History •  Photography and Science

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Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History

John Bisney
J. L. Pickering

The race to space between the United States and the Soviet Union captured the popular imagination. On April 12, 1961, the USSR launched cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on a one-orbit flight, making him the first human in space. Three weeks later, American astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. flew 116 miles above Earth before splashing down in the Bahamas. Over the next twenty years astronauts emerged as national heroes.

This book tells the story of the people and events of Projects Mercury and Gemini with hundreds of unpublished and rare photographs—both color and black-and-white. Unlike other publications, which illustrate the space race with well-known and easily accessible images, this history draws from the authors’ private library of over one hundred thousand (and growing) high-quality photos of the early US manned space program. Collected over a lifetime from public and private sources—including NASA archives, fellow collectors, retired NASA and news photographers, and auction houses—the images document American space missions of the Cold War era more comprehensively than ever before. Devoting a chapter to each flight, the authors also include detailed descriptions, providing new insight into one of America’s greatest triumphs.


John Bisney is a former correspondent who covered the space program for more than thirty years for CNN, the Discovery Channel, and SiriusXM Radio, among other news outlets. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

J. L. Pickering lives in Bloomington, Illinois. He is a space-flight historian who has been archiving rare space images and historic artifacts for some forty years.


“[Bisney and Pickering] have collected an impressive selection of photographs. The book’s massive assortment . . . does a wonderful job of illustrating the culture and experience of the space race.”



“Together, [Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini and Moonshots and Snapshots of Project Apollo] are a treat for any space buff and, for the true believers, a reminder that even greater journeys may lie just ahead.”


American Scientist

“An enjoyable book, offering a different look at familiar missions.”


The Space Review

“In resurrecting many obscure photos the authors have provided a valuable, and highly desirable, compendium of outstanding pictures from an age when each flight saw the release of perhaps fewer than one-hundred stock shots.”



The visual narrative employed by the authors reminds us not only of the sublimity of astronaut photography, but also the thousands of people who made spaceflight possible.”



“From a space enthusiast’s perspective, Pickering’s book feeds an interest in the ‘not-so-common’ NASA image that everyone has seen before.”


The Pantagraph

9 x 12 in. 224 pages 689 color photos