Spacecraft components replace candleholders. Spacesuits serve as vestments. Space-related books are contemporary holy scripture. Astronauts’ portraits substitute for icons. It is not a figment of my imagination – I have discovered the extraordinary Space Exploration Museum set in an old Ukrainian church not far from Kyiv.
Even more striking, this venue is part of the open-air History and Ethnography Reserve in Pereiaslav-Khmelnytsky. Located within an hour and a half drive of capital, this ancient town accommodates nearly 30 000 residents and over 20 museums.
A Real Drama
I enter the charming wooden blue-coloured structure of Saint Paraskeva built somewhere else in 1891 and reassembled here in 1973. Six years later, it became host to the Space Museum I’m about lay eyes on. This may sound logical since the Soviet Union encouraged a disrespect for religion while sanctifying science, however this ‘temple of worship’ is like nothing I have seen before.
Ukraine’s first Foucault pendulum hangs from a high ceiling occupying a central place in the exposition. It is encircled by models of the lander to Venus, unmanned lunar rover, automatic ionospheric laboratory, artificial Earth satellite, and meteorological rocket.
The Museum also boasts Yuriy Gagarin’s training parachute and a liquid cooling garment worn by Pavlo Popovych – the first Soviet cosmonaut of Ukrainian origin, who was aboard the Soyuz 14 in 1974. Popovych is also said to be the first to sing in space, performing the Ukrainian song, Watching the Sky.
A real drama lies behind the emergency spacesuit used by Vyacheslav Zudov aboard the Soyuz 23, as told by museum director Serhiy Vovkodav. In 1976, the spacecraft failed to approach its orbital station. On their forced return, the crew got trapped in the saline Tengiz Lake in Kazakhstan. Rescuers barely managed to save the cosmonauts who were suffering from a lack of oxygen, and the spacesuit still has the corrosion stains caused by the salt to prove it.
The space food in tubes are notable, and include soups, sweet cottage cheese, meat paste, and fish dishes.
Before I leave the place, I see a man crossing himself in front of the church, and I wonder whether space travel and religion go hand-in-hand. According to Vovkodav, while attending the Museum in 2011, independent Ukraine’s first astronaut Leonid Kadenyuk said, “When you see the earth from space, you understand the universe could not arise from noting – there must be some supreme intelligence behind its creation.”
Space Exploration Museum
History and Ethnography Reserve (Pereiaslav-Khmelnytsky)
It’s no secret that Kyiv is in need of urbanisation. The existing system of payment for things like city transportation is out-of-date and has many disadvantages. This is something that our Verkhovna Rada has also acknowledged and on 17 January 2017, a law covering the introduction of electronic tickets for public transport was adopted. The […]
Fog Lavender is the third album from Kyiv-based music project Blooms Corda. Their debut, Monodance was released in 2015, with follow-up Gigotosia (meaning ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’) dropping in 2016. In what has become tradition for the group, they first present their new music in live format, then post tracks […]
Looking for a traditional gift to wow your friends back home? We have something that will knock their socks off – and you’ll have just the gift to replace them! Just in time for that bone-chilling Ukrainian winter season, why not pick up a pair of Carpathian wool socks? Featuring traditional designs and wonderful, warm […]
Superstitions – in and of themselves – are not inherently bad. They can give a culture a layered richness that defines it as unique from all others. However, not all superstitions are cute or quirky. In Ukraine, perhaps the most annoying are the Soviet-era health myths. Go ahead – ask your Ukrainian friends how they […]