Two English cathedrals have been shortlisted as contenders to host an out-of-this-world exhibition of a Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft. The spacecraft was used in December 2015 to transport an international crew of astronauts from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to their six-month expedition on board the International Space Station: Russian Yuri Malenchenko, American Timothy Kopra and Briton Tim Peake. Peterborough and Worcester cathedrals will find out in March whether the rocket will go to them, or to the other contenders: Millennium Point in Birmingham, The Forum in Norwich, or TR2 in Plymouth.
The Science Museum Group acquired the Soyuz’ descent capsule, and it is embarking on a seven-date tour of the UK. It has already visited the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, and Locomotion in County Durham. Today (Wednesday) it starts a seven-week stay at the National Railway Museum in York, before moving on to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, and the National Museums of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, concluding in May 2019.
The sixth stop on the tour, from August to November this year, is being selected by a competition. The five shortlisted venues will be reviewed by a judging panel and the winner announced at the Museum of Science and Industry in March.
“We are thrilled to have been shortlisted as a possible venue for Tim Peake’s spacecraft,” the Acting-Dean of Peterborough, Canon Tim Alban Jones, said, “It would be wonderful to celebrate our 900th anniversary year by showing such a futuristic exhibition in our ancient cathedral.
“Our schools and families department are itching to engage young people with all the learning opportunities this presents. We have a memorial in the cathedral to the 20th century amateur astronomer, George Alcock, who is regarded as one of the most dedicated comet- and nova-hunters of all time. We’d love to be part inspiring a new generation with this enthusiasm for space, should our bid be successful.”
The Dean of Worcester, Peter Atkinson, said that the cathedral was “delighted” to have been shortlisted. “It is an exciting prospect to be able to host such a significant piece of modern national history in a vastly contrasting historic setting,” he said. “It would facilitate a unique opportunity for members of the general public from all over the Midlands and further afield, who have watched the story of space travel unfold or for younger people whose imaginations were captured by Tim Peake’s voyage to the International Space Station, to experience and savour for many years to come.
“The Cathedral Nave, where Soyuz could be on display, dates back to the 12th and 14th centuries and is a testament to the ambition of people in this period to push the boundaries around aspiration and excellence. It has magnificent high soaring gothic architecture and an impressive Victorian marbled floor and would be a superb backdrop for this exciting display.”
The director of the Science Museum Group, Ian Blatchford, commented: “It is rarer to see the star object from a collection stray beyond the walls of the major London museums. The Science Museum Group is well placed to lead the charge. Hundreds of thousands of people will now see world-famous scientific objects in their home city, and I’m delighted at the prospect of some of these experiences coming outside of a traditional museum setting.”