Ferris Wheel ride

Because nothing says winter in Moscow quite like a Ferris wheel ride above a snow covered VDNKh park.

View from the little Ferris wheel across the VDNKh park

View from the little Ferris wheel across the VDNKh park, with the central pavilion off to the left in all it’s gingerbread glory

A glimpse of the the Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument, looking suitably monumental...

A glimpse of the the Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument, looking suitably monumental…

Ostankino Television Tower in the background.

The main gates (Propylaea) peeping above the tree-line, you can see the spike of the Ostankino Television Tower in the background and the curve of the entry concourse through the trees

Cityscape in the distance

There’s that monument in the distance

More of the park, bare and mournful

More of the park, bare and mournful

Well at least there’s a gondola

Another glimpse of the the Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument

Another glimpse of the the Worker and Collective Farm Woman Monument

 

On the edge of space

Monument

Take the metro to the VDNkh station, walk outside and across the street and this is what you see, the Monument to the Conquerors of Space erected in 1964. While getting to the moon was one hell of an achievement for the United States, my affection is still for the Russian space program and what they achieved with determination, ingenuity and bravery. Had things gone just a little differently, well maybe there’d by a Tsiolkovsky lunar encampment in the sea of Tranquility today…

In the base of the monument is a space museum which is where we headed after admiring the monument in the somewhat frigid temperature. FYI it’s not made very obvious but you need to buy an extra ticket to take photo’s, and there are photo police wandering the exhibition (which annoyed the crap out of G). Despite that this is a great little museum brimming over with history, but still suffering from the hangover of soviet circumspection about it’s failures. To my mind it could be so much better by talking honestly about the near misses, disasters and tragedies of the program as well as showing more of the story of all those involved in the program  e.g. the engineers and  technicians, as well as the husbands, wives and children* of the cosmonauts. Definitely worth the visit, and worth being pestered by the photo police.  Oh and the idea of making the monument out of titanium, literally priceless.

*For example Elena Yurievna Gagarina the eldest daughter of Yuri Gagarin is the director of the Kremlin State museum (The Armoury) which we’d visited yesterday.

Looking down Cosmonauts alley towards the space stella

Looking down Cosmonauts alley towards the space stella

Solar sundial

Solar sundial

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky looking suitably prophetic

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky looking suitably prophetic

Frieze at the base of the monument celebrating all the people who made it possible

Frieze at the base of the monument celebrating all the people who made it possible

Yuri Gargarin's spacesuit the SK-1 (Skafandr Kosmicheskiy) it's more of a pressure suit intended to protect you from depressurisation (and during ejection) rather than a true space suit for work outside the capsule

Yuri Gargarin’s spacesuit the SK-1 (Skafandr Kosmicheskiy) it’s more of a pressure suit intended to protect you from depressurisation (and during ejection) rather than a true space suit for work outside the capsule

The hero's medals

The hero’s medals

The Vostok (East) 1 capsule, only one driver low miles.

The Vostok (East) 1 capsule, only one driver low mileage

The little beeping ball that started it all

The little beeping ball that started it all

Little Laika's capsule

Little Laika’s capsule

Belka and Strelka, and a space capsule built for two very small furry cosmonauts

Belka and Strelka, and a space capsule built for two very small furry cosmonauts

Leonov’s Berkut (Golden Eagle) space suit, a modified Vostok Sokol-1 intravehicular (IV) suit.

Leonov’s Berkut (Golden Eagle) space suit, a modified Vostok Sokol-1 intravehicular (IV) suit.

No it's not a zero g shower, this is an inflatable airlock used by Alexey Leonov to carry out the first spacewalk during the Voskhod 2 flight.

No it’s not a zero g shower, this is an inflatable airlock used by Alexey Leonov to carry out the first spacewalk during the Voskhod 2 flight.

The Soviet E6 Luna lander during a cruise to the Moon.

The Soviet E6 Luna lander in cruise mode enroute to the Moon

Luna 9 lander

Luna 9 lander

Venera probe

Venera probe

The Soviet E3 lunar orbiter, that first took pictures of the far side of the moon

The Soviet E3 lunar orbiter, that first took pictures of the far side of the moon

Zvezda developed KP-V-3A ejection seat,  for emergency in the ascent phase and normal ejection before landing, no soft landing system on Vostok!

Zvezda developed KP-V-3A ejection seat, for emergency use in the ascent phase and normal ejection before landing, no soft landing system on Vostok!

Yastreb (Hawk) developed to be more rigid after the problems on Voskhod 2 suit used once during a crew transfer, it was not a good design and discontinued.

Yastreb (Hawk) developed to be more rigid after the problems on Voskhod 2 suit used once during a crew transfer, it was not a good design and discontinued.

Yastreb (Hawk) helmet closeup

Yastreb (Hawk) helmet closeup

Sokol (Falcon) spacesuit, what every well dressed cosmonaut wears on a trip to the ISS. This is a strictly keep you alive suit, not intended for EVA.

Sokol (Falcon) spacesuit, what every well dressed cosmonaut wears on a trip to the ISS. This is a strictly keep you alive suit, not intended for EVA.

Orlan (Sea eagle) spacesuit in airlock mockup

Orlan (Sea eagle) spacesuit in airlock mockup

Orlan spacesuit in EVA

Orlan spacesuit in EVA, with space girl

The Krechet (gyrfalcon) was a semi-hardshell space suit developed for the Soviet manned lunar program, a lot more advanced than the equivalent generation of Apollo suits. It was designed by NPP Zvezda.

The Krechet (gyrfalcon) was a semi-hardshell space suit developed for the Soviet manned lunar program, a lot more advanced than the equivalent generation of Apollo suits. It was designed by NPP Zvezda.

Lunokhod rover

Lunokhod rover

Luna 24, soil sample return mission

Luna 24, soil sample return mission

Lunokhod rover

Lunokhod rover

Soyuz capsule, heat shield jettisoned showing the retro rockets and emergency placards

Soyuz capsule, heat shield jettisoned showing the retro rockets and emergency placards

And soviet space poster art

And soviet space poster art

'Wow dad, is that an RD-214 ?', 'Why yes it is the RD-214 engine, did you know that it used a storable mixture of Nitric Acid and Kerosene, and was developed for ballistic missiles with a short readiness time requirement?', 'Geee...'

‘Wow dad, is that an RD-214 ?’, ‘Why yes it is the RD-214 engine, did you know that it used a storable mixture of Nitric Acid and Kerosene, and was developed for ballistic missiles with a short readiness time requirement?’, ‘Geee…’

The Kremlin

Kazan cathedral

Day two and an earlier start thanks to setting the alarm and figuring out where the coffee filters were. Also found out that if you really want to cool the kitchen down quickly just open the window a crack in the early morning of a Russian winter, works a treat, although G is convinced I’ll catch my death from the draft. After breakfast we headed out and took the metro to Red Square, arriving at around 10am where we queued at the ticket office in Alexandrovsky Gardens. My first queue in the snow, which I believe is traditional in these parts. Then with Armoury tickets in hand it was a quick walk through the Borovitskaya Tower entrance, along the wall of the Armoury to join another amiable queue for half an hour, still snowing. Finally we got inside dropped our jackets in the cloak room, donned the white plastic overshoes, and ascended the stairs to the Armoury.  Continue reading

Plains, trains and the Moscow metro

Honk Kong

And a New Year in Russia (2013)

The day after new years day I’m sitting in Hong Kong airport transit lounge at four in the morning waiting for the connecting Aeroflot flight to Moscow, big M4 parka in tow. I have  my visa, all other paperwork is in order and G is meeting me at the airport. Purpose of visit? Why to visit my parents in-law and for G to show me her home. First time to Russia, it’s a little exciting, besides which there’s the prospect of the central naval museum in St Petersburg. Continue reading