I think most of us were all ‘Tim Peake’d out’ by the middle of 2016 by the time Peake landed back on Earth after a six month long mission on the International Space Station (ISS). But after a two year hiatus from hearing about his adventures in space, the arrival of the Soyuz capsule which transported him from the ISS has caused excitement for all of us space enthusiasts in Wales.
Tim Peake’s Spacecraft exhibition is now on at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, running until the 10thFebruary 2019. This is a fantastic chance for all of us non-astronauts to get an idea of what it was like to travel back to Earth in a tiny capsule.
The capsule is on display in an all-black room which adds to the atmosphere and really makes the capsule and its parachute stand out. As you enter the exhibition space, it is the first thing you set eyes on and it really is hard not to gasp or say ‘wow’. I was lucky enough to see the capsule with only two other people in the room at the time which was really special. I was volunteering with the Cardiff Astronomical Society at the family fun day at the museum and had a sneak peek of the capsule and the meteorites on display courtesy of Dr. Jana Horak, the head of Petrology and Mineralogy at the museum. I had been working with Dr Horak on my article for the Sky at Night magazine on the Beddgelert meteorite so it was really great to meet her and see the meteorite I had been writing about.
The capsule is well lit from the inside so you get a really good idea of how small it is especially with all the computer systems on board and the fact that Peake was sharing the cramped space on the3 hour descent with two other astronauts, Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Kopra. Peake’s emergency spacesuit is also on display and you can get a chance to ‘wear’ your very own on your way out of the exhibition.
A real highlight for me, was the virtual reality experience. It really is not to be missed. You can experience the descent from the ISS back to the Kazakh steppe as Peake explains the manoeuvres and dangers involved of the trip back to Earth. The best bit of the experience for me was the undocking from the ISS. You really do feel like you are in space, looking up at the underside of the ISS or looking down on Earth. You are sitting on a swivel chair, so you can spin around until your heart is content, taking in the stunning view.
My only gripe with the exhibition is that it simply wasn’t big enough. Only half the exhibition room has been used and I really do feel that the museum could have expanded the display to include information about the ISS and provided further material on what life is like in space. However, you won’t be disappointed. It is a real treat to have something like this in Cardiff, inspiring the public and giving us a chance to see something that you may usually only see in larger museums in larger cities.
I know that I will be back at the museum many times before the exhibition ends and certainly indulging in the VR experience as much as I can!