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Husky Airways

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Sputnik samovarOn Friday evening I met my friend Myk for the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum.

This took us from speculative sketches (rockets equipped with a bookcase, dining-table and bathtub), through Sputnik, Laika, Vostok and Soyuz to the collapse of the Soviet Union and into the present.

Much of the equipment had a touch of sci-fi about it: clunky but complex early designs from the cover of a pulp paperback, lunar landers straight out of a B-movie. It is still hard to believe, even at this remove, that we have put people in space; at the time of Yuri Gagarin's ascent, it must have been absolutely astounding. No wonder the Russians went around saying "Space is ours!" to each other. космос наш!

There was footage of dogs looking bewildered yet eager as they were stuffed into space capsules (one panel described them as 'brave space dogs', which is pushing it a bit; 'dogs who didn't recognise trouble when they saw it' might be nearer the mark), including a charming clip of a dog being released from the box in which he's just parachuted back down to Earth, and going wild with joy.

Jet Age ephemera is very much my thing, so I especially enjoyed items like the Sputnik-themed samovar. Myk and I agreed that this was our favourite propaganda poster:

Comments

Sounds like you had an awesome time. Your mentioning of the "brave space dogs" reminds me of the prologue to the long out of print Doctor Who novel Alien Bodies where the third Doctor tracks down the Sputnik and gives Layka a proper burial and tombstone.
Wow, that one sounds made for me! There were lots of other space dogs, but Laika's stuck in everyone's memory - I suppose because she was the first, and because her death was so public. There's an article in there somewhere...
It is a good book, which goes on to have a steller showdown between the 8th Doctor and the Krotons and there is a character who is best described as space Del-Boy.

I'll have to have a gander into the space dogs...
I really need to see that exhibition sometime! Roughly how long would I need? (Allowing for a spot of photography =:)

Superb poster. ^_^ Even if nobody's coming up with such inspiring designs now, at least we do seem to be seeing something of a spacefaring renaissance, with reusable craft being concocted by SpaceX, and the SABRE engine from Reaction Engines, which would make satellite deployment far cheaper than at present, with all the heavy lifting taken care of vastly more efficiently than carrying a full propellant load. (I wonder if RE offer any kind of tours, or viewing of test firings..)
It is quite small - you could do it in half an hour, really. And photography isn't allowed; the photo of the samovar is the one I took before I noticed :)

It isn't? Oops. I never saw that sign :(

When I went yesterday I was told pictures without flash were OK - so I took some.
Those are nice! I should have been less shy and asked someone, but all the staff on duty were doing their best impressions of Cold War-era thugs.
Ah, so at least some of the dogs came back from space? That's a relief (though I'm sure the dogs were much more relieved than I am).

I like that poster, too. What does it say on it?
I have a lovely book called Soviet Space Dogs, which is partly about the dogs themselves but also about the toys, biscuit tins, matchbooks and other ephemera that sprung up around them: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Soviet-Space-Dogs-Olesya-Turkina/dp/0956896286

Belka and Strelka came back safely and were celebrities. One of them had puppies, one of which was given to Jackie Kennedy as a present.

The poster wasn't captioned at the exhibition, but I have just googled it: 'The Path For Humans Is Now Cleared'. Heh!
That sounds like a fascinating book.

And according to Wikipedia, the descendants of those pups are still alive even today. That's quite sweet. :)
That looks amazing! Hopefully we can go before it closes :)

I bet the gift shop is amazing! I will def be getting a print.
It was on the expensive side, but there was some nice stuff - e.g. old Russian textbooks repurposed as notebooks.
AS well as Cosmonauts, I also saw Martin Parr's collection of Soviet Space Dog memorabilia, which was ... unusual.
Oh, envy! I'd love to see that.

I went to that exhibition too, and loved it but have failed to write it up.


I was impressed at how implausible the early space vessels were... Not sleek rockets as shown on the propaganda posters, but weird things clearly the offspring of Daleks and dustbins.

It was a real "we're gonna get into space by any means necessary".

What struck me was how many things Hergé got right in Destination Moon.