This article repositions the space race as a sonic phenomenon by analyzing music and sounds related to the Soviet space program. Early triumphs such as the orbit of Sputnik I in 1957, Yuri Gagarin’s groundbreaking orbital flight in 1961, and Valentina Tereshkova’s success as the first woman in space in 1963 epitomized the complexities of the cultural Cold War and the utopian underpinnings of the Thaw. Space, the ultimate nonaligned sphere, was a new world for the planting of real and ideological flags. At the same time, these successes were key to reimagining the ideals of Soviet citizenship and national identity in the post-Stalin era. Heating up at a moment of great change and consequence, the space race provides an inroad to examine how music, media, and sound helped spread these emerging values. Drawing on the popular press, radio broadcasts, and variety television performances, this article demonstrates how music was used to humanize the cosmonauts and promote a new personal ethics—one that prized approachability and humility alongside heroism and bravery. The divergent ways that composers and performers celebrated Gagarin and Tereshkova reveal a complex politics of gender during the Thaw. Gagarin, the conqueror, was revered in marches extolling his colonizing feats; Tereshkova, the homemaker, was celebrated with romances and tales of domesticity. By demonstrating the prevalence of new media and the power of participatory practices in the sonic space race, this article contributes to our understanding of the cultural Cold War as a lived and performed experience.

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