You may be wondering if this was a railway museum, why I mention the International Space Station. On this particular visit, I was interested in a very different kind of Rocket to the one that Stephenson made.
Soyuz TMA-19M was the craft that took Major Tim Peake, a UK Astronaut, to the International Space Station in December 2015.
In June 2016, he returned to Earth in the descent module, which is now on display at Locomotion, landing on the Kazakh steppe in Kazakhstan.
Victorian Diving Bell
Before visiting, I hadn’t really given much thought as to what a descent module would look like.
We have all seen the sparkling white launch vehicles such as The Space Shuttle or the Soyuz-FG rocket, so I have to admit my first impression was it looked more like a Victorian Diving Bell than the state-of-the-art spacecraft.
The module was kept safely away from behind a barrier to prevent people from touching it, it was not until I read the signage that I realised the outer surface had reached 1500°C during re-entry to the atmosphere. So perhaps expecting something sparkly white was a little unrealistic.
The parachute that was deployed to slow the module on its descent covered an area equivalent to that of two tennis courts. Such a large parachute was needed to create enough drag to reduce the module’s rate of descent from 287km/h to 22km/h in the final phase of the landing.
Looking through the portal inside the module, I also thought it didn’t look particularly high-tech, though obviously, it was. Again, I am not quite what I expected it to look like. It seemed the flight deck of a modern jet airliner was much more complex, whereas the module just seemed to have a few banks of switches and buttons. I am guessing there was a lot more we couldn’t see as we were being kept back from the module by the barrier so we couldn’t look at different angles.
Plus, I suppose we’ve all been spoilt by films such as Star Wars and that the reality of space travel is very different.
I hadn’t really planned my visit and had just called in when I was passing through the area. This meant I didn’t get a chance to try out the Virtual Reality experience.
Perhaps I will have the chance to call in again to give that a go before the exhibit leaves on 15th January 2018.