All set for lift-off!

During our preparations for the 1st Russia-ASEAN Youth Summit, participants from the Indonesian School of Moscow had the opportunity to visit the Memorial Museum of Astronautics. A tour of the museum, which showcased the outstanding achievements of Soviet space technology, was organised specially for them.

We were not only told about but also shown the first artificial satellite ('Sputnik-1') that was launched by the Soviet Union in October 1957. That event, according to our guide, was the "beginning of the space age".

In the same year, Sputnik-2 was also launched, and it carried an animal – the dog Laika­ – into space for the first time. Unfortunately, it was not yet feasible to bring the dog back to Earth. Laika died 5 to 7 hours into the flight from overheating, although she was initially expected to survive for a week. However, eventually it was possible for animals to return from space unharmed. This was achieved in 1960, when the Soviet space dogs Belka and Strelka completed an orbital space flight in a spacecraft. Our guide told us that when Strelka produced a litter of offspring, they were given to the wife of the American president. Thus, the descendants of one of our first space dogs can now be found across the Atlantic.

Of course, the Indonesian students were told about Yuri Gagarin, the most famous Soviet astronaut, who was the first person to fly into outer space in 1961. The 'second astronaut' who came after Gagarin was German Titov, who flew 17 times around the globe and first photographed the Earth from space.

We were also told about Alexei Leonov's spacewalk in 1965. A two-man spaceship, the 'Voskhod-2', was launched into orbit as part of a new experiment: sending a man into open space. This mission was an important milestone in the Soviet lunar programme. Of course, this spacewalk was keenly followed by the whole country.

The Indonesian students were also amazed by the fact that all Soviet (and subsequently Russian) space suits were named after birds. Apparently, every space suit weighs about 100 kilogrammes, and astronauts had to work in them for six hours! Also amazing was the real rocket that we were shown. Our guide told us that the idea of travelling in a rocket was first put forward by the astronomer K. E. Tsiolkovsky, and this idea was implemented by the Soviet scientist S. P. Korolev.

After hearing such exciting stories about space travel, the students were wondering what life on board a spacecraft was like for the astronauts. It turns out that astronauts sleep standing up most of the time, as in a zero-gravity environment that does not bother them. Also interesting was the fact that the space rations served today are comparable with food served in decent restaurants. We also learnt that space rations are the safest and most natural foods. There are no chemical or synthetic additives in them, as it is not known how these substances behave in space, in the presence of solar radiation and magnetic waves. Space rations are freeze-dried or dehydrated. One of the most difficult foods to freeze-dry is tea. And one of the tastiest space foods, according to the astronauts, is freeze-dried cottage cheese with cranberries and nuts. Apparently, it tastes fresh.

Reni, a high school student from the Indonesian School of Moscow, shared her impressions of the visit. "I really like how everything was organised," she said. "I learned so many new and interesting things! I think everyone should visit this museum to learn about the lives of real astronauts, and to see the rockets and satellites. And the stuffed space dogs Belka and Strelka really left a big impression on me. I am extremely grateful to the organisers for taking us on such an interesting trip to outer space!"

After the tour, the students were shown how space technology could be applied in everyday life: for example, during geography classes in school. Space technology has enabled many to study climatic zones, landscapes and much more in an interactive fashion, instead of relying on atlases.

At the end of the presentation, the students were asked: "So which of you would like to be an astronaut?" Of course, all the students, as well as their teachers, raised their hands. After all, after just a few hours, the mysterious, distant planets and galaxies of outer space seemed much closer to us.

Text: Tatiana ANDREYEVA


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