The dome. Credit: Neil Scheibelhut, HI-SEAS Crew III

Life on Mars

It seems like everyone’s talking about sending people to Mars. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has just found evidence of liquid water on Mars today, Ridley Scott’s The Martian is bringing the Red Planet to life in our cinemas and you can see a spacesuit designed for use on Mars in our Cosmonauts exhibition.

There is hope that we’ll be sending people to Mars for real in the next few decades – but when they go, will they be ready for the journey?

In October 2014, six people went into a dome on the side of a volcano. They spent the next eight months re-creating a mission to Mars: they didn’t see any other people, ate freeze-dried food and had to wear spacesuits to go outside.

Martha Lenio is a Canadian engineer, commander of the NASA HI-SEAS simulated Mars mission and my good friend. While she was in the dome, we could only communicate by e‑mail and send voice messages that were delayed 40 minutes (as though they were going to Mars and back). Last week she came to visit and we took a trip to the Mars Rover test site to talk about her adventure.

Martha mentioned that she was applying for a simulated mission to Mars on the day that applications closed. A few months later she was heading to Wyoming as one of the finalists for the mission. A short camping trip was the only chance the crew had to get to know each other before flying to Hawaii to spend eight months living together in a dome about half the size of a tennis court.

The HI-SEAS dome. Credit: Zak Wilson, HI-SEAS Crew III

The HI-SEAS dome. Credit: Zak Wilson, HI-SEAS Crew III

During the camping trip, Martha was chosen as commander of the mission and is now only the third woman to command a NASA mission of any kind. The other members of the team took on different roles through the course of the mission and everyone was performing experiments similar to those that would run on a real Mars mission.

Far from having nothing to do, all the crew members were kept busy working on their experiments. Martha herself was testing how to grow plants indoors under LED lights. Even after losing a crop of lettuce to white mites (which wouldn’t happen on real Mars), she grew enough to make a few salads – a welcome change from eating only freeze-dried food.

Salad grown on 'Mars'. Credit: HI-SEAS Crew III

Salad grown on ‘Mars’. Credit: HI-SEAS Crew III

While the team were in the dome, I asked Martha what she missed most from the outside world. The whole crew missed their families, particularly at Christmas and on birthdays. Martha especially missed the outside world – feeling the sun and wind on her skin. And many crew members felt isolated without access to social media or the internet.

However, the really big change was living so closely together. Even though they were isolated from the rest of the world, there was very little privacy within the dome. I asked Martha if that made it difficult to maintain good relationships. Her answer was typically diplomatic: ‘Really, it’s just the same as normal life. Stuff happens and you deal with it – except you’re in a dome and you can’t leave.’

Christmas on 'Mars'. Credit: Martha Lenio, HI-SEAS Crew III

Christmas on ‘Mars’. Credit: Martha Lenio, HI-SEAS Crew III

Martha grew up in a big family, so sharing a small space with five other people wasn’t a big shock for her. Even so, the whole crew had to adjust to their new living arrangements. Their tiny, wedge-shaped bedrooms were right next to each other and sound carries easily in the dome. Luckily, there were no loud snorers in the crew!

Crew sleeping pods. Credit: Sian Proctor, HI-SEAS

Crew sleeping pods. Credit: Sian Proctor, HI-SEAS

Martha, Jocelyn, Sophie, Allen, Neil and Zak are now ‘back on Earth’ and, amazingly, still friends. Of course, Martha is glad to be back with her family, but she has no regrets and would make the same decision again – though she wouldn’t go through the experience a second time unless it were a real mission to Mars.

As for a real trip to Mars, Martha would love to go, but only if she gets to come back. As she says: ‘I would want to share my experiences with people here. And I like Earth!’

Martha was interviewed by Mary Cavanagh, an Assistant Content Developer at the Science Museum. 

Featured image: The dome. Credit: Neil Scheibelhut, HI-SEAS Crew III

Science Museum congratulates Dame Zaha Hadid

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, today offered his congratulations to Dame Zaha Hadid, who has been awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ 2016 Royal Gold Medal.

Dame Zaha becomes the first woman to be the sole recipient of this prestigious prize, which is approved by Her Majesty The Queen and awarded to an individual or group who have had a significant influence in the advancement of architecture.

A globally renowned architect, she won commission to design a new Mathematics gallery which is opening at the Science Museum in 2016.

‘We are delighted on Dame Zaha’s behalf’ said Mr Blatchford. “With her mathematical background, she is a beacon of inspiration for young women. The sculptural designs for our new mathematics gallery set a new standard when it comes to crystallising abstract mathematical thinking into beautiful physical forms.”

Her diverse portfolio of work includes the Aquatics Centre that she designed for the London Olympics and China’s Guangzhou Opera House.

Dame Zaha said, ‘I am very proud to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal, in particular, to be the first woman to receive the honour in her own right.’

The new Mathematics gallery at the Science Museum has been made possible by the largest individual donation ever made to the museum from long-standing supporters of science, David and Claudia Harding.

At the launch of the gallery with the Hardings, Dame Zaha expressed her excitement at being a part of the project as ‘it connects ideas of complexity and curvature with science making it a science installation instead of an art installation.’

Dame Zaha was also the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, once again defying traditional and stereotypical expectations of what woman can achieve in architecture and science.

During a visit to the Science Museum, Dame Zaha talked about the battles woman face when pursuing science and mathematics, compared with men, with women comprising only 21% of full science professors (according to the US National Science Foundation).

She noted how her success has been an inspiration to young women: ‘when I go out to give a talk somewhere there are many girls who come to me. They want to be reassured that they actually can break that barrier and also do it with confidence.’

Next month the museum will celebrate Ada Lovelace Day (13th October), an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, with a new exhibition exploring the remarkable story of mathematician Ada Lovelace. The exhibition brings together her portraits, letters and notes, alongside Charles Babbage‘s incredible calculating machines that she studied.

Sinéad Carroll is the External Affairs & Digital Team Assistant.

Next mission revealed for Dr Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space

Dr Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, today declared that she would like to join the director of the Science Museum on a space flight during the launch of the museum’s most ambitious exhibition ever, Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age.

Dr Valentina Tereshkova and Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford stand in front of Vostok 6 in Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

Dr Valentina Tereshkova and Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford stand in front of Vostok 6 in Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

With the director, Ian Blatchford, and Dr Tereshkova was Sergei Krikalev a veteran of six space flights and eight space walks who, until very recently, held the record for the amount of time in space – 803 days, 9 hours and 39 minutes.

Mr Blatchford had joked with them that he would like to be launched into orbit explaining how, after spending five years on the project, he has great connections and ‘great moral strength – but am a physical coward.”

Tereshkova looked at him and said, in English, “together.”

To the cheers of the press pack, she explained in Russian: “If you and I went together, this would be the best proof of British-Russian cooperation.”

She said that the fact the exhibition was held in London in the Science Museum was “very symbolic of good cooperation between British and Russian scientists – of course we would like it to be broader and deeper.”

She was reunited in the museum with the spacecraft that was her home for almost three days, Vostok 6 (Russian: Orient 6) , which was launched on June 16, 1963.

Dr Valentina Tereshkova and Vostok 6 in Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

Dr Valentina Tereshkova and Vostok 6 in Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

That same mission made her the first civilian in space and she remains the only woman to have flown a solo space mission.

Dr Tereshkova added that every time she sees the craft, with its scorched heat-shield, she strokes it and says. “My lovely one, my best and most beautiful friend, my best and most beautiful man.”

It emerged that the Soviet scientists and engineers had forgotten a key provision when she was launched: a toothbrush. When asked how she coped, she said: “I was very resourceful, as any woman would be. I had my hands and I had water.”

But she added that, of course, this was nothing compared with a serious engineering error that made her spacecraft ascend ‘up and up’ rather than descend to Earth. “I discovered that mistake, reported it back to ground control and we corrected it.”

She implored the mastermind behind the Soviet space programme Chief Designer, Sergei Korolev, not to punish the engineer responsible. He said I want your word you would never tell anyone about it, especially journalists. I kept the secret for 30 years whereas the engineer himself told the whole world. Cosmonauts can keep their word  – both men and women. Particularly women.”

Re-entry of her module was on a steep ‘ballistic trajectory,’ she explained, and it was hard to control. ‘There were huge overloads for the spaceship.”

She ended up over the Altai region of what is now the Russian Federation and “at a height of seven kilometres, I catapulted out of the spacecraft and parachuted down to Earth.”

At one point she thought she might end up in a lake. “I begged god not to land on water. God heard my prayers and allowed me to land on the shores of that lake.”

When asked if she was disappointed that there have been so few woman cosmonauts recently, she replied: “Of course I was disappointed, we were all disappointed.” But she added: “The attitude to women will change: do you hear me!”

The exhibition has several cosmonaut-flown space craft and other objects that capture the birth of the space age – and mark those extraordinary Soviet firsts that saw humans leave Earth for the first time.

Krikalev said that he was lucky to learn so much from  pioneering cosmonauts such as Dr Tereshkova.

The launch of Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age (L-R) Dr Valentina Tereshkova, Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford and Sergei Krikalev © Science Museum

The launch of Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age (L-R) Dr Valentina Tereshkova, Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford and Sergei Krikalev © Science Museum

Apart from his remarkable space endurance records, he is famous for being in orbit in a space station when the Soviet Union turned into the Russian Federation. “Our operations in space were more stable than what was happening down on Earth.”

When it comes to the future of spaceflight, Krikalev said the useful life of the International Space Station will be extended to 2020, perhaps 2024.

He explained that the US and Russia are developing new spacecraft to fly beyond low Earth orbit, and Russia is considering ‘building a lunar station.”

Tereshkova added that ‘The first priority is the moon.”

Mr Blatchford said that Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age shows how, decades before manned flight, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was imagining space flight and accurately predicting much of what followed. He cited Tsiolkovsky’s famous remark: “Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.”

His work inspired a whole generation. The exhibition covers milestone missions such as Luna 9, which carried out the soft landing on the Moon in 1966 (just after Korolev died), Venera 7 – first ever landing on another planet in 1970 (Venus),  and the remarkable Russian expertise in long endurance missions, such as Mir.

Venera 7 lander and parachute (engineering model, 1970) in Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

Venera 7 lander and parachute (engineering model, 1970) in Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

Mr Blatchford thanked Doug Millard, space curator, who has spent almost a decade on this project, the Russian Ministry of Culture, The State Museum and Exhibition Centre (Rosizo), The Russian Space Agency (Roscomos), United Space and Rocket Corporation, British Council and the exhibition’s Lead Sponsor: BP.

On visiting the exhibition, Professor Brian Cox said: “I think you will leave the Cosmonauts exhibition with a different view of humanity’s place in the cosmos.”

By Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age is open from 18 September 2015 – 13 March 2016. The exhibition is supported by BP and has additional support from ART RUSSE (Major Funder) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin with the Lunar Lander in the Cosmonauts exhibition. © Science Museum

Buzz Aldrin visits Cosmonauts exhibition

On 20 July 1969, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made their historic Apollo 11 moonwalk, becoming the first two humans to set foot on another world.

Yesterday Buzz visited the Science Museum’s Cosmonauts exhibition, which opens to the public on the 18 September and has at its heart the 3.5 ton Lunniy Korabl (“lunar ship”) – or LK-3.

The single cosmonaut moon lander was built by the USSR in the same year that Apollo 11 took Buzz into the history books and was moved to the museum earlier this year for our landmark exhibition.

Would Buzz have liked to have used an LK-3 to land on the moon? He gave me an emphatic ‘no.’

The same engine was used for both descent and ascent from the moon while the American moon lander – a copy of which Buzz inspected in the museum, along with Apollo 10 – used two separate engines. If the Soviet landing engine failed ‘they were splattered.’

One other key design difference was the lack of a tunnel to link the lander to the orbiting Soviet ‘mother ship’, the LOK (lunar orbiting cabin). By comparison, Apollo’s lander was connected by a tunnel to the Lunar Excursion Module after docking (Aldrin himself had helped devise procedures for docking in the Gemini 12 mission).

To use the LK-3, a cosmonaut would have to leave the ship and spacewalk to the lander, letting himself in by the lander’s oval hatch.

Part of the LK-3 lunar lander is lifted into the Science Museum’s Cosmonauts exhibition. © and London & Partners

Part of the LK-3 lunar lander is lifted into the Cosmonauts exhibition. © and London & Partners

The Soviet moon lander was intended to be launched using the behemoth N1 rocket. But all four test-flights of the N1 launcher had ended in failure. While some earlier unmanned LKs were launched into Earth Orbit, none was launched towards the Moon.

Aldrin recounted how he was training for Apollo 11 around a month before the launch, when the news of the failure reached America. ‘Someone open the training Command Module door and asked: “Do you need another month of study, of preparation?”

He knew the N1 failure was a major setback for the rival Soviet programme. ‘We talked about it and said, no, we were ready to go.”

Buzz told me he was aware of Soviet unmanned circumlunar missions, known as Zond, but knew that America was ahead of its rivals in December 1968 with the launch of Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth orbit, reach the Earth’s Moon, orbit it and return safely to Earth.

He was impressed by some aspects of the rockets developed by the Soviet Union’s Chief Designer, Sergei Korolev, but it was clear from his replies that the spirit of the space race was still alive.

Buzz was ambivalent about US support for Russian space efforts and when it comes to Russian plans for Mars, he said diplomatically that he wanted to find out more (Buzz is visiting the UK to promote his children’s book “Welcome to Mars”).

According to Buzz, the Cosmonauts exhibition shows the story of a ‘competitor that lost’.

But, of course, he was referring to the race to the moon. When it comes to the first humans in space, the Soviet Union led the way. ‘We had a programme laid out and we just let them do what they want,’ said Aldrin.

When he arrived at the Science Museum, Buzz was greeted by the Director, Ian Blatchford; Chair of the Board of Trustees, Dame Mary Archer; Trustee and former Science Minister, David Willetts; and Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

He was accompanied around Cosmonauts by his son Andy Aldrin, space executive and expert on Soviet space endeavour, and by Deputy Keeper, Doug Millard.

Earlier this year, Alexei Leonov, who was being prepared to be the first Soviet cosmonaut on the moon, described how he had watched Apollo 11’s launch from a facility in Moscow.

Disappointed, though united by the Cosmists vision of human space exploration, he kept his fingers crossed for his astronaut comrades, he said.

But the Soviet lunar dream officially ended in 1974. Their programme had been starved of money compared with Apollo and was dogged by political infighting.

The Soviet Union pursued manned and unmanned programmes, dissipating scarce resources, and lost momentum, not least when Korolev died in 1966.

One could sense Leonov’s frustration with how close they had come when he told an audience in the Science Museum how ‘six spacecraft orbited the moon without a man on board.’

Roger Highfield is Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Group.

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age is open from 18 September 2015 – 13 March 2016. The exhibition is supported by BP and has additional support from ART RUSSE (Major Funder) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Russia’s 19th century cosmic pioneers

The ideas that fuelled the birth of the space age dawned much longer ago than many realise. In their research for our Cosmonauts exhibition, Science Museum curators traced the origins of the first great leap into space by Yuri Gagarin in 1961 to events that took place well before the turn of the 20th century.

Russian fascination with the cosmos first flickered into life in the 1880s with the appearance in print of the first translations of Western science fiction novels by French writers such as Camille Flammarion, Henri De Graffigny and Jules Verne – notably De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon), in which a cannon was used for a moon shot. Verne’s novel also inspired three gifted individuals, each working independently in different countries.

The first two, Robert Goddard, an American, and Hermann Oberth, born to German-speaking parents in Transylvania (now Romania), were professors of physics who subsequently developed the first liquid-propelled rocket and the first long-range ballistic missile, the V-2, respectively.

V2 rocket in the Making the Modern World gallery. Credit Science Museum

V2 rocket in the Making the Modern World gallery. Credit Science Museum

The third great architect of the space age was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a self-educated Russian polymath, now known as the grandfather of Soviet space travel. A crater on the far side of the moon is now named in his honour and, as well as featuring examples of his work and even one of his ear trumpets. Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age will open the day after his birthday, 17th September.

Tsiolkovsky wrote both science fiction and treatises on rocket propulsion. His article “The Investigation of Outer Space by Means of Rocket Devices”, published in 1903, introduced the idea of using liquid propellants as rocket fuel and also discussed weightlessness.

Though this marked the first mathematical explanation of how it would be possible to shake of the shackles of the Earth’s gravity to venture into space, the article made little impact. However, his follow up article in 1911 and Aims of Astronauts in 1914 aroused wider interest by discussing two key problems: rocket motors and interplanetary communication.

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Credit: Archive of Russian Academy of Sciences

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Credit: Archive of Russian Academy of Sciences

Unlike Goddard and Oberth, Tsiolkovsky never built an actual rocket. However, the cosmic vision depicted in his drawings, novels and scientific papers became hugely influential. Sergei Korolev, Chief Designer of the Russian space programme (whose portrait looms over the exhibition), later commented that Tsiolkovsky’s theory of multi-stage rockets – “rocket trains” – to all intents and purposes opened the path for humanity to get into space.  

At the turn of the 20th century cosmism emerged in Russia, blending ideas from Western and Eastern philosophy along with those of the Russian Orthodox church to ponder the origin, evolution and future of the cosmos and humankind.  Perhaps the leading figure of this movement was Nikolai Fedorov, an advocate of radical life extension by means of scientific methods and of resurrection too – the exhibition includes his Outline of the Image of a Universal Task of Resurrection (around 1900) which depicts humanity’s duty to achieve immortality.

During that time at the end of the nineteenth century Tsiolkovsky conceived of a grandiose project: to set out key philosophical questions  “from a cosmic point of view”, not least how Earth could cope with immortal humans, publishing his ideas in the following decades. To cope with the burgeoning demands of Earth’s ever-growing population, he believed the future of humanity lay in the heavens. As he put it,

“The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle.”

Tsiolkovsky argued that colonizing space would lead to the perfection of the human race.  He believed that humanity had every reason for “cosmic optimism”, since it was possible for human culture to develop without limits in the vastness of the cosmos. For Tsiokovsky the goal of space exploration was to achieve universal happiness.

Cosmic fascination was by then commonplace. Russians had been enthralled when the American Percival Lovell, who founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, speculated that the red planet was home to an advanced but now dead civilization that had constructed canals to transport water, in three books: Mars (1895), Mars and Its Canals (1906) and Mars As the Abode of Life (1908). (Today many scientists believe that Mars might have been able to support life, probably in the past when it had oceans, but that it most likely would have been microbial). In 1915, Yakov Perelman, the son of Russian Jewish intellectuals, wrote what was thought to be the first serious book on space travel, Interplanetary Travel.

The allure of the cosmos was amplified in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent civil war that would see the ascendance of the Red Army, fighting for the Bolshevik brand of socialism. The new Bolshevik leaders of the Soviet Union fully embraced science and technology and there was a hunger for an optimistic vision of the future that transcended the horrors of the First World War.

By 1924, the media“seemed to have found a new craze: space travel”, comments Asif Siddiqi, a professor of history at Fordham University in New York. “The cosmos seemed to be everywhere,” he writes in the book to accompany the exhibition. “Prominent public figures gave talks to an enraptured public, enthusiasts joined together to discuss interplanetary flight, publishers issued books with fantastic illustrations, and a feature film on space exploration had just been released to theatres.”

Enthusiasts formed the first societies dedicated to space travel.  Among them was the Society for the Study of Interplanetary Communications, formed in the spring of 1924 at the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy in Moscow and driven by Fridrikh Tsander, who in 1922 resigned from his job at a factory to design a space plane powered by a rocket engine that would make efficient use of melted aluminium from its fuselage as fuel. Tsander also analysed re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and landing.

Nikolai Rynin, a specialist in aeronautics who organised a similar society in Leningrad, wrote a nine-volume encyclopaedia, Interplanetary Communications, published between 1928 and 1932, which sought to bring together everything written in any language about space travel, including folk tales, medieval speculations, modern science fiction, and the most recent works of Tsiolkovsky, Goddard and Oberth (with Perelman, Rynin had written to both Goddard and Oberth asking them for the latest information on American and German advances in the field of astronautics).

Based on rumours of Goddard’s plans, the Soviet press began to speculate that the American was planning to launch a rocket to the Moon timed for 4 July 1924, US Independence Day. In early October, the Society held a widely advertised talk by a well-known astronomer on the topic of “The Truth about the Dispatching of Professor Goddard’s Projectile to the Moon”. The crowds outside were so unruly that the horse-borne Moscow militia was summoned to keep them under control.

Three years later, in the spring of 1927, the “World’s First Exhibition of Models of Interplanetary Equipment, Mechanisms, and Historical Materials” was held in Moscow, depicting the history of space travel, from the twilight in the 19th century to the ideas of Tsiolkovsky, Tsander, Goddard, Oberth and others. The show was a great success and can be regarded as the progenitor of all space exhibitions, including Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age.

But Tsiolkovsky had struggled after the Revolution, said Siddiqi. He was arrested by the secret police on charges of treason (and spent a brief time in prison) and ended up nearly destitute in the early 1920s. “When news of Goddard and Oberth’s writings reached the Soviet press, Tsiolkovsky, hurt by the negligence of ideas in his native nation, republished his works, claiming – entirely rightly – that he had pre-empted both of the foreigners by decades in predicting the reality of space travel.”

Drawing by Tsiolkovksy for the film ‘Cosmic Voyage’ showing a cosmonaut exiting a rocket via an airlock, 1932. Credit: Archive of Russian Academy of Science

Drawing by Tsiolkovksy for the film ‘Cosmic Voyage’ showing a cosmonaut exiting a rocket via an airlock, 1932. Credit: Archive of Russian Academy of Science

The exhibition shows sketches from Tsiolkovsky’s Album of Cosmic Journeys (1932), prepared for the production of the film The Cosmic Voyage, which demonstrate the effects of weightlessness, how to store food in a rocket, airlocks and other details of spaceflight. They are strikingly prescient of the very first space missions.

By the mid-1930s, however, the space fad had been overshadowed by the growing fascination with the more realistic ambitions of aviation, such as jet propulsion.

Still, the Soviet space obsession of the interwar years paid handsome dividends. Most Russians were thrilled when the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, was launched in 1957 and Yuri Gagarin soared into the heavens in 1961 with a cry of “Let’s go!” Perhaps by then, in the wake of the cosmism fad, the first great leap into space by humans seemed almost inevitable.

Roger Highfield is Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum. 

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age is open from 18 September 2015 – 13 March 2016. The exhibition is supported by BP and has additional support from ART RUSSE (Major Funder) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Part of the LK-3 lunar lander is lifted into the Science Museum’s Cosmonauts exhibition. © and London & Partners

From Moscow to the Museum

By Emma Smith, a member of the Cosmonauts exhibition team. 

For the last two years my job has been to work out how to transport rocket engines, gigantic spacecraft and 150 other incredible artefacts from Moscow to London and into the Cosmonauts exhibition.

We are borrowing artefacts of all shapes and sizes – from small pencil drawings of early twentieth century rocket designs to Vostok 6, the full-size spacecraft that transported the first women into space in 1963 – from museums, private individuals and even the Russian Space Agency.

We began the logistical planning for the exhibition two years ago, visiting Moscow many times to inspect the artefacts and meet with our partners and transport agent.

In May 2015, all the years of planning were finally put into action.

The first stage was to get all the large spacecraft from Moscow and into the Museum so that the exhibition could be built around them. As they are too big to fit inside any aircraft that regularly fly from Moscow to London, we transported the spacecraft in 20m long, 4 tonne trucks from Moscow to Helsinki and then by ferry to the UK. The epic journey took a week from start to finish, and I had the pleasure of accompanying the spacecraft on their journey.

The journey from Moscow to the Finish border. © Emma Smith/Science Museum

The journey from Moscow to the Finish border. © Emma Smith/Science Museum

After clearing customs in Moscow, we were joined for the 1000km, two days journey to the Russian-Finnish border by an armed security escort. At the border we joined a long queue of lorries. Our export licences were checked and stamped by customs officials, the trucks were weighed, X-rayed and sealed, and we passed through passport control. This can take up to twenty four hours, but thankfully we crossed into Finland within six.

At Helsinki, the trucks boarded a ferry and set sail for the four-day crossing to the UK. Four days later we docked at Immingham, cleared customs and then drove down to London.

The next challenge was unloading the spacecraft at the Museum. Due to their sheer size and weight, we used cranes to lift the spacecraft off the trucks, but even just moving the spacecraft through the Museum was no mean feat.

Preparing for the arrival of Vostok 6 (and other spacecraft). © Science Museum

Preparing for the arrival of Vostok 6 (and other spacecraft). © Science Museum

Long before the spacecraft left Moscow we did a practice run with a giant beach ball, which had the same dimensions as the Vostok 6 spacecraft, to see which display cases and furniture would have to be moved along the route. Then finally the spacecraft had to be hoisted up to the first floor of the Museum and moved into the gallery.

One of the star spacecraft in Cosmonauts (and that is saying something) is the extraordinary LK-3 Luna Lander. This is a 3 tonne, 5m tall training model of the spacecraft that would have landed a single cosmonaut on the moon.

Due to it’s ginormous size, the Lander had to first be dismantled at the Moscow Aviation Institute in order to be transported to London. In fact, this is the longest journey the Lander has ever taken.

At the beginning we didn’t think the Lander would fit into the Museum, but thankfully the Lander can be dismantled into sections: a top, middle, bottom and four legs, or in more technical words, the docking port, cabin, engine and four landing pads.

A week later, and inside the Science Museum, we reassembled the Luna Lander. Returning it to its full glory took four days, using hoists, gantries, lifting beams and the expertise of an external rigging company and Russian engineers.

Part of the LK-3 lunar lander is lifted into the Science Museum’s Cosmonauts exhibition. © and London & Partners

Part of the LK-3 lunar lander is lifted into the Cosmonauts exhibition. © and London & Partners

It was a real international effort to get the Lander ready for public display in the UK and it is now in pride of place in the Cosmonauts exhibition… but to see it you’ll have to wait until the exhibition opens.

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age is open from 18 September 2015 – 13 March 2016. The exhibition is supported by BP and has additional support from ART RUSSE (Major Funder) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

SOKOL space suit worn by Helen Sharman in 1991, manufactured by 'Zvezda'.

Helen Sharman’s spacesuit

During the preparations for our landmark exhibition, Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age, we reunited Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, with her spacesuit around a quarter of a century after she first wore it for her pioneering mission to the Mir space station.

Helen’s journey began in 1989 when she, then a food technologist, answered an advertisement that she had heard on her car radio:  “Astronaut wanted. No experience necessary.” With Timothy Mace, she was eventually selected from over 13,000 applicants to represent the British Juno Mission and she spent 18 months training in Star City before she was picked for the launch.

Helen had to endure the centrifuge (to experience g-forces) and hydro tank (for spacewalk training) but was fortunate that her physiology was well suited to these challenges. However, when it came to getting dressed for space she admitted: “Perhaps the greatest discomfort I suffered was doing tests in an off the shelf spacesuit, which was suited to fit a man.”

For Juno, Helen was measured in 54 different places to ensure her Sokol (‘Falcon’) suit was a snug fit and could protect her at the riskiest stages of her mission, where there is a likelihood of cabin depressurization, during take-off, docking, undocking and landing.

SOKOL space suit worn by Helen Sharman in 1991, manufactured by 'Zvezda'.

SOKOL space suit worn by Helen Sharman in 1991, manufactured by ‘Zvezda’. Credit: Science Museum / SSPL

In the Science Museum, we reunited Helen with her spacesuit along with television presenter Dallas Campbell, who is working with filmmaker Chris Riley on a programme about spacesuits. Later I joined them for an event at the Royal Institution, where Cosmonauts curator Doug Millard and conservator Kate Perks also brought along Helen’s radio helmet.

The world’s first spacesuits were developed by the NPP (Research & Development Production Enterprise) Zvezda (‘Star’), which was built in 1952 in the Moscow province of Tomilino and was led for many decades by academician Guy Severin, an expert in developing and creating life-support systems for pilots and cosmonauts. To this very day, every cosmonaut from Yuri Gagarin onwards has passed through this venerable space institution. “The road to the cosmos passes via Zvezda,” explains Severin’s successor, Sergei Pozdnyakov, chief executive and designer.

The world’s first spacesuit, SK-1 – orange, with a white helmet inscribed in red ‘CCCP’ – was worn in the first flight by Gagarin to the sixth by Valentina Tereshkova. Development of the SK-1 by Zvezda began in 1959 but Helen Sharman would wear a later design, the Sokol, which was developed more than a decade later in response to a tragedy.

Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard the Vostok spacecraft.

Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard the Vostok spacecraft. Credit: Ria Novosti

Pressure suits had been used on the early Vostok space missions, but when the Soyuz spacecraft was being developed in the mid-1960s the controversial decision was taken not to use them on the new spacecraft. That changed after the death in 1971 of the crew of Soyuz-11, Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsaev, who all perished while returning from the Salyut-1 space station when their descent module lost pressure.

Human space flights were temporarily halted and Zvezda designed the new Sokol-K spacesuit within a year. The spacesuit design evolved from the pressure suits worn by the first jet pilots to help them to cope with low pressure and lack of oxygen at high altitudes by supplying their air to them in a person-shaped‚ pressurized bag.

Zvezda replaced the rigid helmet of these jet pilot suits with a soft, non-removable helmet, including a hinged glass visor which could be lifted. To become a space suit they also had to redesign its basic shape. Pozdnyakov explained that, while an aircraft pilot adopts the same position as a car driver, a cosmonaut sits more like “an embryo in the womb”.

The resulting Sokol-K first came into use in 1973. Since its introduction, Zvezda has tweaked the design, trying various different gusset-openings, lacings, separation of the two halves at chest or waist level, and water-cooled emergency suits. In an emergency it turns out that it is most important to have a spacesuit that can be put on quickly and, by the close of the 1970s, the organisation had essentially settled on today’s model, the Sokol KV-2. “In space travel it is absolutely essential that all the technology and the systems should be 100% reliable, so that most of our time is spent not so much on developing new things, but on optimizing, perfecting and testing the old,” said Pozdnyakov.

The 22 lb suit consists of an inner layer of rubberised material and outer layer of white nylon. The suit includes the cosmonaut’s feet and its gloves attach by means of blue anodised aluminium wrist couplings. There is a pressure gauge on the left wrist and a mirror on the right to help the cosmonaut see things that would otherwise be outside his or her field of view.

The fundamental design of any spacesuit ultimately depends on its use. For the Buran (‘Snowstorm’) spaceship, cosmonauts would take a more active role, demanding a new kind of spacesuit. The Soviet manned lunar programme required the development of the Krechet (‘Gyrfalcon’) space suit, which had a rigid body with soft sleeves and soft trouser legs.  This led to the Orlan (‘Sea-Eagle’) series of semi rigid spacesuits, used for spacewalks.

The Sokol holds a special place in space culture, remarks Pozdnyakov. Hundreds of these suits have been made over the years. The Sokol “has become a symbol of man’s flight into the cosmos,” he explained in the book to accompany the exhibition. “As the developers, we find it very nice to hear Sandra Bullock, the star of the Hollywood film Gravity, saying that the Russian space suit is a work of art.”

By Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs, Science Museum Group.

A rogue cell blooms into a kaleidoscope of cell types. Credit: Martin Nowak, Bartek Waclaw and Bert Vogelstein

The Evolution of New Cancer Treatments

Could Charles Darwin help us to fight cancer? The answer is an emphatic yes according to an Anglo-American team which today unveils eerily beautiful videos that model the evolution of a tumour in three dimensions.

In one set of computer simulations, a rogue cell blooms into a kaleidoscope of cell types, then melts away when treated with a cancer drug, only to blossom once again with renewed vigour into deadly and malignant masses of billions of cells.

A rogue cell blooms into a kaleidoscope of cell types. Credit: Martin Nowak, Bartek Waclaw and Bert Vogelstein

A rogue cell blooms into a kaleidoscope of cell types. Credit: Martin Nowak, Bartek Waclaw and Bert Vogelstein

Cancer is marked by a breakdown of cooperation between cells in the body, when one of the body’s 200 or so cell types develops mutations – changes in their DNA – that put the cell’s own interests above the greater good of the body.

By shrugging off the controls that keep the rest of our body in check, tumour cells divide willy-nilly, picking up new genetic changes along the way so they can evolve to resist drugs, or grow faster, for example. As a result, even a single tumour can contain utterly different genetic mutations in the cells at one end, compared with cells at the other.

But because cancer cells are distorted versions of normal cells in the body, they are hard to target and destroy without causing damaging side effects. Because cancer is marked by its rapid growth doctors have, for example, used drugs that are toxic to all dividing cells in the body, causing side effects such as hair loss, nausea and so on.

Recent years have seen the development of drugs that target cancer cells with specific mutations. These drugs shrink tumours during the first months of treatment but the cancer cells often become resistant as new mutations help to outwit the drugs, and the disease returns.

Now the collaboration between Harvard, Edinburgh, and Johns Hopkins Universities has come up with a mathematical portrait of the evolution of solid tumours of the kind found in the breast, ovary or colon.

The new work, published today in the journal Nature, is a joint project by a team that includes Bartek Waclaw a physicist and computer wizard at Edinburgh, the distinguished cancer researcher Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins, and Martin Nowak, Director of Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, who has spent decades trying to put biology on a mathematical basis, along with his colleague in Harvard University, Ivana Bozic.

Although biologists traditionally complain that disease processes are too complex to boil down to mathematics, Nowak believes the new model can explain various features of cancer, from why cancer cells share a surprising number of mutations in common, to why tumours spread and become resistant to anti-cancer drugs.

The new mathematical model captures the complex way that DNA mutates in different tumour cells, which makes some cells more suited to the environment than others, and how cancer spreads. Until now, these have been modelled separately. “Most previous efforts counted the number of cells with particular DNA changes but not their spatial arrangement,” says Nowak. “Now we can model both the genetic evolution and the 3D growth of a cancer.”

One of the new insights to emerge is that cancer growth depends greatly on the ability of tumour cells to cells to divide if they have sufficient space. This means the tumour grows slowly unless cells are able to move to find enough room. “Cellular mobility makes cancers grow fast, and it makes cancers similar in the sense that cancer cells share a common set of mutations,” says Nowak. That, he thinks, is why drug resistance rapidly evolves.

In the video, similar colours denote similar mutations and – as the tumour grows – they remain clustered together, as also shown by experiment. Of the billions of cancer cells that exist in a patient, only a tiny percentage – about one in a million – are resistant to drugs used in targeted therapy. When treatment starts, the video shows how non-resistant cells are wiped out – but the few resistant cells quickly repopulate the cancer.

There is another insight to emerge from focusing on cell movements within the tumour: they go on to evolve the ability to spread throughout the body, to metastasize, which is usually what makes cancer deadly. Nowak says: “The ability to form metastases is a consequence of selection for local migration, that is Darwinian processes favour cells with the ability to move around the body.”

These insights, which are a ‘beautiful confirmation of what is seen in experiments,’ do not provide a ‘miraculous cure,’ said Bartek Waclaw, “However, they do suggest possible ways of improving cancer therapy.”  The video shows how cancer cells switch to a state when they can deform and move around and, he says, treatments that hinder these small movements of cancerous cells could help to slow progress of the disease.

The attempts through history to understand and combat diseases such as cancer can be found in the Science Museum’s medicine collections, which contain over 140,000 objects. The museum is now developing major new Medicine Galleries to showcase thousands of objects with initial leadership funding from the Wellcome Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Wolfson Foundation.

The galleries will open in 2019, transforming much of the first floor of the Museum. In preparation, Glimpses of Medical History and The Science and Art of Medicine will close on 20th September. However, you will still be able to see highlights from the collection in a new exhibition, Journeys Through Medicine: Henry Wellcome’s Legacy, opening on Thursday 1st October. Further items can also be seen at the Wellcome Collection and explored online via our Brought to Life: exploring the history of medicine. These collections are of enduring interest because medicine is where science collides with life.

By Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs and coauthor with Martin Nowak of SuperCooperators, Beyond the Survival of the Fittest: why Cooperation, Not Competition, is the Key of Life

Pair of wooden roller skates, c. 1880

Wonderful Things: Roller Skates, 1880

Becky Honeycombe from our Learning Support Team writes about one of her favourite Science Museum objects.

You could be forgiven for thinking the heyday of the roller skate was in the 1980s with leg warmers and neon Lycra being the order of the day.  The truth is that there was a craze just as big a hundred years earlier and we have a pair of Victorian skates in our Making the Modern World Gallery as evidence.

By 1880, roller skates of some kind had already been around for over 150 years.  The first prototypes of the roller skate are said to have been created by an anonymous Dutchman in the early 1700s, who as a fan of winter skiing wanted to extend his hobby into the summer months.  He created his ‘skeelers’ by attaching wooden spools to strips of wood and then nailing them to his shoes. The first recorded use of roller skates in Britain was not until 1743 when they were used as part of a London stage show.

One of the most famous early appearances of roller skates occurred in 1760 when inventor Joseph Merlin rolled into a masquerade party playing a violin.  Although his entrance was undoubtedly dramatic, it wasn’t a complete success as he only managed to stop by crashing into a huge mirror, breaking not only the mirror, but his violin and several of his bones too.

Over the next century, several different designs for roller skates were created and tested.  Many were heavy and difficult to control and it was not until 1863 that the quad skate we know today was designed by James Leonard Plimpton in New York.  The ease with which the new skates allowed users to manoeuvre them made them an instant success and Plimpton opened New York’s first skating rink in his furniture store before expanding to a bigger venue like the one in the picture below.

District of Columbia, glimpses of life at the national capital – a fashionable roller-skating rink
Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, USA

By the end of the 1800s, skates like the ones in our gallery, were being mass produced, which meant they were cheaper and more readily available.  Roller skating became a popular leisure activity and regular skating endurance competitions were held. London businessmen could even be seen skating to work! The sport’s popularity continued to grow into the 20th century where its success as a mainstream pastime is demonstrated in early films such as Charlie Chaplin’s The Rink.  Today, with new skate designs like the Land Roller and sports such as roller derby gaining large followings, it is clear that the popularity of the roller skate continues.

Do you think your favourite hobbies will stand the test of time?

This object is currently on display in the Making the Modern World gallery.

The Design Museum stairs.


We love using Instagram to see the stunning photos you take and to share our own photos of the collections, exhibitions and behind-the-scenes at the Museum.

#EmptyScienceMuseum images from (clockwise from top left) @mattscutt, @londonlivingdoll, @peppyhere & @sciencemuseum

#EmptyScienceMuseum images from (clockwise from top left) @mattscutt, @londonlivingdoll, @peppyhere & @sciencemuseum

But this week we’ll be doing something a little different. Together with nine other museums in London, we’re celebrating each other’s collections and museums on Instagram. After being sorted into pairs, each museum visited its pair to photograph interesting things and spaces.

This week we’ll share our photos of the Design Museum, offering a unique perspective of the museum, exhibitions and collections through our Instagram account.

The Design Museum stairs.

The Design Museum stairs.

To see all the photos and discover what fascinating things we found in each other’s museums just follow #MuseumInstaSwap on Instagram (and Twitter).

The museums and their pairings:

Want to join us?
You and other museums can take part in #MuseumInstaSwap this weekend (29-30 August). We’ve teamed up with CultureThemes and would love to see what you think should be in a museum and those museum objects that you would like to take home. Visit CultureThemes to find out more.