Weighing planets and composing menus for cosmonauts: New exhibitions at Cosmos Pavilion

Weighing planets and composing menus for cosmonauts: New exhibitions at Cosmos Pavilion
Photo: Photo by the Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Yevgeny Samarin
New exhibitions on astrophysics, biology and medicine at the Cosmonautics and Aviation Centre have opened. They are open every day, except Monday, from 11 am to 10 pm.

Russia’s largest space museum, the Cosmonautics and Aviation Centre at Pavilion No. 34, or “Cosmos,” at VDNKh, now hosts two new exhibitions as part of the overall exhibition. Now visitors can see the achievements of Russian cosmonautics and space technologies of the future, and can also weigh planets using a giant weight, compose a menu for cosmonauts and see “space spinach” growing.

“The Space Science exhibition is dedicated to planetology and astrophysics. These scientific disciplines explain what the world beyond the Earth is like and help us understand physical processes in the universe. And Space Biology and Medicine exhibition visitors will learn how people and plants live in space,” said a VDNKh spokesperson.

The two new presentations have over 100 exhibits, including installations, models of equipment used in medical and biological research and samples of loading suits used to prevent muscle atrophy in zero-gravity conditions as well as photo and video materials.

The Space Science exhibition includes a multimedia astrophysical map of the world presented on four 55 cm digital screens. The map shows stars, planets and galaxies in the universe as well as their physical and chemical characteristics. Visitors can see them from inside the Milky Way, from the Solar System. Clicking on the objects shows their development or they can be collided with each other to see what happens.

Visitors can also study the periodic table of elements using an unusual installation resembling a shelf with rectangular holes. Objects made of the elements placed in the holes such as an aluminium can, copper wire or lead pencil. An infographic showing how chemical elements influence astrophysical processes –the Big Bang, neutron star collisions or the origin of cosmic rays – is placed next to the shelf. A special weight can be used to compare the mass of the models of the planets.

“The exhibit is a rectangular 3 x 2.5 m showcase with models of Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The planets are connected to levers visitors can use to lift them, compare the respective weights and see that the composition of the planets can differ and that a large size does not necessarily mean heavy mass. For example, Saturn is over three times lighter than Jupiter while being only slightly smaller,” the spokesperson noted.

The Space Biology and Medicine exhibition has a giant cosmonaut floating in zero gravity. It is 4.5 m long and weighs about 350 kg. Visitors can take selfies with it. Soon interactive screens will be installed near the cosmonaut; they will show the processes of the human organism in space: for example, how heart rhythm or bone mass and density change and how the immune system is affected.

Visitors can also play a game where they compose a menu for cosmonauts. Participants choose food items they believe are necessary each day; they must be consumed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food must contain all the necessary microelements; a balance of proteins, fats and starches must also be considered. In addition, the diet should prevent nervous system disorders, rapid fatigability, tiredness or problems with joints and weight. Weight can affect landing because the seats are tailored to each cosmonaut.

In addition, the exhibition includes a greenhouse similar to the one on the International Space Station (ISS) to learn how plants survive in space. As of today, lettuce and spinach are growing in the greenhouse. Special conditions are created to make the growing process similar to space: for example, bright lights are never turned down and the plants “don’t sleep.”

Admission is included with the Cosmonautics and Aviation Centre ticket. The exhibitions are open every day, except Monday, from 11 am to 10 pm.

Main entrance, main alley, main fountains: What to see at VDNKh

The Cosmonautics and Aviation Centre opened on 12 April 2018 at the renovated Cosmos Pavilion at VDNKh. The pavilion’s historical appearance from 1954 was restored during the renovation. The pavilion covers over 15,000 sq m and has over 120 items of aviation and space equipment, with more than 50 items produced specially for the centre. The unique items include a full-size model of the Mir station, a model of the first artificial satellite and even a sample of Moon soil.

The main exhibition is divided into three themed sections. The “KB-1: Space Boulevard” section hosts full-size models of space equipment and cosmonauts’ gear. The “KB-2: Design Bureau” is where young engineers can learn physics, astronomy, engineering and robotics. And the “KB-3: Launchpad of the Future” section provides a glimpse of what space technologies will be like in the near future.

A postbox that connects visitors with the cosmonauts on the ISS and their colleagues who have already returned to Earth opened at the centre on 4 October. The blue-and-white postbox is installed on the opposite side of the turnstiles. Everybody can send a letter asking the cosmonauts about the details of their job, their spacewalk experiences and life in space as well as wishing them luck with their missions.

Detailed information on tours and events at the Cosmonautics and Aviation Centre is available on its website.