Cosmonauts: How Russia Won the Space Race

Cosmonauts: How Russia Won the Space Race


We’re familiar with footage of sunny launch days, Armstrong footing the ladder, and tickertape in Times Square. All American. Not so much the wide, fat buses delivering cosmonauts to their rockets or reflections in helmets bearing the letters “CCCP”. This remarkable, tense documentary – a Russian Right Stuff – redresses the balance.

There are stories here that will make you break out in a sweat. It’s like watching Apollo 13 followed by Gravity. To give just one example, first space-walker Alexey Leonov recalls his suit filling with air, his craft’s re-entry system failing, then landing 600 miles off course...

But it’s not all appalling risk and terrible danger. As we hear first man in space Yuri Gagarin saying (in Russian), “Everywhere there is such beauty.”

From Sputnik to the ISS, the Space Race is run in rare, epic, exhilarating fashion.


Documentary examining the Soviet Union's pioneering role in space exploration, which is often downplayed due to America's victory in the race for the moon. Combining rare footage and interviews, the programme profiles a selection of Russian cosmonauts - including Alexei Leonov, the man who performed the first spacewalk, who explains how he found himself trapped outside his spacecraft 500 miles above the Earth.

Cast & Crew

Executive Producer Jonathan Renouf