So, #Cosmonauts at the Science Museum. Put it this way: they’ve got Valentina Tereshkova’s ship.


More than that, they’ve got documents of Tsiolkovsky’s, an LK-3 lunar lander, an ejection seat for dogs, Vladimir Dzhanibekov’s strides. And that’s saying something. And the volunteers (I think) are really impressive, hopping out from behind artefacts to press information on you.

I especially liked the way they expressed the sheer length of Russian/Soviet space history back to the 1880s, and its situation in the tumult of Russian culture at the turn of the 20th century. Where everyone else was either getting into Kulturpessimismus or Freudian introspection, they were almost obsessively optimistic.

This played out in various directions – in one way, in search of transcendence through the creation of artistic experiences, in another, in search of political revolution either through assassination or through a vanguard coup, and on the poorly defined frontier between serious science and tinkering, in the effort to leave the planet itself. Anything could be achieved with enough will, and it’s telling that the revolutionaries specifically chose to dump the impersonal economic forces from Marxism in favour of giving history a kick up the arse.

So we have the architect who spent decades in the Soviet Union re-planning his monument to cosmism, the (pretty crazy) philosophy that inspired, among others, Tsiolkovsky. The architect ended up in the gulag in 1948, only two years after Stalin signed the directive bringing the 1930s rocket tinkerers from GIRD back together to start the long-range rocket programme in Kasputin Yar, and not many more years after Korolev himself was released.

And it wasn’t just that a lot of Constructivists and Suprematists produced work that looked space-y; Tsiolkovsky, still around, sketched out treatments for science fiction movies that fed back into the culture. They were getting it from the source. This culture inspired the rocket tinkerers and therefore directly influenced the people who would eventually build the R-7 Semyorka that Tim Peake took to the ISS last week.

Also, fans of high analogue user interfaces will love it.


4 Comments on "#Cosmonauts"

  1. Yummy. I am looking forward to seeing this immediately before the PSB gig there in Feb. The lander!!!! The lander!!! Nevertheless, I note that they’ve borrowed Helen Sharman’s Sokol suit from here in Leicester, and they haven’t got hold of our Soyuz – it’s still in pride of place, now with the Rogallo Gemini test vehicle which the SciMus themselves somehow decided to give us right behind it.


    1. Excellent idea. Gig is Fri Jan 22. I’m afraid it’s sold out (got my ticket by pressing ‘redial’ a lot the moment they came on sale…) and I have no spare tickets. Here is exhibition booking info: • The Cosmonauts exhibition has limited capacity, so if you’d like to see it on the evening of the show you will need to book a timed slot – these start every 15 minutes
      • We’d recommend at least 45 minutes to see the exhibition but you may like longer
      • If you don’t pre-book an exhibition ticket, you may need to queue for the next available slot and won’t be eligible for the discount
      • Please allow at least 10 minutes to walk from the exhibition to the IMAX Theatre where the show will be
      • The Science Museum is open until 22.00 on Fridays and the show starts at 20.30.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.