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By Josie Stuart on

Celebrating World Space Week at the Science Museum

As the largest space event on Earth launches today, we're diving into our galleries and collections to discover the objects and activities that tell the story of international space exploration.

To learn more about humanity’s relationship with our nearest star, book now to see The Sun: Living With Our Star, opening 6 October 2018. To see what’s on at the Science Museum during World Space Week, click here.

World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technology. It begins on 4 October, the anniversary of Sputnik I’s launch in 1957 and ends on 10 October, the date when the Outer Space Treaty was signed in 1967. The theme of this year’s World Space Week is ‘Space Unites the World’, inspired by the UNISPACE+50 event back in June this year.

Here at the Science Museum, we can learn about the global impact of space exploration through our galleries and exhibitions, immersive experiences and the objects in our collection . Here are some of our highlights.

A satellite launched by the soviet union

Replica Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite, on display in Exploring Space
Replica Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite, on display in Exploring Space

The start of Space Week coincides with the anniversary of the launch of Sputnik I. Launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957 and designed by Sergei Pavlovich Korolov and Oleg Ivanovsky, Sputnik I was the first artificial Earth satellite. You can see this replica in our Exploring Space Gallery, where you can also see a full-scale replica of Eagle, the lander that carried Armstrong and Aldrin to the Moon in 1969.

A Sundial from Persia

 Early Persian brass sundial compass featured in the Sun: Living with Our Star exhibition, opening 6 October 2018
Early Persian brass sundial compass featured in The Sun: Living With Our Star, opening 6 October 2018

This portable brass sundial from our collection was made in Persia, modern-day Iran. It could be used to determine the time for prayers and also includes a compass, which meant that its user could align the sundial and find the direction of Mecca, or kiblah – the direction Muslims face during prayers. You can see this in our upcoming blockbuster exhibition, The Sun: Living With Our Star, which opens its doors on Saturday 6 October.

The Sun is the centre of our solar system and by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. With a mass approximately 330,00 times greater than the Earth, the Sun accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Through the exhibition and its objects, you can explore how the Sun has affected our environment, health and sense of time.

An observatory From Jaipur

Model of zodiacal dials (Rashmalaya) in the Jaipur observatory, available to view on the Science Museum Group Collections page
Model of zodiacal dials (Rashmalaya) in the Jaipur observatory, available to view on the Science Museum Group Collections page

This is one of a series of models made 1884-6, showing the astronomical instruments of the Jaipur Observatory, India. Built of masonry the Jaipur instruments were used to accurately measure the position of the Sun, stars, moon and planets. Lacking telescopes these devices used naked eye sights and massive, but precise construction. Known as Rashnalaya (Zodical Dials), they were built and designed under the supervision of Maharajah Jai Singh II. Finding European, Islamic and Hindu astronomical tables inaccurate, Singh decided to make his own observations to improve matters. As ruler of Rajastan, he built several observatories starting in 1724 with one near Delhi. You can view this in more detail on our collections page.

Explore our collections page to see more space objects.

A European and Japanese mission

BepiColombo is the ESA's first spacecraft to Mercury. The full-size structural thermal model can be seen in the Tomorrow's World gallery of the Science Museum, London.
BepiColombo is the ESA’s first spacecraft to Mercury. The full-size structural thermal model can be seen in the Tomorrow’s World gallery of the Science Museum, London.

Featured in our Tomorrow’s World gallery, you can find the full-sized engineering model of BepiColombo, a joint mission to Mercury by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The mission includes two satellites: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter – which alone was built in the UK, Germany and across Europe – and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, which will be launched together on 20 October 2018 from Kourou in French Guiana.

The International Space Station

A view of the International Space Station from A Beautiful Planet, now showing in the IMAX Theatre c. IMAX
A view of the International Space Station from A Beautiful Planet, now showing in the IMAX Theatre c. IMAX

If that isn’t enough for World Space Week, what could be more global that the International Space Station (ISS) – it’s both an international collaboration and it orbits the Earth approximately 16 times a day.

Float aboard the ISS in our IMAX Theatre with A Beautiful Planet 3D where you can witness humanity’s impact on the natural world from the awe-inspiring vantage point of space. Or retrace Tim Peake’s 400km journey from the ISS back down to the Kazakh steppe in Space Descent VR with Tim Peake, where you can get a 360 ° view inside a Soyuz capsule


To find out more about space-themed activities at the Science Museum, click here.