Out-Of-This-World Soviet Artifacts From the Dawn of the Space Race

State Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSIZO
State Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSIZO / State Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSIZO

The Soviet Union's space program Roscosmos was on top of the world in the '50s and ‘60s. In just six years, from 1957 to 1963, the organization successfully launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to travel from Earth; minted Russian mutt Laika as the first animal to orbit the Earth; and put both the first man, Yuri Gagarin, and first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, in space. (And that was 20 years before NASA’s Sally Ride.) 

The technology that made that era of success possible is now on display as part of Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age, a new exhibit at London’s Science Museum. The exhibit features the largest array of Soviet space hardware and memorabilia ever to be shown simultaneously, including some objects that have never previously traveled outside of Russia. 

Included in the massive collection: rarely seen Soviet spacecrafts, including the signed Vostok 6 flown by Tereshkova in 1963 and the Voskhod 1, the first capsule to carry more than one cosmonaut to space.

There’s also more unexpected memorabilia, like an ejector seat for dogs that was used on sub-orbital rocket flights in 1960, and a “gold phantom mannequin” made to look like Gagarin, which Roscosmos sent on a lunar orbit mission to test the effects of radiation. 

The LK-3 Lunar Lander, the 16-foot-tall Soviet answer to NASA’s Apollo series, was a secret until 1989, and had to be declassified to travel to London for the exhibition:

The Soyuz TM-14 descent module, a three-crew spacecraft that went to the space station Mir as the first Soyuz mission after the collapse of the Soviet Union:

The Vostok 6 descent module that carried Valentina Tereshkova home after her three-day mission weighs almost 2.9 tons. Its heat shield is burned and brown from the fiery power of re-entering the atmosphere at 16,777 mph.

Cosmonauts runs at the Science Museum until March 13, 2016. 

[h/t: New Scientist]

All images © Science Museum unless otherwise noted.