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Saturday, 15 March 2014

Moscow Trip: Day 3: Energia

For the third day on the Russia trip, the ISU students were treated to a tour of the Roscosmos facility, Energia, primary developer and contractor of the Russian human spaceflight program! I was pretty excited to see this place and I think after you see the photos, you'll see why!

Did you know the Soviet Union developed a "space shuttle"? Check out the Buran
Anniversary of the first satellite in orbit, Sputnik, October 4th, 1957
A model of Sputnik 1
A replication of the first international space docking between the Apollo (left) and the Soyuz (right).

Just some equipment I thought looked cool.
Sputnik 2 and 3, Sputnik 2 carried the first animal (a dog named Laika) into space!
Sputnik 3
Another shot of Sputnik 2, with a toy Laika inside

Another shot of the Apollo, with attitude thrusters in the middle
Russia had aspirations of landing this on the Moon

My friend Goktug posing with a satellite

Several ISU students in front of a Mir space station mockup!
A model of Mir

Yuri Gagarin's capsule deserves a red carpet!
While everything seen so far had been pretty exciting, I was not expecting to see the actual capsule Yuri Gagarin landed in! The first person in space, Yuri Gagarin holds a special place in the heart of us space-enthusiastics, and rightly holds a special place in the history books. Interestingly, you can see the damage done to the capsule by the atmosphere and landing.
A close-up look at Yuri's capsule

Valentina Tereshkova's capsule, first woman in space!
The photos above and below are of Valentina Tereshkova's first journey into, and from, space. Unlike Gagarin, her landing was not so smooth. You can see the damage to the capsule, but the seat below was even more damaged, landing off-course, in a swamp. While the Soyuz landings today take place entirely inside the capsule, early cosmonauts would have to eject their seats from their capsules prior to landing. If you look at Yuri's capsule again, you can see the rails upon which the seat was mounted.
Tereshkova's seat after landing

Voskhod 2, whereupon Alexey Leonov performed the first EVA, with Pavel Belyayev's assistance
Extra-vehicular activities, also known as EVAs or "spacewalks", are undoubtedly exciting, garnering much public attention. Continuing to lead the space race, the Soviet Union was the first nation to perform such a spacewalk, in 1965. With an extendable airlock, Alexey Leonov was able to perform the necessary functions required to leave the capsule, including donning his suit and checking/changing pressure. The spacewalk went well, but re-entering was a problem. Turns out the suit had expanded due to internal pressure and Leonov was unable to fit back inside. Keeping a cool head under pressure, Leonov vented some of his internal pressure, his air, until he could get back inside. Having to sacrifice your air while you're floating above the Earth at several kilometers/second, that must have been both terrifying and exhilarating! If any of you have read Chris Hadfield's book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, you'll see some historical mirroring as Hadfield had trouble getting out of the International Space Station, although this was not due to suit pressure.

The interior of a multi-seated capsule

The picture above seems to show many chalk lines on the capsule. What were they marking? Turns out this is thermal marking, set to change to specific colours in the presence of certain temperatures. By marking the capsule as such, engineers are able to understand the heat distribution over the capsule upon re-rentry and landing and this helped them create more better, stronger, and safer capsules in the future!

The interior of another capsule, with cosmonaut and control board

Another photo of my friend Goktug, this time with a capsule
My friend Goktug (pronounced gok-2), from Turkey, will be happy to finally get these photos, he was asking me to take them.
Besides the lack of legroom, this looks like a pretty nice set up. Chair, control board, all controls at your fingertips, I sit in front of my computer and think how similar my setup is to this one.
A bottom-side look at part of the Mir

An inside look at the Mir space station.
The inside of space stations may seen quite small, but there are two things to consider. The first, is that it takes a lot to lift mass off of the Earth. Even today, with our advances in propulsion technology, mass is a key driver for increasing the cost and complexity of space mission design. So, the less mass, the better. The second consideration is that you can utilize more room in a microgravity environment. Think of it like this: you are in a room, with 4 walls, ceiling, floor, and a table and chairs. The floor space, and some wall space, is about all you can use, right? Well, in space, every wall becomes the floor, or wall, or ceiling, so your room just became a lot more functional. You can float on the ceiling and do some work, while someone else checks on some readings on what you think is just another wall. I think this is a very cool consequence of a low-gravity environment.
Some internal workings of the Mir space station.
Included this one for my dad, who is an electrician.

Some more Cyrillic, where M "backwards N" and P spells MIR

The table under the capsule showed some of the gifts exchanged during the first international docking.
Our professor, who loves to impress us with stories of the Russian space program, said that the astronauts from Apollo enjoyed most of their time in the Soyuz because the food was better and there was more room. Our professor reminds me of Star Trek's Lieutenant Chekov, who is constantly praising Russian inventions and innovations.

During the Soyuz-Apollo project, food, pins, t-shirts, and letters were exchanged and the experience is symbolic of further, future, international cooperation in space. You have to remember that this was back in the 1970s, when tension on the ground between the USSR and the United States were still very high. Space, however, has always seemed so much more dangerous and inspiring, and as such, thanks to the Outer Space Treaty and the actions of different space nations, every space-faring nation recognizes astronauts, cosmonauts, taikonauts (from China), anyone in space, as an "envoy of mankind". That means that if help is required, these nations have pledged to do what they can to assist. This cooperation is one of the many reasons I think space and human space exploration is important.
Continuing with international cooperation, check out this ISS model
By the way, the Soyuz you saw in the last photo is what is docked in the middle-bottom of the ISS, below the tiny red/blue flags. The ISS measures roughly 100 metres by 100 metres, truly incredible!

The front hallway of Energia, showcasing the history of space exploration

Gives me a smile when I see the Canadian flag in all these photos

The visit, like many of the sites in Russia, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Professor Tolyarenko was able to give us so much more information on the state of things than can simply be seen on the plaques and I was incredibly happy to have been there to hear all of it. While I knew some of the history and impressiveness of the Russian space program, it was an entirely new and exciting experience to see some of it first-hand, to be at the place where legends and giant leaps forward were made!

There is more to come on this trip, but I hope you have enjoyed your tour today. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more pictures from beautiful Russia!


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