Often, while browsing online or out and about in London, I’ll see an advert for an exhibition or show I think might be worth a look. The Gallery folder of my phone contains a few hastily snapped photos of Tube posters, but very often I don’t get around to making a visit. If I do, it’s almost always when the run is about to finish or the exhibition is about to close, leaving me with few choices of tickets and crammed in alongside all the others who’ve left it to the last minute.
So it was with Cosmonauts, the exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington that closed on Sunday. Even though it opened last September, I found myself repeating old habits and didn’t make it there until Saturday afternoon.
When I arrived, the earliest ticket slot available was for 6:15, which gave me a good two hours looking at other exhibits. The museum contains some beautiful examples of clock making, including an ingenious and mesmerising invention involving ball bearings, which is unfortunately let down by its poor time- keeping due to its tendency to gather dust and slow down the mechanism.
I eventually got into Cosmonauts at the allotted time, and was very glad I did, in spite of the crowding and my aching muscles.
The exhibition started with fantasy sketches and plans for space travel and living drawn by Soviet artists and engineers in the early 20th Century, and showed the developments in the Russian space industry until the present day missions to the International Space Station.
It also included the fun fact that Yuri Gagarin was only 5 feet 2 inches, the same height as me. I now feel less bad about having to jump to reach things in shops, and if nothing else works out for me at least I can become an astronaut.
I wanted to see Cosmonauts for a few reasons: I studied Russian but never learned that much about the Space Age; spaceships are cool; research purposes.
I’ve categorised this post under ‘Writing’ as well as the newly minted ‘Field Trip’ category, because I’ve become very interested in the Space Race in recent months after I saw part of a documentary on it at some point last year.
There are lots of areas about that topic and period in history, both in the USSR and America, that I’m looking to explore, and which form the basis for my new writing project.
I haven’t attempted a proper piece of historical fiction before, but I’m looking forward to the new challenge. I’m conducting more research in book form, which is likely to appear soon under a ‘Book Club’ post or two.
Just don’t ask when the manuscript will be finished.