This beautiful display captures the Soviet space programme as a place for licensed dreaming, and features space relics never before allowed out of Russia
Saturday 26 September 2015
The Science Museum’s new exhibition Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age moves from the actual events, spacecraft and personalities of the USSR’s post-Sputnik decade of triumph, into cosmonaut culture more widely – cosmonauts as the political heroes of Khrushchev’s renewed communism, as embodiments of both science and mystical philosophy; in art and film; and as a design cue for a vast amount of Soviet kitsch, from table lamps to cigarette cases to cocktail cabinets.
The obvious coups of the exhibition are its space relics: most have never before been allowed out of Russia, from Valentina Tereshkova’s charred descent capsule to the lunar lander of 1969 that would have carried a single cosmonaut to the moon had the N1 rocket not kept failing.
BP sponsors the show, and the politics of that are interesting too: supporting Soviet space nostalgia presses the right Russophile buttons for an oil company that wants Putin’s goodwill. Why would you expect innocence, in anything to do with a tyranny’s daydreams? The show is a cabinet of wonders. Don’t miss the chance to see it.
• Cosmonauts is at the Science Museum, London SW7 until 13 March 2016.