Everyone knows that when you come to Moscow you can visit the Red Square, the Kremlin, and possibly also Lenin. These are the iconic pictures of Moscow, perhaps even Russia, and so are on top of most travellers’ lists. Less known, but still an awesome celebration of Russia’s achievements and an interesting insight into conflicted memories of the USSR, is the Cosmonaut’s Museum, located at VDNKh metro station, north of the city centre.
The Russians are proud of their many space achievements which include but are definitely not limited to the first man and the first woman in space, first artificial satellite (Sputnik), the first space crafts to come near to and orbit the moon (Luna programme)… the list goes on.
All of these achievements are celebrated by the distinctive-looking monument at VDNKh Metro station, a rocket/missile firing up towards the sky. The rocket heralds back to the origins of the Soviet space programme- which began when they converted the rockets that had originally been designed to carry atomic bombs into a way to propel objects into space. Underneath this massive monument of steel there is a museum which baffles not only by its extensive content, but also by its tremendous size.
As well as art, personal objects, and letters of important people that were involved in the space programme, the museum hosts all manor of model and original tools, space crafts, cameras, clothing, and commemorative pins, etc. The opening hall, which gives the illusion that the museum is quite small, hosts two stuffed dogs which were the ‘guinea pigs’ of space travel, the capsule they returned to earth in, information about first man in space Yuri Gagarin, and models of different Luna, Mars and Sputnik space crafts.
After a short film about the Russian involvement on the ISS, which begins with ‘there are no borders in space’, but proceeds to inform you why the Russian modules of the Space Station are the most integral, you can proceed to view all manner of objects, and even take a walk in a full sized replica of the ‘Mir’ Space station (мир). We literally spent hours here, wandering, staring, google-checking, and left thoroughly impressed.
The only downside was that not everything had an English description, and some where translated in a way that made them very confusing. This will likely develop with time- and all different language tours seemed to be available.
If you are especially interested in Yuri Gagarin, you can also find his grave on the Red Square: his ashes are in the Wall, marked by a plaque. You will find it AFTER passing through Lenin’s Mausoleum and passing the busts behind the Mausoleum. (Note that if you want to see this plaque, you will have to go see Lenin).