“When I orbited the Earth in a spaceship, I saw for the first time how beautiful our planet is. Mankind, let us preserve and increase this beauty, and not destroy it!”
Yuri Gagarin


Moscow’s Cosmonaut museum certianly cannot be compared to what visitors experience and see while visiting Kennedy’s Space Center at Cape Canaveral. But if you are even remotly interested in space exploration and you happen to find yourself in Moscow, this is THE place to visit. Just a few steps from VDNKh metro station, it’s easily accessible though you should check the opening times. You really cannot miss the museum because of the monument ‘To the Conquerors of Space’ placed above it. Mounted on a granite pedestal titanium spire holds a silver rocket 100 meters high representing Sputnik’s launch.


“The future of space exploration has no boundaries, and its possibilities are as limitless as the Universe itself.”


Cut-away model of the Sputnik-2 satellite, which carried a world famous dog to the space. Laika was the first Earth-born creature that entered the space, launched into orbit on 3rd November, 1957. Unfortunately after some 5 hours, the dog died from stress and overheating of the capsule.


But Laika was not the only dog that was sent to space. Strelka and Belka were sent (along with a rabit, two rats, a bunch of mice, flies and some plants and fungie) to orbit on 19th August 1960 aboard Sputnik 5, seen above, and safely returned back to Earth the next day. This way they became the first Earth creatures that made a space flight and returned alive back to home planet. Later Strelka had puppies and one of them, Pushinka (‘Fluffy’) was given to Kennedy’s daughter Caroline by Nikita Kruschev in 1961. She had puppies as well (JFK used to call them pupniks, jokingly referencing them to Sputnik).


Some of Yuri Gagarin’s personal belongings, including the Order of Lenin and Soviet highest decoration Hero of the Soviet Union.


A model of Luna-9. Luna-9 became famous when it softly landed on the Moon and send photos to the Earth on 3rd February, 1966. Thus it became the first man-made object that softly landed on other planetary object than Earth. The photographs provided a panoramic view of the nearby lunar surface. The pictures included views of nearby rocks and of the horizon. Perhaps the most important discovery of the mission was determining that a foreign object would not simply sink into the lunar dust, that is, that the ground could support a heavy lander.


Korolev’s office. Sergei Korolev was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer during the Space race of ’50s and ’60s and viewed by many as Father of practical astronautics. Although Aircraft Designer by education he quickly became involved in rockets, examining captured German V-2 rockets, got involved in first intercontinental ballistic missiles and continued his work in ’50s and ’60s on Space Exploration programme until his early death in 1966.


Space Shuttle Buran with Energia stack. Unfortunately this amazing piece of engineering made only one flight into orbit in this configuration when the fall of Soviet Union cancelled further flights and marked the end of the Buran and Energia programmes.


A model of Soyuz-4 and Soyuz-5 connection. These two space craft were the first spacecraft to connect to eachother in space, which happened on 16th January 1969, a month and a half before the Apollo 9. The purpose of the mission was a connection of the two modules, transfer of both cosmonauts from S-5 to S-4 and safe return to the Earth aboard Soyuz-4. Since the transfer tunnel was not yet completed, both cosmonauts had to spacewalk to Soyuz-4. This attempt marked a significant step forward in Soviet Lunar programme.


Sokol-K space emergency suit worn by cosmonaut V.N. Kubasov. The suit was designed in 1973 for Soyuz crews and is still in use as of today. It is used during takeoffs and landings of spacecraft and is not intended for space walking. It’s main purpose would be to keep cosmonuat alive in the event of sudden depressurization.


Zvezda K-36RB – Buran variant of the famous K-36 ejection seat that is used in all modern Russian jet fighters and is regarded one of the best if not THE best ejection seat in the world. Unlike NASA’s Space Shuttle, which had a rescue hatch for emergency, Buran’s cosmonauts were equipped with ejection seats.


Heat protection is essential and the lack of it can prove catastrophic as Space Shuttle Colubia’s accident proved. Soviets were also designing various foam materials helping to defeat extreme heat during reentry of the Buran.


A model of Phobos probe. In July 1988, Soviet Union launched two probes named Phobos-1 and Phobos-2 towards Mars, exploring its Phobos and Deimos moons. Contact was lost with Phobos-1 enroute to Mars while Phobos-2 reached the Mars orbit, sent several dozen photos back to the Earth but unfortunately contact was lost before it could deploy its Phobos lander. It is of interesting fact that Phobos programme was a cooperation with 14 other countries including many of the Western Europe ones and United States.


Krechet space suit was designed in 1967 for Soviet lunar cosmonuats. Primary life support was guaranteed for 10 hours after which the elements had to be resupplied. The shelf life of such suit was only 48 hours of space operations.


Luna-16 was the first robotic space craft that landed on the Moon and sentย  a soil sample back to the Earth and was preceeded only by NASA’s Apollo 11 and 12 manned excursions. It was launched on 13th September 1970 and reached Lunar orbit on 17th. It landed on 20th and send back 101 grams of lunar soil the next day.


Lunokhod-1 was the first lunar rover that landed on Moon in 1970 delivered by Luna-17. It was 2.3 meters long and its main purpose was scientific studies of Moon’s soil with its advanced sensors (X-rays, lasers,…) It was powered by batteries which were filled by solar energy. During the night, radioactive heater unit was used to keep all the deviced at normal temperatures. It was supposed to work for 3 months, but it actually worked for 11! Some trivia – distance travelled: 10.540m, more than 20.000 photos made, more than 200 high resolution panoramas and 25 analysis with X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and penetrometer used at more than 500 locations.


ZIL-29061 – a monster screw powered vehicle that uses a jet engine from Yak-40 for the power. This kind of vehicles were used to locate cosmonauts that landed in the Kazakh steppes. There’s some cool youtube movies out there of this monster worth checking out.


A diorama depicting cosmonauts Volkov, Krikalyov and Polyakov after Soyuz-TM 7 landing in April 1989. The crew was aboard Mir Space Station from November 1988 and due to the launch delays, left Mir unmanned. It is an interesting fact that they carried with them a radio casette of Pink Floyd’s latest album Delicate Sound of Thunder and so Pink Floyd became first rock music played in space. David Gilmour also recorded Soyuz-TM 7 launch at Baykonur for possible use in future Pink Floyd project.


Cosmonauts survival kit including flare gun, medications, machette, morfine, compass, whistle,… It could take some time before the cosmonauts were found and all of this equipment was essential for survival.


Orlan-DMA Space Suit – this suit was first used in 1988 on Mir Station and was used till the end of operations in 1997. Modified versions are still in use today on International Space Station as well as in Chinese space programme under a name Haiying.


A cutaway of a Il-76 model. Il-76 is a heavy transport plane but this particular variant is used for zero-G training. The flight looks as follows – aircraft flies steady at 6.5km the initiates a steep climb that lasts 20 seconds. This was followed by a slight push on the controls to maintain 0G and while passing 9kms of altitude flight transforms to a dive and a at certain moment a pull on the controls takes the aircraft to the initial 6.5km of altitude. 0G time lasts 30 seconds through this manuever.


Zenit 3M camera – this camera was operated by cosmonaut Viktor Patsayev. He was a Soyuz-11 member and operated a space observatory Orion-1 aboard Salyut-1 space station and thus became the first person to operate a telescope outside Earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately after re-entry all the crew members were found dead when the capsule was found. Apparently a valve was released just prior to leaving the orbit, releasing the capsules atmosphere into space and suffocating the crew. Patsayev’s hand was bruised leading to possibility he tried to shut the valve manually before loosing consciousness.


A statue dedicated to Konstatin Tsiolkovsky – a Russian/Soviet rocket scientist and pioneer of astronauthic theory. He is considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics and his work greatly influenced Koroloev and Glushko, thus having a big impact on development of Soviet/Russian space programme.