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Baikonur Cosmodrome Museum

In the nearby Site No 2, housed in one of the first buildings constructed at Baikonur Cosmodrome, is the Museum of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. You are welcomed in past a bust of Gagarin. A room of artworks includes paintings of Gagarin and Korolev constructed with grains of rice, and portraits made with salt, the latter gifts from the salt-rich town of Aralsk. A large exhibition hall beyond features photoboards showcasing the work of the various manufacturers and other organisations active in Baikonur town and cosmodrome. There is also a model of the cosmodrome, showing the location of the launch pads for different rocket types, each illustrated by a small model of the rocket concerned.

The displays continue upstairs. There is a golden bust of Korolev, and exhibits chronicling his work and that of other leading Soviet rocket designers. In a central hall there are items on the disasters of 24 October 1960 and 1963. Items displayed in the next room include the cabin of the Cosmos 110 satellite, launched aboard a Soyuz rocket in 1966, in which the dogs Veterok and Ugolyok survived a 22-day space flight, which stands as the longest-ever space flight by dogs. There is coverage of the flights of the early cosmonauts, with items displayed including Gagarin's military uniform. The next room attempts to offer a sense of the conditions endured by the cosmonauts, with displays including the cramped chamber of the Soyuz spacecraft, a complicated-looking arrangement to allow cosmonauts to drink water through a tube and a selection of the profoundly unappetising-looking food consumed in space. There is also a display about the work of searching for returned cosmonauts across the vast expanses of the Kazakhstani steppe.

The final two rooms highlight international co-operation, with a display on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project of 1975. This should have provided a great historical moment for the West Sussex town of Bognor Regis, as the historic space handshake was scheduled to take place over it, but delays meant that this honour went, roughly, to the French town of Metz. There is a model of the International Space Station, and displays on cosmonauts from other countries, with souvenir items related to their flights. By tradition, cosmonauts before their flight sign a large photograph of the launch of a Soyuz rocket. The museum has already filled up one photograph with signatures and is well onto the second.

Outside the museum are displayed various items of equipment, with pride of place going to a Buran space shuttle. You can climb the steps into its fuselage, though the interior has been somewhat sanitised, with photo displays about the Buran programme on the walls. A model of a Helios satellite is in place, ready to be lifted up to the cosmos. In the nose there are aeroplane-style seats for seven passengers. You can climb up a metal ladder into the cockpit and imagine yourself a cosmonaut.

Close to the museum in Site No 2 are the two small cottages with green corrugated roofs in which Korolev and Gagarin stayed. Plaques next to their front doors commemorate their illustrious residents.