writing style of this history will interest readers from the junior-high level to adults. . . . What is especially compelling about this race into space story is the humanistic narrative, describing the individual cosmonauts and astronauts. . . . For younger readers, the description emphasizes the characteristics of determination, scholarship, loyalty, comraderie, dedication, and fitness—traits that are essential for astronaut applicants.”—Rita Hoots, Journal of College Science Teaching

"Through dozens of interviews and access to Russian and American official documents and family records, the authors bring to life the experiences that shaped the lives of the first astronauts and cosmonauts and forever changed their worlds and ours."—Space Flight

"Into That Silent Sea explores the early Space Age from a very human-centric perspective."—Todd A. Mooring, Oral History Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. First to Fly
2. Lighting the Candle
3. The Pursuit of Liberty
4. Flight of the Eagle
5. To Rise Above
6. Heavenly Twins
7. The Two Wallys
8. A Change of Altitude
9. A Seagull in Flight
10. Stepping into the Void


2007 Emme Award for Astronautical Literature, sponsored by the American Astronautical Society, finalist.

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