The Moscow Space Museum
Prospect Mira, 111
Free with student ID
(500 rubles otherwise)
The Moscow Space Museum rivals any other cosmonautic museum in the world for the sheer size of collection of memorabilia relating to the early days of space travel and modern advancements, as well as models of space craft that countries from all over the world have flown into space at one point or another since mankind first journeyed into space. Add the fact that entry is free for students, and this museum is an absolute must-see for anyone interested in the history of space travel or just in seeing what constituted a large part of the rivalry between the Soviet Union and United States in the 20th century.
After taking the metro to VDNKH (ВДНХ) in the Northeast of Moscow, it is impossible to miss the absolutely massive monument to Soviet cosmonauts that dominates the landscape of the area as soon as exiting the metro station. The monument is a nod to famous Soviet propaganda posters concerning the space race, which often featured a single rocket blasting into space leaving a noticeable, curved trail behind them to symbolize progress. The monument takes the form of this rocket and its trail, resting on top of a stone plateau with a mural of Soviet scientists and their achievements carved into its walls.
At the bottom of the rocket’s trail and base of the monument lies the entrance to the museum itself. Upon walking inside, one will immediately notice the virtual simulator of a rocket launch, which any museum visitor can purchase separate tickets to use (unfortunately, not free of cost for students). While the ticket boards only list prices for “foreign students,” I found that mentioning that I studied in Russia and handing over my Moscow State University student ID got me free entry, which makes this not the only museum in Moscow to give a fairly significant discount for student entry (adult tickets were 500 rubles, about 9 dollars).
At the beginning of the exhibition, which is divided into parts and self-guided in a linear fashion with arrows on the floor that point out which hall is meant to be visited next, one can see some of the very first Soviet spacecraft and a large monument to the first man in space, the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin. Gagarin remains a very important figure in the modern Russia national mythos and culture, and Russian cosmonauts even have a public holiday dedicated to them in the country. In this first hall, a large statue of Gagarin stands with arms outstretched, as if inviting one to witness the great achievements of Soviet aeronautical engineers. One can see models of the Soyuz-1 and its successors, some of the very first spacecraft ever launched by mankind, and other early satellites and capsules.
The next couple of halls gradually move through history and outwards from Russia. The second hall is full of medals and other honors won by some of the greatest Soviet and Russian pioneers of aerospace technology, as well as giving extensive biographies of their accomplishments. It also details their achievements in technological terms, describing exactly the revolutionary advancements they made in technology. Although all of the placards are in Russian, they are written in quite simple terminology and easy to understand.
The third hall and all those following it are contained in one massive room at the back of the museum, and they are truly the treat of the entire exhibition. These halls contain all to-scale models of the largest Soviet, Russian, and international spacecraft, as well as exact replicas of different spacesuits and landing modules. The placards in this room begin to have English translations of the descriptions on them as well, perhaps complementing the growing theme of international cooperation in space travel as the museum’s exhibition continues. The highlights of the last few halls are a model of the orbital station Mir’s airlock, which is hoisted in the air and open for visitors to look inside of, and a giant screen that emulates NOAA’s command center and shows the positions and movements of all satellites currently in orbit above the Earth.
The museum ends with some fantastic pieces of memorabilia and placards dedicated to American-Russian cooperation in space travel, an effort between the two countries that has fairly extensive and impressive history, especially considering the great rivalry they had during the space race of the Cold War. American spacecraft are ubiquitous throughout the last few halls, including models of lunar rovers and the Jupiter and Saturn model rockets that were launched into space by the United States from Cape Canaveral. Overall, with an abundance of information on the history of both Russian and international advancements in space travel, and incredibly affordable, I highly recommend a visit to the space museum.