1. Home
  2. News and insights
  3. Press releases
  4. The first man to walk in space visits Science Museum

The first man to walk in space visits Science Museum to announce upcoming cosmonauts exhibition

Release date:
21 May 2015
  • Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov visits the Science Museum fifty years after historic spacewalk.
  • Cosmonauts:Birth of the Space Age to open on 18 September. Tickets are now on sale.
  • Features the greatest collection of Soviet spacecraft and artefacts ever exhibited outside Russia.
  • Major show tells the story of how Russia kick-started the space age with a series of breakthroughs, from the thinking of 19th century Cosmists to launching the first artificial satellite and first dog, man and woman into space.

18 September 2015 – 13 March 2016
Admission: £14, concessions available

Tickets: sciencemuseum.org.uk/cosmonauts

Principal Funder: BP Plc
Major Funder: ART RUSSE
Additional Funding from the Blavatnik Family Foundation

Fifty years after he entered the history books as the first person to walk in space, Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov visited the Science Museum today to announce the opening date for the highly anticipated Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition, supported by BP. Tickets are now on sale for the exhibition, which opens on 18 September 2015.

Alexei Leonov’s famous 12 minute spacewalk took place on 18 March 1965 and was immediately hailed back on Earth as a remarkable achievement. However, Leonov and crew mate Belyayev had faced one emergency after another during the mission: Leonov battled to re-enter the spacecraft after his spacewalk; the navigation system then failed and the crew had to steer the craft manually towards Earth; it then tumbled violently, exposing the two men to ten times the force of gravity. Finally, their adjusted descent meant they landed hundreds of kilometres off course in the Ural Mountains and were forced to spend the night in -25C.

Speaking at the Science Museum today, fifty years after this historic event, Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov said, “There were many problems during my first flight. Many of those were impossible to test on Earth, for example, how would the space suit react in the vacuum of space? But I had to do it. What I want to say is that even if it’s only a small thing you want to achieve, you still need to make every possible effort and do it thoroughly.”

The Cosmonauts exhibition will feature the most significant collection of Russian spacecraft and artefacts ever to be shown in the UK.  The exhibition tells the remarkable story of scientific and technological ingenuity that kick-started the space age with a record number of firsts for the Soviet Union. From the work of late 19th century Cosmist thinkers who first proposed that humanity's destiny lay in space, to the reality of living in space on board Mir and the International Space Station, the Cosmonauts exhibition will give visitors a unique opportunity to get up close to many of the key innovations that made space exploration possible.

In 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite, and four years later sent the first human into space – Yuri Gagarin. However, the story of space exploration is much older. Cosmonauts will explore the science and technology of Russian space travel in its cultural and spiritual context, revealing a deep-rooted national yearning for space that was shaped by the turbulent early decades of the 20th century. The exhibition will feature rocket pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s extraordinary 1933 drawings of space flight, depicting spacewalks, weightlessness and life in orbit almost thirty years before it became a reality.

Lead Soviet rocket engineer and designer Sergei Korolev is said to have insisted on Sputnik’s shiny appearance because he believed that one day replicas would be displayed in the world’s museums, and visitors to Cosmonauts will be able to look inside an original model of Sputnik from 1957.

The Soviet Union followed the great success of Sputnik 1 by launching the first animal, man and woman into orbit in just six years. Amongst the star objects on display in the exhibition will be real cosmonaut-flown spacecraft, including Vostok-6, the actual capsule that carried Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to travel into space, safely back to earth in 1963. Visitors will have the rare opportunity to see inside this historic spacecraft in its first ever UK appearance.

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, said: “We are honoured that Alexei Leonov could join us today, fifty years after becoming the first person to walk in space. Cosmonauts is a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition that has taken years of dedication and skill from the Science Museum team to make a reality. The Russian space programme is one of the great intellectual, scientific and engineering successes of the 20th century and I am thrilled that we have been able to bring together such an outstanding collection of Russian space artefacts to celebrate these achievements. I want to thank all our partners and funders who have made this exhibition possible.”

Although the remarkable achievements of the American Apollo Moon programme were widely broadcast at the time, Russia’s own competing manned Moon programme was kept secret until 1989. Revealed for the first time in the UK, visitors to Cosmonauts will see the monumental five metre tall LK-3 lunar lander, the finest example of its kind in existence today. Designed to take a single cosmonaut to the Moon’s surface, three Soviet lunar landers were tested successfully in space although none were sent to the Moon.

With the move by both Russia and America to create a more permanent human presence in space from the 1970s, international co-operation became increasingly necessary. Visitors to Cosmonauts will have the opportunity to see some of the ingenious technologies developed by Russia for use on board its Salyut and Mir space stations and then the International Space Station.

“Cosmonauts tells the story of the Russian space programme as never before – and in doing so it also tells the story of Russia through its history, technology, culture and its people,” said Bob Dudley, Group Chief Executive, BP. “BP has a long-standing relationship with the Science Museum aimed at increasing public engagement with science and technology. Our support of Cosmonauts is also an extension of BP’s broader efforts in Russia to promote the development of science and engineering as well as excellence in arts and culture.”

Cosmonauts represents a major collaboration between the Science Museum, the State Museum Exhibition Centre ROSIZO, the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics and the Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos. The support of many other institutions and individuals in the UK and Russia has also been crucial in the development of the exhibition.

The exhibition opens on 18 September 2015 and will run until 13 March 2016 at the Science Museum in London. The Museum will be open until 10pm every Friday evening during this period to allow visitors more opportunities to see the exhibition. Tickets are on sale now. Visit sciencemuseum.org.uk/cosmonauts for further details.

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age has had additional support from ART RUSSE (Major Funder) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Further information



Julia Murray, 020 7942 4328020 7942 4328,  julia.murray@sciencemuseum.ac.uk

Notes to Editors


About the Science Museum


As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement. More information can be found at sciencemuseum.org.uk.

About BP plc


BP is one of the world's leading international oil and gas companies. We provide customers with fuel for transportation, energy for heat and light, lubricants to keep engines moving, and the petrochemicals products used to make everyday items as diverse as paints, clothes and packaging.

BP's businesses are organized to deliver the energy products and services people around the world need right now. Our Upstream segment is responsible for our activities in oil and natural gas exploration, field development and production. Our Downstream segment is the product and service-led arm of BP, focused on fuels, lubricants and petrochemicals. We employ around 85,000 people in almost 80 countries worldwide.

BP has been working in Russia for 25 years in collaboration with leading Russian oil and gas companies. This currently includes a strategic shareholding of 19.75% in Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company. Our commitment to Russia goes beyond the development of oil and gas reserves and our overall support of local social, cultural, educational and charity projects has been the largest among foreign companies investing in Russia.

We have demonstrated our commitment to UK communities over the last 45 years through support for arts and culture and for the education of young people.  Find out more about BP in the UK and the BP in the Community programme at www.bp.com/uk.



ART RUSSE, led by entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrey Filatov, was founded in 2012 with the aim of developing a greater awareness and understanding of Soviet and Russian cultural contributions. In particular it focuses on collecting and increasing international awareness of Russian art dating mainly from the period 1917 – 1991, an artistic period known as Socialist Realism for which ART RUSSE has become the point of reference. Its aim is to increase appreciation for this genre through supporting exhibitions, lending to international museums and galleries, and publishing books and catalogues on key artists and artefacts.

About The Blavatnik Family Foundation


The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of many leading educational, scientific, cultural and charitable institutions in the United States, Europe and throughout the world. The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, an American industrialist and philanthropist. Mr Blavatnik is the founder and Chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held U.S. industrial group with global interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, emerging technologies, life sciences and real estate. For more detailed information, please visit: www.accessindustries.com.



The National Center for Museums and Exhibitions, ROSIZO, is a Federal State Budgetary Institution under the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. In cooperation with leading Russian and international institutions ROSIZO arranges exhibitions of Russian art around the globe and implements large-scale projects within the bilateral years of culture. Some of the most recent initiatives include Kazimir Malevich and the Russian Avant-Gard (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn; Tate Modern, London), Palladio and Russia From Baroque to Modernism (Museo Correr, Italy) and Russia-Switzerland (Château de Penthes - Museum of the Swiss Abroad, Switzerland).

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov London Lecture, 21 May 2015


Tonight Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov will speak at an event at the Science Museum, hosted by STARMUS and the British Interplanetary Society. For further information visit http://www.bis-space.com