Part of the Ilkeston Cam "Days Out" Series

Leicester - National Space Centre
w/e 15 February 2009
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

National Space Centre

In the 1950s space travel was but a dream for the majority of people but I, like many other schoolboys at the time, eagerly awaited the next issue of a weekly comic "The Eagle" to follow the adventures of Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future and his sworn enemy the green egg-headed Mekon, ruler of the Treens of northern Venus. Now only half a century later, man has been to the moon, there's an International Space Station and probes have been dispatched to the farthest corners of the universe. Not only that but we now have a National Space Centre at Leicester where you can get up close and personal with some of the space paraphernalia, the main entrance being overlooked by the futuristic looking Rocket Tower.

Inside the tower, the largest rocket ever built in the UK, the Blue Streak stands next to Thor Able, a two stage rocket that ran on kerosene and liquid oxygen. Thor rockets were used until 1980 launching several satellites including the world's first weather satellite. Quite an achievement after a rather inauspicious start when the first rocket rose just ten centimetres from the launch pad before falling back and exploding.
Russian Spacecraft

The Thor Able rocket on display in the Rocket Tower bears the inscription US Air Force but to reach the it we had passed along an elevated gallery where this CCPP USSR marked spacecraft was suspended above the floor below.

Alongside the American and Russian exhibits, there is also a full scale mock-up of the European Space Agency's Columbus module for the International Space Station.

There are six differently themed galleries in the museum for that is really what the Nation Space Centre is, ranging from "Exploring the Universe" and "Orbiting Earth" to "The Planets" and "Space Theatre".

In "The Planets" section there are further subdivisions and here we can see part of the Jupiter section with the arced feature representing the Milky Way.
The Red Planet

Another area in the same section includes a representation of the surface of Mars complete with a vehicle for exploration and investigation of the planet. The subdued red lighting is quite appropriate for Mars which is of course also known as the Red Planet.
Touch Screens

Nearby but still in the Mars section are a series of touch screen tables that reveal numerous interesting facts, details and photographs about the planet.
Hands On

Although the Centre is a museum, visitors are often encouraged to have a "hands on" approach and there are many interactive features. On this one you have to control a satellite orbiting the earth so the the solar panels point towards the sun. Success results in a green light but failure means the satellite is no longer functional. For youngsters, and many school visits are arranged, this combines learning with a element of fun.
Tranquillity Base

Another area that is extremely popular with youngsters (and some of more advanced years too) is Tranquillity Base which contains many interactive modules including a Spaceflight Induction Module that allows you to fly in a "stunning 3D simulated journey to the ice moon Europa through meteorite showers and radiation clouds before the hair raising ice canyon run on Europa itself." Having experienced the simulation myself I would suggest the end of the journey would probably be better described as a crash landing or something akin to a Dan Dare and the Mekon adventure - but that's where we came in isn't it?

If this has whetted your appetite for space travel or even just a visit to the National Space Centre there are a couple of websites that you might like to visit first. One is obviously the Centre's own website ad the other which includes some panoramic views inside the Centre is this page on the BBC Leicester site.

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