Tim Peake's spaceship has finally touched down in Peterborough ahead of the grand opening of an exhibition tomorrow.
The Soyuz capsule that took Tim and his crew mates to the International Space Station - and back to Earth - will be in place at Peterborough Cathedral until November 5. The free exhibition opens on Saturday (August 11).
The 1.5 tonne capsule, which took Yuri Malenchenko (Commander, Russia), Tim Kopra (Flight Engineer, USA) and Tim Peake (Flight Engineer, UK) to the International Space Station on 15 December 2015 and returned the same crew to Earth on 18 June 2016, arrived last night as work started to put the ship in place in the 900 year old cathedral.
While the capsule itself has survived in some of the most hostile environments known to man - including temperatures of 1500 Celsius (2732 Fahrenheit) during re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere - extra care was taken to move it the few yards from the precincts outside the cathedral into position in the north transept. The Russian capsule was wrapped in bubble wrap, and inched slowly through the south door and into place. The main front doors could not be used because of beams and barriers in place in the Cathedral.
Along side the capsule itself, the parachute which safely slowed the ship and its crew down ahead of landing has also been rigged in the cathedral, and the space suit worn by Tim has been set up for display.
Peterborough Cathedral won a national competition to be the sixth venue on the tour, during which the spacecraft travels to eight cities across the UK. It is the only non-museum venue on the tour and celebrates its 900th anniversary in 2018. The ancient building took 120 years to construct using the state-of-the-art technology of its day. It is also home to a memorial to one of the most prolific and respected amateur comet and nova hunters of all time, Peterborough-based George Alcock MBE.
The display of the iconic craft will be accompanied by Space Descent VR, presented by the Science Museum Group and supported by Samsung, a unique virtual reality adventure using Samsung Gear VR technology. Narrated by Tim Peake himself, Space Descent VR recreates the experience of making the incredible 250-mile journey back down to Earth from the International Space Station inside a Soyuz capsule.
The Cathedral will present a programme of space-themed activities during the exhibition, including a holiday club entitled ‘Be an Astronaut for a Day’ and a StarDome presented by Leicester’s National Space Centre. The Museum of the Moon, a touring artwork by Luke Jerram, will also be on display during the Spacecraft’s showing, presented as part of Vivacity’s 'Without Walls' programme from 5th to 14th October.
The Very Revd Chris Dalliston, Dean of Peterborough, said: “This year the Cathedral has been celebrating its 900th anniversary and it seems appropriate that we are both looking back over its long history but also, with this exhibition, catching a glimpse of what the future holds too. Science and religion offer us complimentary views of what it means to be human and invite us to explore meaning and purpose as well as the mechanics of creation. We are proud to host the space capsule and hope that all who come will be able both to delight in human ingenuity and also reflect on the mystery and love that lies at the heart the universe.”
Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive of the Science Museum Group, said: “It is rare to see the star objects in Britain’s great museum collections touring the length and breadth of the country. It is even rarer to see a spacecraft in a Cathedral. I am extremely pleased that thousands of people from all around the diocese of Peterborough will have the chance to see this extraordinary artefact of recent space history on their doorstep, and I cannot wait to see the Soyuz take the Cathedral’s 900th birthday celebrations out of this world when it arrives in August.”
Sam Grant, Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung Electronics UK & Ireland, said: “Samsung has always had a passion for sparking curiosity and life-long learning. As part of our mission to make the UK the most space-travelled nation in the world, we are proud to present this opportunity to view Tim Peake’s spacecraft and experience Space Descent VR in an immersive lounge using Samsung Gear VR technology. We are also working with the Science Museum Group in their education outreach programme. With the help of the TimPeake Space Descent VR Experience Tour Bus, over the next two years a unique training programme will be visiting schools across the UK to engage young people in STEM subjects.”