Space makes me feel a bit weird.
It’s not space’s fault, it can’t help being a vast expansive uncharted mass of darkness that makes everyone who looks at it and thinks too hard do a mind-shrivel into a never-ending hole of circular questioning and self-doubt, and it can’t help being an omni-present reminder of our relative insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe.
It’s not Kim Kardashian for gods sake, it didn’t ask for this level of introspection.
Give it a break, it’s just space.
Even so, I’ll even admit to getting a little bit nervous when the topic of space comes up.
Because it might start with an innocent observation about the angle of Orion’s Belt, but it never stops there, does it?
You point and say something like “oh look, is that the Plough? That one?” and gradually the conversation turns and then you’re feeling a pull, a weight, an irrevocable tug.
And that, my friend, is your mundane constellation sighting gently reminding you that it’s all so infinite and endless, and the stars you’re looking at don’t even exist any more and haven’t been around for ages because it’s many light years and much distance and so oh god, oh god, where are they then, where did they go, it’s all just so big.
So I try not to think too much about stuff…out there.
Far better to put space into a neat pile along with electricity, and phones, and Skype and things that I know exist, understand in theory, and as An Adult I should have a rudimentary scientific understanding of, but I don’t really, because how is my voice getting from here through a bit of wires and plastic to France again?
Actually don’t worry, let’s leave it, it doesn’t matter.
Tell me later. Or don’t.
Let’s just have a cup of tea and eat some cheese.
And likewise, I know – in theory, and from pictures and news and astronauts on Twitter – that people go into space.
That humans and dogs and monkeys have been fired into the vast expanse around us on rockets, and that people are currently in massive, dark, neverending space right now just living there, investigating planets and moons, watching hurricanes tear up the Earth from thousands of miles away and floating around in special trousers, because there’s no gravity.
I’ll say that again: There’s NO. AIR.
So until you see space pods, and a cosmonaut’s kitchen table, and their trousers, and Russian lunar landers right there in front of you, it all seems a bit unreal.
A bit too much like it happened on TV or in Christopher Nolan’s shed, instead of actual real life in 1957 with a bloke called Yuri Gagarin and a spacecraft called, of all things, Sputnik.
But now all those sorts of things are in the Science Museum.
Before getting to London, these capsules and gadgets and things were only ever in two places: Russia, and space.
They got here by sea and road, and the really big items like the LK3 Lunar Lander had to be dismantled and put back together again inside, with the rest of the exhibit built around them.
And I felt pretty privileged to be in an empty Science Museum, sans all those people who sometimes make museums a bit of a faff, and able to see it.
The best sort of exhibition is one that tackles the things that make you intrigued and also a bit nervous about your place in the universe (see also: dinosaurs and dead people) and this is one of those.
So if you’ve got even a passing interest in space travel, or the Russians, or mad decompression trousers and circular space pods, then Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age is a pretty good thing for you to see.
And if, like big massive infinite vast neverending god what is out there it can’t just be us can it not with all that space, you prefer your museum without many people in it, I noticed that the Science Museum is open late on Fridays until 8:45pm, so maybe give that a go.
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