This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

At the Tip of the Pyramid: The Iconography of Early Astronauts and Cosmonauts




Peterson, Tyler

Type of Degree





The first American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts became household names in the midst of proving that human beings could live and work beyond planet Earth. How and why did these men (along with one Soviet woman) achieve their status as cultural icons? This thesis will examine the impact of journalists who reported on the space travelers for public consumption, as well as the politicians who agreed to fund space efforts, in answering that question. Journalists at Life Magazine and Pravda attempted to set the agenda for the public regarding the heroic perception of space travelers. The self-images of the space travelers themselves also bear examination, because their self-images often contrasted with their images in the media. This thesis thus explains how fame operated for a group of aviators in a charged Cold War environment and the astronauts’ and cosmonauts’ own perception of that fame.