Tim Peake’s spacecraft voyage to County Durham

By Lucy Williams

After landing in Kazakhstan, Tim Peake announced “It’s just been fantastic, from start to finish. I’m just truly elated, just the smells of Earth are so strong, it’s wonderful to be back.”

Following six months aboard the International Space Station, British Astronaut Major Tim Peake journeyed 408km back to Earth on the 18th June 2016. His carriage? The Russian- made Soyuz TMA-19M decent module.

Thanks to the Science Museum Group, this incredible feat of engineering is touring eight museums around the UK over the coming 18 months. It is currently on show at County Durham’s Locomotion museum in Shildon, just 12 miles from Durham City. From there it will travel to York, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, with the aim of inspiring a generation to grow their scientific knowledge and appreciate the pioneering work of global space institutions.

Palatinate Scitech went to Shildon to explore the exhibition with the DUSEDS Society.

Weighing in at 2900 kg, with habitable dimensions of just 4 cubic metres, the module carried Peake and two other astronauts, Russian Yuri Malenchenko and American Tim Kopra, the four-hour journey back to the Earth’s surface. Re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere caused the outer surface of the module to be heated to over 1500°C, signs of which are clear from the scorch marks and charring that remain. A glass window has been cut into the module’s surface to allow visitors a rare glimpse into the interior, where the control panel and astronaut coaches can be observed.

The parachute that helped slow the module from speeds of 287 km/h to 22 km/h before landing, is also on show to the public. The vast canopy, spanning the length of two tennis courts, dwarfs the module below and helps visitors comprehend the enormity of the accomplishment in bringing the three men back to Earth safely.

Also featured at the exhibition is a 360° 3D space descent virtual reality experience narrated by Tim Peake himself. It allows the viewer to experience the dangerous decent made by the three astronauts.

Several volunteers are on hand at the museum for visitors to ask questions about the module and Tim Peake’s time in space. The show in Shildon is on until the 15th January and with free entry to the museum, it is well worth a trip.

As the UK-Russia Year of Science and Education comes to an end, the spacecraft’s tour will continue to demonstrate and celebrate the global collaboration involved in space science and exploration.

Photograph: Teodor Tzokov (DUSEDS Society)

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