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British astronaut's spacecraft launches on UK-wide museum tour

British astronaut Tim Peake's Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft is going on tour of the UK through mid-2019. (Science Museum, London)
September 26, 2017

— You now have a chance to land the Russian spacecraft that flew the UK's first professional astronaut to and from the International Space Station, both virtually and, possibly, physically.

The Science Museum Group in London, which acquired British astronaut Tim Peake's Soyuz TMA-19M capsule in 2016, announced Tuesday (Sept. 26) that the spacecraft is embarking on a tour of the United Kingdom over the next two years. Sponsored by Samsung, the traveling exhibition features a 360-degree virtual reality (VR) experience that invites visitors to sit in Peake's seat for his December 2015 return from space.

"I am particularly happy that people up and down the UK now [will] have the opportunity to discover more about my Principia mission and space travel," said Peake, "and that the Science Museum Group, with the support of Samsung, are doing so much to inspire the public and schools in this tour."

"The National Tour of Tim Peake's Spacecraft" debuts on Wednesday at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, England. The tour will visit a total of eight venues across the UK through May 2019 — including the winner of a competition to display the capsule.

British astronaut Tim Peake with his Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, England, on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. (Tim Peake via Twitter)

"We are launching a public competition to find our final venue, who will have the opportunity to host The National Tour of Tim Peake's Spacecraft and Space Descent VR for up to three months in autumn 2018," the Science Museum Group said in a statement. "We are looking for applications from all types of venues all around the country."

"I'd also urge anyone who wishes to see the capsule land near them to contact their local venues to apply to be the sixth destination," said Peake.

Have space capsule, will travel

The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft, which launched Peake, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra for a 185-day stay aboard the space station, first touched down in the UK on display at the Science Museum in London in January. The capsule was acquired from RSC Energia, the Russian contractor responsible for building the Soyuz and a partner with the museum on a prior Cosmonauts exhibit in 2015.

"The National Tour of Tim Peake's Spacecraft" includes the Soyuz TMA-19M descent capsule, its main parachute, and the 360-degree "Space Descent VR" experience. (Science Museum, London)

"It is incredible to see the capsule that you flew to space in come back and see it on display at the Science Museum. It brings back so many powerful memories," said Peake in a museum video. "Obviously, you have a huge attachment to something that kept you alive and seen you through such rigors of going to space and back."

The Soyuz will be on display in Bradford through Nov. 19. From there, it will travel to:

  • Locomotion in Shildon, County Durham (England) — Nov. 22, 2017 to Jan. 15, 2018

  • National Railway Museum in York (England) — Jan. 17, 2018 to March 8, 2018

  • Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester (England) — March 10, 2018 to May 13, 2018

  • National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh — Mid-May to mid-August 2018

  • Venue TBA (competition slot) — Mid-August to mid-November 2018 (to be confirmed)

  • National Museum Wales in Cardiff — Mid-November 2018 to January 2019

  • National Museums Northern Ireland: Ulster Museum in Belfast — Mid-February 2019 to mid-May 2019

"Wonderful to see Soyuz TMA-19M on tour of UK," wrote Peake on Twitter on Tuesday.

The tour, which coincides with the joint UK-Russia Year of Science and Education, is expected to reach hundreds of thousands of visitors across the eight venues. The Science Museum Group's Learning and Outreach team will also be working with selected schools in the UK to offer students opportunities to learn about space as part of the exhibition.

The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft, complete with its 80 foot (25 m) main parachute, will be free to visitors at all venues. "Space Descent VR with Tim Peake" will be accessible to visitors age 13 and older for £5/£6.

Click to enlarge and view video in a new, pop-up window. (MSI)

"Most of us have dreamed of going into space and it is our mission to bring that possibility to life," Russell Taylor, chief marketing officer at Samsung Electronics UK and Ireland, said in a statement. "This national tour not only lets people see the Soyuz capsule up close, but the 'Space Descent VR' gives them the most realistic experience there is."

Space available

Venues interested in competing to host Peake's spacecraft for the sixth stop on its UK tour have until Dec. 1 to apply to the Science Museum Group.

Eligible locations need to have at least 270 square feet (25 square meters) of indoor space where the capsule can be displayed free of charge to the public. The venue must be able to meet a set of environmental conditions for the safe display of the Soyuz with its main parachute.

Appropriate sites must also have the ability to take school bookings.

Shortlisted locations, which will be announced in January, will be reviewed by a judging panel and the winner will be announced when the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft goes on display at its fourth tour stop, the Museum of Science and Industry, in March 2018.

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