The road to the stars is open.
– Sergei Korolev, 1957
I had been meaning to catch the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum for a while so when I heard they would be open until 10pm every Friday until the exhibition closes I decided to kickstart my weekend with a trip to Outer Space – (the jokes get worse from hereon in. Sorry.)
We begin by meeting two of the most influential figures of the Soviet Space Race – the mysterious ‘Chief Designer’ behind the spacecrafts that gave the Russians the edge over their American counterparts, Sergei Korolev, and the forefather of modern Space exploration, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.
Unlike my disappointing experience at the V&A, this exhibition is excellently curated and even though the content runs the risk of alienating those of us who don’t have a degree in physics it strikes the perfect balance between informative and accessible.
All the key players were covered – the first canine cosmonaut, Laika, who made it all the way to Outer Space but sadly didn’t survive the return trip. A few more dummy runs with dogs who did live to woof the tale and the Russians were ready to send a human – Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space and returned to a hero’s welcome. Then there’s Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in Space, and Alexey Leonov who made the first Spacewalk.
There’s plenty to pique the interest of even the most avid museum-goer from peering inside Tereshkova’s own spacecraft to watching archive footage of early cosmonauts in training while international headlines celebrating the Soviet Union’s space successes are projected onto walls overhead. But it wasn’t all great guns and glory: the exhibition also pays homage to the cosmonauts who lived and died by their missions into Space.
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in the cradle forever.
– Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, 1911
There are a few volunteers dotted around the exhibition – make a beeline for them if you see them. There is a story behind every item on display and they know each one inside out. I met a lovely lady named Valia whose enthusiasm was infectious and talking to her really made my visit to the museum all the more special. It was great to talk to someone who was so obviously passionate about the items on display and who got joy from sharing this with the visitors.
If you do decide to visit this exhibition (and you should do) be prepared for a lot of reading and a lot of people. But stick with it. The curation is excellent and my interest was held from start to finish. If you’re as interested in the stories of the people behind the Soviet Space Race as you are in the science then this is the exhibition for you.
Running until 13th March 2016 with late opening until 10pm on Friday nights book your tickets quick or miss out on one of the best exhibitions the city has to offer. You have been warned!
Until next time,