Category Archives: Exhibitions

Space pioneer Alexei Leonov heralds Cosmonauts Exhibition

By Pete Dickinson, Head of Communication, Science Museum

Half a century after he risked his life to become the first person to go on a spacewalk, Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov today joined Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford to announce the museum’s most ambitious temporary exhibition to date, Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age, supported by BP.

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov at the Science Museum for the announcement of the forthcoming exhibition Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov at the Science Museum for the announcement of the forthcoming exhibition Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

Tickets are now on sale for the exhibition, which opens on 18 September 2015 and will feature the greatest collection of Soviet spacecraft and artefacts ever assembled in once place, including eight that had to be declassified for this project, to provide a vivid insight into how the Soviet Union kick-started the space age.

Speaking at a news conference this morning at the Science Museum, Leonov told journalists he was convinced the Soviets could also have beaten the U.S. to the first manned orbit of the moon but for the conservatism of those running their highly secretive moon programme following the death in 1966 of Sergei Korolev, the lead rocket engineer and spacecraft designer on the Russian Space Programme.

Leonov told the audience that he and Yuri Gagarin argued for pressing ahead with the manned orbit but were overruled: “Both Yuri and myself went to the Politburo and asked that we go ahead. But our bureaucrats said it was too risky so let us try a sixth (unmanned) probe. And of course it landed a few hundred metres from where it was supposed to….so unfortunately it didn’t work out for me.”

Lunnyi Korabl (Luna Lander), 1969, at the Moscow Aviation Institute, (engineering model) c. The Moscow Aviation Institute/ Photo: State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSIZO

Lunnyi Korabl (Luna Lander), 1969, at the Moscow Aviation Institute, (engineering model) c. The Moscow Aviation Institute/ Photo: State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSIZO

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age will include the monumental five metre tall LK-3 lunar lander that Leonov trained on in Star City. Designed to take a single cosmonaut to the moon, three Soviet lunar landers were tested successfully in space although none ever touched down on the surface of the moon.

Ian Blatchford spoke of the honour of having Alexei Leonov alongside him (see Leonov’s dramatic account of his battle to reenter the spacecraft here) as he announced the “most audacious and complex exhibition in the history of the Science Museum and indeed one of the most ambitious projects ever presented by any great museum”.

He then invited journalists to see the first of 150 objects to arrive from Russia -  including Vostok-6, the capsule that carried Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to travel into space, and safely returned her to Earth in 1963.

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov and Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford speak at the announcement of Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov and Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford speak at the announcement of Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age © Science Museum

The Science Museum Director described how the exhibition will explore a critical moment in the history of humankind, when people first set forth beyond the confines of their home world: “the Russian space programme is one of the great cultural, scientific and engineering achievements of the 20th century.”

Cosmonauts, which has drawn on the help and support of the first generation of Soviet space pioneers, will explore the science and technology of Russian space travel in its cultural and spiritual context, revealing a deep-rooted national yearning for space that was shaped by the turbulent early decades of the 20th century. The exhibition will feature rocket pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s extraordinary 1933 drawings of space flight, depicting spacewalks, weightlessness and life in orbit almost thirty years before it became a reality.

Ian Blatchford also thanked all the cosmonauts, partners and funders who have made this exhibition possible. Cosmonauts represents a major collaboration between the Science Museum, the State Museum Exhibition Centre ROSIZO, the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics and the Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos. The support of many other institutions and individuals in the UK and Russia has also been crucial in the development of the exhibition.

The exhibition opens on 18 September 2015 and will run until 13 March 2016 at the Science Museum in London. The Museum will be open until 10pm every Friday evening during this period to allow visitors more opportunities to see the exhibition.

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age has had additional support from ART RUSSE (Major Funder) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

50 years after his death-defying first spacewalk, Alexei Leonov will speak at an event this evening hosted by Starmus and the British Interplanetary Society in our IMAX Theatre. Professor Stephen Hawking and Dr Brian May will be present as Alexei Leonov’s guests.

50 Years After Churchill: A Tribute From The Science Museum Group

By Laura Singleton, Press Officer, Science Museum

The 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death is being marked across the Science Museum Group with two new exhibitions and the release of a collection of unseen archive photographs.

Last night around 300 distinguished guests, comprising scholars, funders and members of Churchill’s own family, gathered at the Science Museum to celebrate the opening of Churchill’s Scientists which celebrates the scientists who flourished under Churchill’s patronage.

From left to right: Professor Sir David Cannadine, Andrew Nahum, Lead Curator, Dame Mary Archer, Sir Nicholas Soames and Ian Blatchford at the official opening of Churchill's Scientists

From left to right: Professor Sir David Cannadine, Andrew Nahum, Lead Curator, Dame Mary Archer, Sir Nicholas Soames and Ian Blatchford at the official opening of Churchill’s Scientists

Our Chairman, Dame Mary Archer, paid a warm tribute to the scholars and historians who have collaborated with our own curatorial team on the exhibition, adding “a very special mention in despatches for Allen Packwood and his team at the Churchill College Archives”. Among those she thanked was Professor Sir David Cannadine who richly praised the exhibition in a speech of his own.

Sir Nicholas Soames spoke on behalf of the Churchill family, recalling his grandfather’s abiding passion for science among his many great attributes. Guests at the exclusive event were treated to Churchill’s favourite brand of champagne thanks to the generosity of Pol Roger.

The exhibition is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, The Stanley Foundation and The de Laszlo Foundation.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s state funeral and a full day of public commemoration around the UK. To pay tribute to the great leader, Science Museum Group Director Ian Blatchford and Dame Mary attended a private Churchill family memorial service at Westminster Abbey, along with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

Archive image of the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. Image credit: Daily Newspaper archives.

Archive image of the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. Image credit: Daily Newspaper archives.

From today, visitors to the National Railway Museum can see the original train that took Churchill’s coffin on his final journey from London to Oxfordshire. In a moving tribute, Churchill’s Final Journey uses a locomotive and carriages, seen together for the first time in 50 years, plus archive TV footage and audio accounts from those involved to tell the tale of the journey from Waterloo to Hanborough.

The Pullman carriage at the National Railway Museum. Image credit: National Railway Museum

The Pullman carriage at the National Railway Museum. Image credit: National Railway Museum

No 34501 Winston Churchill, fresh from cosmetic restoration at the Mid-Hants Railway, is displayed alongside the baggage van which carried Churchill’s coffin and the Pullman carriage Lydia which carried his family and honoured guests towards his final resting place.

Say the name “Winston Churchill” and the iconic image of the war leader, standing defiant, cigar clenched between his teeth and fingers raised in a victory salute, is at the forefront of many people’s minds. To mark this historic occasion, the National Media Museum has released some rarely seen photographs of Churchill from the Daily Herald newspaper archive.

Winnie Meets 'Digger' at London Zoo, 10 September 1947, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection

Winnie Meets ‘Digger’ at London Zoo, 10 September 1947, Daily Herald Archive, National Media Museum Collection

The selection unearthed this week gives an extraordinary insight into Churchill’s public duties and private life. It includes images of his days in the military, intimate family scenes, his fondness for animals, and even boyhood portraits collected retrospectively for his obituary.

The Science Museum Group’s offer forms part of Churchill 2015, a unique programme of events that commemorate Churchill’s life, work and achievements in the 50th anniversary year of his death. Visit www.churchillcentral.com for more information.

Celebrating Churchill’s Scientists with Sir Winston’s great-grandson

By Laura Singleton, Press Officer

‘Science isn’t a word most people associate with my great-grandfather’ said Randolph Churchill, standing in front of an imposing image of his iconic relative as he addressed journalists at the press preview of Churchill’s Scientists.

Randolph Churchill addresses guests at the media preview of Churchill's Scientists. Image credit: Science Museum

Randolph Churchill addresses guests at the media preview of Churchill’s Scientists. Image credit: Science Museum

The exhibition opened to the public today on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death. It celebrates a crucial, but often overlooked element of Churchill’s life and legacy – his relationship with science and the incredible breakthroughs that he championed during his time as Prime Minister, during the Second World War and post-war era.

Randolph told the audience that his great-grandfather had been fascinated with science from a young age. He lived through an age of great technological change, which saw the development of flight, electronics, atomic physics, telephones and televisions, mass consumerism and mass destruction.

He spoke of Sir Winston’s passion for aviation and how he was probably the first Government minister to learn how to fly, at a time when the sport was still considered highly dangerous. This story is brought to life in the exhibition through the display of a model aeroplane.

A guest peers at a model Bleriot plane in the exhibition. Image credit: Science Museum

A guest peers at a model Bleriot plane in the exhibition. Image credit: Science Museum

Randolph also read an extract from a prescient 1924 essay by his great-grandfather that highlighted Churchill’s acute awareness of both the creative and destructive potential of science. The essay speculates about “a bomb no bigger than an orange” with “the secret power to destroy a whole block of buildings – nay to concentrate the force of a thousand tons of cordite and blast a township at a stroke”.

Randolph Churchill examines a Jacob Epstein bust of Sir Winston Churchill. Image credit: Science Museum

Randolph Churchill examines a Jacob Epstein bust of Sir Winston Churchill. Image credit: Science Museum

Churchill’s Scientists illuminates other aspects of Churchill’s life including his love of fashion, shown in the display of a green velvet ‘siren suit’ – an all-in-one ‘romper suit’ which bears strong resemblance to the ‘onesie’. At the heart of the exhibition are the stories of the individuals who flourished under Churchill’s patronage, from Robert Watson-Watt, inventor of radar, to Bernard Lovell who created the world’s largest radio telescope, told through unique objects, original archive film footage, letters and photographs.

Randolph Churchill with a high speed camera that captured the first microseconds of the detonation of Britain's first atomic bomb. Image credit: Science Museum

Randolph Churchill with a high speed camera that captured the first microseconds of the detonation of Britain’s first atomic bomb. Image credit: Science Museum

The exhibition forms part of Churchill 2015, a year-long programme of events that commemorate Churchill’s life, work and achievements.

The exhibition is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, The Stanley Foundation and The de Laszlo Foundation. The exhibition is free and runs until March 2016.

Winston Churchill: style icon and inventor of the ‘onesie’

Martin Wise, Archivist at Turnbull & Asser shares the story behind Sir Winston Churchill’s famous ‘siren suit’, as one goes on display for the first time in the Museum’s new Churchill’s Scientists exhibition which opens next week

The ‘siren suit’, which bears resemblance to the infamous ‘onesie’, is a practical one-piece item of clothing originally designed by Sir Winston Churchill during the Second World War to be quickly slipped over his clothes in the event of an air raid. The great statesman had a variety of siren suits, which he referred to as ‘romper suits,’ including sombre, military style suits, as well as more extravagant pin-striped and velvet versions.

Winston Churchill wearing   one of his siren suits. Image credit: Turnbull & Asser

Winston Churchill wearing one of his siren suits. Image credit: Turnbull & Asser

There are only three original Winston Churchill siren suits known to be in existence, including a green velvet garment created by Turnbull & Asser. Churchill reportedly returned his siren suits to the Jermyn Street shirt-maker for repair on several occasions – damaged not through enemy action but by cigar burns.

It would seem that the former Prime Minister had developed something of a penchant for the outfit, opting to sport it for the most formal of occasions. Churchill wore one of these suits on a visit to the White House, Washington, in December 1941. At a press conference that week, Mrs Roosevelt declared she was having one made for her husband.

Winston Churchill making a BBC broadcast wearing one of his siren suits in on 30th November 1942. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Winston Churchill making a BBC broadcast wearing one of his siren suits on 30th November 1942. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

After the war, Churchill wore a siren suit again when he sat for sculptor Oscar Nemon in the 1950’s. After the sittings he gave the suit to Nemon as a souvenir. Small splashes of red paint on the trousers suggested Churchill also wore it whilst painting.

Due to Churchill’s rather large proportions, Turnbull & Asser have commissioned a bespoke mannequin to display the unique garment in the Science Museum. Expertly built using a fibreglass frame, the mannequin is covered in padding to mimic the former Prime Minister’s body shape, bringing the siren suit to life.

The pattern for Sir Winston Churchill's siren suit. Image credit: Turnbull & Asser

The pattern for Sir Winston Churchill’s siren suit. Image credit: Turnbull & Asser

For those wishing to emulate the British bulldog’s style, Turnbull & Asser are due to launch a Churchill-inspired capsule collection to mark the 50th anniversary of his death this year, celebrating a great man, whose bold style and strong leadership inspired a nation.

You can see the green velvet siren suit on display together with the cigar Churchill smoked on the evening of the 1951 election when he heard he had been re-elected as Prime Minister.

Churchill’s Scientists opens to the public on Friday 23 January. For more information visit our website.

Winston Churchill: Up In The Air

Rachel Boon, Content Developer, looks at the lesser known story of Winston Churchill’s passion for flying, soon to be revealed in a new exhibition, Churchill’s Scientists, which opens on 23 January. 

Sir Winston Churchill was passionate about technology, in particular aviation. He was one of the first people, and likely the first politician to learn how to fly. Heavier than air flight was less than a decade old when Churchill first jumped into the pilot seat. This was in the days when flying was still considered a dangerous sport and no pilot would let Churchill fly alone for fear that he may have an accident on their watch. He was a keen learner and was reported to go up in the air over ten times a day.

Winston Churchill after his arrival by air at Portsmouth, from Upavon, Wiltshire, 1914. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Winston Churchill after his arrival by air at Portsmouth, from Upavon, Wiltshire, 1914. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Fears about Churchill’s safety grew after one of his instructors, Captain Lushington was killed in a plane crash in Kent. Churchill reluctantly gave up his hobby in 1913, following pleas from his friends and wife Clementine, which is illustrated in many of their letters to each other. Clementine’s anxieties are reflected in one letter in which she says, “Your telegram arrived late last night, after we were in bed – every time I see a telegram now, I think it is to announce that you have been killed flying… goodbye dear but cruel one.”

Eventually, after giving up the sport, he sadly reflected, ‘This is a wrench. … Anyhow, I can feel I know a good deal about this fascinating new art … well enough to understand all the questions of policy which will arise in the near future.’

As Churchill’s political career developed he earned a living as a journalist. Although he never qualified for a pilot’s license, Churchill wasn’t one to miss an opportunity to write dramatically about learning to fly. He published two articles in Nash’s Pall Mall entitled “In the Air” and “Why I gave up flying: The story of two almost fatal crashes” in June and July 1924.

Flying model, enlarged "Eclipse", c. 1911. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

Flying model, enlarged “Eclipse”, c. 1911. Image credit: Science Museum / SSPL

This is one of a pair of model Bleriot planes the Museum acquired with a note that one was ‘broken by Sir Winston Churchill when he was flying it with the Marquis of Blandford at Blenheim Castle‘. It is one of the star objects on display in the new exhibition Churchill’s Scientists which opens later this month.

The exhibition explores developments in science during the Second World War and post war period when Churchill was Prime Minister. This model plane is yet another example of Churchill’s hobby and it supports our story of his fascination with the potential of rapidly emerging new technologies of the 20th century.

Churchill’s Scientists opens to the public on Friday 23 January. For more details visit our website.

How To Survive A Christmas On Rations: Eat, Exercise And Be Merry

Rachel Boon, Content Developer, reveals the radical quest by two nutritionists to create a healthy national diet during the Second World War – one of the stories featured in a new exhibition, Churchill’s Scientists, which opens on 23 January.

The Second World War challenged the health of the home population as well as the fighting services. Even before the war, Britain depended on a huge quantity of imported goods, including food. Enemy ships targeted incoming Allied merchant vessels sending their precious cargo to the depths of the Atlantic.  As various items became scarce, food consumption was rationed.

Winston Churchill was keen, wherever possible, to limit austerity in the interests of morale. Even his scientific adviser, the teetotal Frederick Lindemann, was glad that the Ministry of Food undertook to provide the normal stocks of beer.

Used Ration Book, and two partly used Ration Book Supplements, issued by the Ministry of Food during the second World War. Image credit: Science Museum

Used Ration Book, and two partly used Ration Book Supplements, issued by the Ministry of Food during the Second World War. Image credit: Science Museum

This period saw the rise of a small group of scientists whose experimental research helped ensure people had enough food to survive.

Pioneering studies assessed the impact of rationing and established a healthy balance of available foods. Nutritionists Robert McCance and Elsie Widdowson led this investigation. Their task was to see how far food produced in Britain could meet the needs of the population and how much shipping could be saved.

Both scientists were familiar with self-experimentation before the war, having explored the chemical make-up of food and its effect on human health. Their book, The Composition of Foods was first published in 1940 and became a standard work in the field of nutrition.

This task was no different. Funded by the Medical Research Council, McCance, Widdowson and a small group of volunteers drastically reduced their intake of food and drink to a level some considered ‘intolerable’.  Although wholemeal bread and potatoes were unrationed, each person was allowed the following quantities per week: 110g fat, 150g sugar, one egg, 110g cheese, 450g meat and fish combined and quarter of a pint of milk a day.

After enduring this diet for three months, the volunteers moved to the Lake District for the second stage of their experiment. In chilly December 1940, the team proved that by enduring gruelling climbs, hikes and bicycle rides, this basic diet could meet the nation’s health needs.

Elsie Widdowson with volunteers in the Lake District. Image credit: Margaret Ashwell

Elsie Widdowson with volunteers in the Lake District. Image credit: Margaret Ashwell

One of McCance and Widdowson’s most important findings was the risk of calcium deficiency from a diet low in dairy products. Their recommendation for fortifying bread with calcium carbonate (chalk) was met with criticism, but later made law.  McCance and Widdowson’s work was made public after the war with their book, An Experimental Study of Rationing, published in 1946.

Table showing foods consumed during days of strenuous exercise. Image credit: Wellcome Library, London

Table showing foods consumed during days of strenuous exercise. Image credit: Wellcome Library, London

The book shows that even in the hardships of McCance and Widdowson’s  experiment, they celebrated Christmas with a hearty meal as their ‘calorie intake was affected by comfort and good cheer’. There was a plum pudding made from ingredients saved from the previous week’s rations and McCance ate five large potatoes ‘more than he had ever eaten in one day before’. This may sound familiar, but he had cycled for 52 miles the day before!

Extract showing calorie consumption on christmas day, from An Experimental Study of Rationing. Image credit: Medical Research Council

Extract showing calorie consumption on Christmas Day, from An Experimental Study of Rationing. Image credit: Medical Research Council

As you tuck into your plate of turkey, pigs-in-blankets, roast potatoes and that token Brussels sprout, spare a thought for those intrepid nutritionists whose experiments ensured people had enough food on their tables during the Second World War.

Churchill’s Scientists is a free exhibition that opens to the public on 23 January 2015. To find out more visit our website 

 

The end of AIDS?

Nicola Burghall, Content Developer, blogs about HIV and AIDS, the subject of a new display in the Museums Who Am I? gallery

December 1st 2014 marks the 26th World AIDS Day. The UNAIDS ‘90-90-90’ initiative sets ambitious global targets to end the epidemic by 2030. So how far have we come since the epidemic gained global attention in the 1980s? Here at the Science Museum we decided to explore this question with our new exhibit - The end of AIDS?

The new display ‘The end of AIDS?’ in the Museum’s Who Am I? gallery. Credit: Science Museum

The new display ‘The end of AIDS?’ in the Museum’s Who Am I? gallery. Image Credit: Science Museum

The focal point of the exhibit is an animation called ‘Growing up with HIV’. It was created in collaboration with an inspiring group of young people who live with HIV and the National Children’s Bureau. It tells the story of a young mum-to-be looking forward to the birth of her first child, while she reflects on her life and what it was like to grow up with HIV.


The group created the animation in just four workshops. First they visited the Who Am I? gallery, where they learned about our visitors and science communication. We then discussed what HIV means to them and interviewed an expert about what it does. Over the following sessions we narrowed down what were the most important messages and how to help visitors relate to them.

A key idea was to challenge some of the commonly held misconceptions by explaining what HIV does and the success of current treatment. They decided to tell a personal story about the struggles we can all face growing up.

Struggle and progress turned out to be a strong theme for the animation – referring both to science (trying to improve treatment for HIV) and people (trying to live full, healthy and happy lives).

The rest of the display was built up around the conversations we had during the workshops and from talking with experts. A key message is the importance of testing. In the UK 20% of the estimated 100,000 people who live with HIV are not aware of their infection. In the display we included a postal sampling kit from the Terrence Higgins Trust, which is available for free to high-risk groups.

You can also find a concert programme from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness, held in 1992. It was at this event that 100,000 red ribbons were first distributed in the UK. The ribbon is now the iconic symbol of public awareness and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

From our stores we brought out a collection of drug packaging which represents all the drugs an HIV patient may have taken in one month in 1999. Today some patients can take just one pill a day and trials have begun for a monthly injection. The last section of the display looks at the latest research and includes the story of Timothy Ray Brown – the only person to have been cured of HIV.

I hope you will be able to visit the display and find it as enlightening and inspiring as I have working on it. I’d like to end this post with a few words from our group:

‘We are all going through our own struggles, but we can achieve anything we want’.

The end of AIDS? opened on 28 November and will be on display in the Science Museum’s Who Am I? gallery until late February 2015.

Imitation Game Special Preview at the Science Museum

Laura Singleton, Press Officer, describes an extraordinary celebration of codebreaker and mathematician Alan Turing at an exclusive screening of the new film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch

Alan Turing’s remarkable story is “heart-breaking and shocking, but important to tell” said Morten Tyldum, Director of The Imitation Game, at a special preview screening at the Science Museum`s IMAX theatre.

Dave Calhoun, Global Film Editor at Time Out in conversation with Morten Tyldum, director of The Imitation Game. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

Dave Calhoun, Global Film Editor at Time Out in conversation with Morten Tyldum, Director of The Imitation Game. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills. 

Turing was “a puzzle and a mystery to explore” continued Tyldum when asked about his inspiration for making the film. He “wasn’t just a mathematician, he was a philosopher. It’s a tragedy he couldn’t stay with us longer” he added during a conversation with Dave Calhoun, Global Film Editor of Time Out about the making of the film, to a packed audience.

The conversation touched on the importance of authenticity – by finding locations (Turing’s old school and Bletchley Park) that worked best to tell the story, and praised the efforts of the actors for their emotional performances.

Morten Tyldum talks about  the making of the film to an audience in the Science Museum's IMAX. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

Morten Tyldum talks about the making of the film to an audience in the Science Museum’s IMAX. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs, began proceedings by welcoming guests and thanking Studio Canal for choosing the Science Museum as the venue for the screening. He declared that “the making of this film represents yet another welcome sign that Turing is at long last getting the recognition that he so richly deserves.”

He spoke of the growing public recognition of Turing’s incredible achievements, demonstrated by a recent public poll, in which over 50,000 people voted, in which Turing’s Universal machine emerged as the most important innovation in science and technology in the past century. The vote demonstrated that “even arcane mathematics can garner popular support”, which the Museum is keen to exploit in the forthcoming Mathematics gallery opening in 2016.

He then moved onto Benedict Cumberbatch’s visit to the Museum’s  award-winning Turing exhibition to help his preparation for  the role of Turing and the Pilot ACE computer, now one of the star objects in the new Information Age gallery, before giving a warm welcome to Tyldum.

Guests admire an Enigma machine in the reception held in the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

Guests admire an Enigma machine in the reception held in the Information Age gallery. Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

At an earlier drinks reception in the Information Age gallery, an Enigma machine, brought out specially for the event, attracted crowds as Tyldum was joined by members of Turing’s family to pose for photographs.

The Imitation Game Director Morten Tyldum pictured with members of the Turing family in front of 1951-164 National Physical Laboratory's Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) pilot model and 1980-1200, Three-ring Enigma cypher machine. From Left to right; Mark Barnes (Husband of Rachel), Rachel Barnes (Daughter of Inagh Payne, Turings niece) Morten Tyldum, Tom Barnes (Son of Rachel) Shuna Hunt (Alan Turing's niece) Nevil Hunt (Son of Shuna Hunt).

The Imitation Game Director Morten Tyldum pictured with members of the Turing family in front of the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) pilot model and 1980-1200, Three-ring Enigma cypher machine. From Left to right; Mark Barnes (Husband of Rachel), Rachel Barnes (Daughter of Inagh Payne, Turing’s niece) Morten Tyldum, Tom Barnes (Son of Rachel) Shuna Hunt (Alan Turing’s niece) Nevil Hunt (Son of Shuna Hunt). Image credit: Science Museum / Jennie Hills

The reception provided VIP guests including Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, science writer Marcus Chown and journalist and former Science Museum Trustee Janet Street-Porter, with an opportunity to marvel at the Pilot ACE computer and many of the other objects in the new gallery.

Dogs in Space

By Doug Millard, Deputy Keeper of Technology and Engineering and Julia Tcharfas, Curatorial Assistant.

On this day (3 November) in 1957, just one month after the launch of Sputnik, a dog called Laika became the first living creature to orbit the Earth. But sadly, with no means of returning her safely to Earth, she was on a one-way mission. Enough reserve supplies were prepared for Laika to survive one week in orbit inside the Sputnik 2 satellite, but she overheated and died only a few hours after launch.

Dog spacesuit and ejector seat used on suborbital rocket flights launched from Kapustin Yar, Soviet Union, c. 1955. Credit: Zvezda Research, Development and Production Enterprise, photo by Rosizo.

Dog spacesuit and ejector seat used on suborbital rocket flights launched from Kapustin Yar, Soviet Union, c. 1955. Credit: Zvezda Research, Development and Production Enterprise, photo by Rosizo.

Laika’s flight followed earlier stratospheric flights with dogs as crew. These sub-orbital missions were crucial for gathering knowledge of what happens to living creatures in space, as well as testing the equipment, ejection and parachute landing systems that would later be used by cosmonauts. The space dogs were used all the way up until the first manned space flight and after, flying in Vostok-type spacecraft.

On 22 July 1951, after six months of training, two small dogs nicknamed Tsygan and Dezik were launched from the site of the first Soviet cosmodrome in a region called Kapustin Yar. At a height of 110 km, the head of the rocket containing the dogs separated and began to free-fall back down to Earth. They experienced intense G-forces during descent, but after a heavy jolt from the parachute, the cabin containing the two four-legged pilots slowed and touched down safely. The trip, which lasted 15 minutes from start to finish, made Tsygan and Dezik the first animals to experience space flight and to emerge from the craft unharmed.

The completely new field of space biology was asking many questions about whether humans and other animals could survive an extended trip into outer space. The scientists involved needed to test the boundaries of endurance on actual living creatures. Was it possible to survive the extreme accelerations and decelerations of launching and landing? How could basic life-support needs – such as air, water and food – be supplied away from the home planet? And finally, would the experience of weightlessness inside a small capsule be harmful? Scientists needed to test life-support equipment, develop a training regimen for crews and perform tests in space. All of this had to be completed before human crews could embark on space exploration.

By the time of the first Soviet space dog crew, American scientists had attempted a number of launches using monkeys in V2 and Aerobee rockets, and all of them ended in the death of the animals. But the information collected during the flights demonstrated that the animals could cope with the intense G-forces and stresses of the rocket launches.

Chief Designer Sergei Korolev decided that the Soviet space programme would, on the other hand, work with dogs. The choice of dogs, ‘man’s best friend’, over monkeys, among our closest genetic relatives, was based on rational reasoning springing from emotional attachment. The Russian scientists believed they could build stronger bonds with the animals and so ensure their obedience. They also believed that the dogs eking out an existence on the harsh streets of Moscow would possess a survivalist temperament.

Belka and Strealka in the arms of Oleg Gazenko, following their day-long space flight, 1960. Credit: Institute of Biomedical Problems, Moscow.

Belka and Strealka in the arms of Oleg Gazenko, following their day-long space flight, 1960. Credit: Institute of Biomedical Problems, Moscow.

There were strict criteria for scouting the first star squad of dogs. They had to be female, because the specialised clothing and toilet technology was easier to tailor to them. And they needed to be small in size: 6 to 7 kg each to accommodate the strict weight limit for the rocket. These dogs also needed to have light-coloured fur, in order to show up clearly in front of the on-board camera. The scientists had even attempted to bleach the fur of one of their favourite darker dogs without success.

In the six years of stratospheric dog flights only a few launches ended in tragedy. But through these sacrifices enough information was gathered on whether living beings were likely to survive a trip into space. After the launch of an untrained puppy called ZIB (a quick replacement for a runaway dog), Chief Designer Korolev was ecstatic. At the landing site, when greeted by the happy puppy, he announced to his colleagues:

‘Space travellers will soon be flying in our spaceships with state visas – on a holiday!’

These early tests, conducted in secrecy, culminated in the final question: could a living creature survive a prolonged stay in zero gravity?

The most successful canine mission was perhaps the one performed by Belka and Strelka in 1960, who completed 18 orbits and returned to Earth in perfect health. They were greeted by an international press corps at a news conference in Moscow and their friendly faces were broadcast around the world. Belka went on to have a litter of puppies, one of which was given to the American first lady Jacqueline Kennedy by Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev.

White House dog Pushinka, a puppy of the Soviet space dog Belka. Credit: Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

White House dog Pushinka, a puppy of the Soviet space dog Belka. Credit: Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

At the time of this gift, Korolev already knew the name of the cosmonaut who would be the first to fly into space. By the time of Gagarin’s flight, 48 dogs had been to space and 20 had perished.

Discover the dramatic history of the Russian space programme in our new exhibition, Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age, opening 18 September 2015.

Wonderful Things: Memory box

Rosanna Denyer from our Learning Support Team writes about one of her favourite Science Museum objects.

By 2015, 850,000 people in the UK will have been diagnosed with dementia. Dementia is a term used to describe the symptoms of diseases that cause memory loss, confusion and problems with communication. Dementia is progressive,so the symptoms become worse as time goes on.

Until 1906 it was thought that dementia was an inevitable part of growing old. This changed when Dr Alois Alzheimer,a leading neurologist who researched the brain and the nervous system, gave a lecture about a disease which caused memory loss, hallucinations and problems with communicating and understanding. He was describing what we now know as Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Doctors now know that the death of neuron cells in the brain is the main cause of dementia. Neurons need nutrients, oxygen and close contact with other cells in order to survive. Scientists are always looking for possible cures for dementia, a great deal of the research is aimed at treating the symptoms, for example trying to delay memory loss.

However, treatment for memory loss does not lie solely in the hands of scientists. Memory boxes, such as the one on display in the Who Am I? gallery, are used by people with dementia, with their friends and families, to help them retain memories.

Memory Box

Memory Box in the Who Am I? gallery at the Science Museum

Photographs and objects that have special memories connected to them can be kept inside the boxes. The person with dementia can look through the box and be reminded of people, places and events from their lives. They can be used to trigger memories of a past career or love.

In the next 10 years a further one million people in the UK will develop dementia. Whilst scientists research and test treatments, families and communities will continue to develop ways to manage the symptoms. A memory box may seem simple, but it is a method which is accessible, affordable and effective.

The issue of how to treat and manage dementia is experienced by communities all over the world. By 2030, the number of people with dementia worldwide is estimated to reach 65 million.

Some countries are finding unique ways to help people live with the symptoms of dementia. One care home in Amsterdam has created an entire village which is ‘dementia friendly.’ The 152 residents live in the small village of Hogewey which has a restaurant, theatre, beauty salon and village shop.  The village is staffed by healthcare workers and volunteers and gives elderly people with dementia a safe environment in which to enjoy everyday life.

What memories would you want to keep in your memory box?

The memory box can be found in the Who Am I? gallery, on the first floor of the Wellcome Wing in the Science Museum.