There are few space-related events that have so wholeheartedly captured the imagination of the masses in recent years than Tim Peake’s astronomical antics on the Principia mission to the International Space Station.
Thanks to new advances in communication technology, for six months we were regular witnesses to the UK’s first European Space Agency astronaut’s daily life, experiments, space walks and participation in the London Marathon while he orbited the earth almost 3000 times, 250 miles above our heads.
A once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the astonishing 1.5 tonne Soyuz TMA-19M capsule that brought this legend back to earth with his two fellow astronauts, alongside the first ever opportunity to see Peake’s Sokol Space Suit should be reason enough to hotfoot (or moonwalk) to Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry pretty much immediately.
This awe-inspiring display reveals how nerve-wracking the violent re-entry process above the speed of sound must have been as the capsule reached speeds of up to 515 miles per hour and temperatures of 1500 degrees. The scorch marks that cover the capsule are testament to this, but what’s also captivating in seeing the Soyuz close up is imagining the incredible views of the earth and phenomenal sights such as the moonrises that the astronauts bore witness to from its windows.
Peake himself has said of his ongoing connection to the Soyuz that he has “huge attachment to something that has kept you alive and through the rigours of going through space and back”.
Lucky for us too that museum curators have also rediscovered items that reveal Manchester’s previously unsung role in space exploration. The accompanying display on space suit design tells the story of the city’s P. Frankenstein and Sons Ltd who were early manufacturers of experimental rubberised fabrics and who collaborated with NASA to help them design the very first Apollo space suits. So Manchester made history by keeping the first astronauts to walk on the moon as safe as houses.
If this isn’t enough excitement for one visit, don’t miss the accompanying Space Descent VR experience, voiced by Major Tim himself which promises that you experience first-hand the super-fast descent to Earth from the International Space Station. Yikes.
We defy even the most space-sceptic not to find this one of the most blinking fascinating things you will see in a long time. It charts one of the most amazing journeys it is now possible for humankind to make. An incredible personal and scientific story while also a totally mind-boggling object in its own right. Cosmic stuff.