Relics of the Race for Space.

by thisnorthernboy

Yesterday I had a little free time so I travelled into Kensington in west London to visit the Science Museum. Until March next year they have a fantastic exhibition on display – Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age. In the words of the Science Museum –

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age will reveal the most significant collection of Russian spacecraft and artefacts ever to be shown in the UK, including:

  • Vostok 6: the capsule flown by Valentina Tereshkova, the first ever woman in space
  • Voskhod 1: the capsule used on the first mission to carry more than one crew member
  • LK-3 Lunar Lander: a single cosmonaut craft built to compete with Apollo
  • a collection of gadgets that cosmonauts – and pioneering space dogs – need to live in space, including a shower, toilet, medical instruments and survival kits for crash landings. 

Explore the historical, cultural and spiritual context of Russian space travel, shaped especially by the turbulent early decades of the twentieth century. See poignant testimonies and memorabilia belonging to some of the biggest names in spaceflight and discover the deeply personal stories of the pioneers who kick-started the space age.

It’s a marvellous exhibition, my only gripe being that photography isn’t allowed (oops). The chance to see real spacecraft, that have journeyed to, and from, space is a real thrill. Looking at Valentina Tereshkova’s Vostok 6 capsule sent shivers down my spine, it’s a tiny, primitive spacecraft, and looks so battered and scorched from its re-entry. I think my favourite exhibit was the unused LK-3 Lunar Lander, the Soviet counterpart to the Apollo program. It’s a beautiful, intricate, beast of a machine, like a huge steel cyclops. 13 days before the launch of Apollo 11, the N1 Rocket (designed to carry the LK-3 and Cosmonauts to the moon) suffered a catastrophic failure, destroying both the rocket, and the launch facilities. The program never recovered and was finally cancelled in 1974. It’s a shame the LK-3 never made it to the moon, it’s what it was born to do.

I did manage to sneak a few pictures, and I grabbed a few souvenirs from the shop. I think my drawings might take on a distinctly Soviet and utilitarian appearance for a while now.