The second day in Moscow was very busy, so I’ll write about it in two parts.
First, several plans for the morning boiled down to being just one plan: visiting the Museum of Cosmonautics.
And to be fair, when I thought of a Russian museum, about something that Soviets did rather well, I thought of long corridors with rows of cupboards and showcases, maybe poorly lit or adequately but boringly, lots of homemade plastic scale models, a general sense of non-maintenance… you get the idea.
Well, I am glad to say, I was wrong. Very wrong. The ‘MoC’ easily rivals any of the great museums in London for its lightness, openness, completeness, and even, yes, enthusiasm!
The layout is effective, starting with a big entry hall with highlights, and from there you can take several routes through the history of Soviet and Russian space exploration. Everything is covered, roughly chronologically, and you realise just how friggin much the Soviets have done in space. From Yuri Gagarin (and of course even before!) to Mir and everything in between.
So we had a wonderful time exploring this museum – and I managed to make myself feel important by buying our group’s ‘photography permission ticket’ (well from the shared money pot) and getting the accompanying bright orange wrist band, that I wore proudly for another 4 days until it started to discolour and lose shape… time to take it off :). I still have it though, maybe I should have washed it… nah.
As I said, the museum is very thorough, it’s got not just the models, displays and memorabilia – although it has lots of each of these. It also does things like this:
This was touching and very telling: a memorial to two legends of the Soviet space program (evidently), whose names I can’t find nor read from the paperwork. Anyway, what I want to say is: these are actually fresh flowers.
That’s how much they care about their history. Very cool.
In the category of ‘stuff that they use in space’ this of course was my personal favourite:
Then this gives a fairly good general idea of just how much stuff they have to display. It’s only a small part of one of the halls, but most of the museum is like this… models from the ceiling and on the floor, info boards, the lighting is perfect, the decoration on the wall adds to the whole experience (see the ‘space window’ in the back). Awesome!
And then one final misconception to be shattered: that museums are just cool, emotionless summations of facts. Actually the last bit of the museum consists of numerous works of art – mostly paintings – that are inspired by (or commissioned by, that is not always clear), space. OK some paintings I must admit were no more than Soviet-style glorifications, space propaganda as it were, but others were genuine expressions of awe, or sometimes fear, of space. A nice touch, I thought, to the otherwise factual side of cosmonautics.
After that, we threw ourselves into the Moscow heat and smog for more adventures… to be continued!