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Birth of the Space Age

Doug Millard (ed.)

ISBN: 978 1 85759 902 2
Size: 254 x 229 mm / 9 x 10 in.
Binding: hardback
Pages: 256
Images: 300

UK £45.00 / US $75.00
(Available in hardback in the book trade, or in paperback for £30 direct from the Science Museum)


  • Features an unprecedented collection of Russian spacecraft and other objects never published before.
  • Accompanies the acclaimed and historic exhibition at the Science Museum, London, from 18 September 2015 to 13 March 2016.
  • Includes essays by cosmonauts, space historians and family members of space pioneers.


For decades, the story of the world’s first spacefaring nation has been underplayed in the West. Now the remarkable history of Russia’s space programme is being brought to light as never before. It is a chronicle that starts over a hundred years ago and then carries us through the tumultuous decades of Russia’s century. 
Russia launched the Space Age in 1957 with its Sputnik artificial satellite, and put both the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin in 1961, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963. But Russia also sent the first probe to the Moon and the first landers to Venus and Mars, achieved the first spacewalk, and had a major manned Moon landing programme of its own. Later Russia pioneered the development of orbiting space stations, and today is a leading partner in the International Space Station project. Behind these barrier-breaking feats lay a huge programme of rocket science, space technology and medicine, and the stories of these support activities behind the scenes are often as absorbing as the high-profile achievements.
This book accompanies a landmark exhibition at the Science Museum, London, opening 18 September 2015 and running until 13 March 2016. The exhibition is a major collaboration with The State Museum Exhibition Centre ROSIZO, the Moscow Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics and the Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos. It offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see objects that have never before left Russia, including rocket engines that launched the Space Age, actual craft that carried humans into space, and the spacesuits, equipment and personal items of the few who flew, alongside powerful artworks that articulated Russia’s longing for space.
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age presents an unprecedented collection of historic objects, photographs and artworks from the Russian space programme. It also features the incredible stories of the people who dreamt of early space exploration, those who made it happen, those who risked their lives to experience it and those who continue its legacy today. The line-up of expert contributors includesg the cosmonauts Vladimir Dzhanibekov, who describes his mission to rescue a stricken space station, and Aleksandr Lazutkin, who experienced the horror of a fire in orbit on Mir. Nataliya Koroleva writes about her father, Chief Designer Sergei Korolev, who endured the Soviet gulag before launching Sputnik, while Elena Tereshkova tells of her mother, Valentina Tereshkova. There are also essays by Elena Timoshenkova on her great-grandfather Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, pioneer of cosmonautical theory, by leading space historian Asif A Siddiqi, and by John E Bowlt, expert on Russian avant-garde art. Exhibition curator Natalia Sidlina interviews Sergei Pozdnyakov on the development of spacesuits and writes also about life at the Star City cosmonaut training facility, while Julia Tcharfas reveals the extraordinary research programmes of Russian space medicine.  
Available in paperback from the Science Museum, or as a hardback in high street bookshops.
'You will leave Cosmonauts with a different view of humanity's place in the cosmos.' - Professor Brian Cox
'The most significant collection of Soviet spacecraft, artefacts and equipment ever brought together in one place.' – Tom Feilden, BBC Radio 4: Today programme
'The best exhibition to visit over the holidays is Cosmonauts at the Science Museum in London … A spectacular display of some of the most important relics of humanity’s obsession with space' – Jonathan Jones in The Guardian


Doug Millard is Deputy Keeper of Technologies and Engineering at the Science Museum, London


"Cosmonauts, named after the Russian appellation for a navigator of the cosmos (the Americans opted for astronaut, navigator of the stars) is a marvel: an exceptional and unprecedented collection of models, drawings, footage and equipment relating to Russia’s singular passion for space travel."
Lucy Davies, The Telegraph

"My highlight: Cosmonauts at the Science Museum: This beautiful display captures the Soviet space programme as a place for licensed dreaming, and features space relics never before allowed out of Russia… The show is a cabinet of wonders. Don’t miss the chance to see it."
Francis Spufford in The Guardian

"In the Science Museum’s Cosmonauts exhibition, which covers Russia’s fascination with space from late tsarist times to the present, it is possible to see the country’s extraterrestrial exploration as a vast art project… The most remarkable pieces in this gripping show are the technical equipment, the capsules, landers and probes, not to mention the pressurised trousers, space suits and control tables, that have the profound strangeness that comes from addressing huge and unusual technical challenges. Some of them baked by the heat of re-entry, they can look strikingly primitive as well as technologically wondrous. Their weirdness is beyond anything that the wildest dreamers could have conceived. At the same time the art and design that inspired the space programme and was inspired by it, from 1920s abstraction to Sputnik-shaped souvenir samovars, shows how science is anything but pure, but is embedded in the societies from which it comes."
Rowan Moore, The Observer

"… assembles memorabilia and engineering marvels borrowed from around a score of Russian institutes… a parade of hardware that none of us who followed the news greedily in those years had ever dreamed we might see assembled in one place, let alone in South Kensington… see this show and be uplifted, transported, taken out of this world."

"These are cultural treasures for the whole species, on a footing with Renaissance masterpieces or the first steam engines. 1,000 years from now, these early space-faring machines will still be viewed with wonder… Cosmonauts offers an unrivalled glimpse into a great human adventure that is still in its infancy. This is the singularly impressive exhibition of technology, but even more a story of human struggle, bravery and achievement."