Minsk aero club opens window to space

Star brothers leave mark on history

The Space Pavilion at Minsk’s Voluntary Association for Assistance to Army, Air Force and Navy (DOSAAF) aero club has its focus on the way Belarusians have left their mark on space exploration. On display are such exhibits as a Soyuz spacecraft landing section, a seat liner and Piotr Klimuk’s spacesuit. There are suits worn by crew from the international space station, unique photographs taken from low-earth orbit and famous ‘borsch and cutlets’, as eaten onboard by astronauts.

Symbolically, Belarusian-born astronauts attended the opening ceremony: twice Heroes of the Soviet Union, former Colonel-Generals Vladimir Kovalenok and Piotr Klimuk; and Hero of Russia, Colonel Oleg Novitsky. Hero of Russia Alexander Kaleri, who spent 769 days in space (the third longest period in the history of space exploration) attended as an honorary guest.

Also in attendance were USSR research pilots: Hero of the Soviet Union Victor Pugachev and a graduate of the Minsk DOSAF aero club, Hero of Russia Yevgeny Frolov. Belarusian Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov and the Security Council State Secretary, Lieutenant General Stanislav Zas, participated in the opening, showing the importance of the project.

Oleg Novitsky presented his training suit, as worn at the international space station, while Vladimir Kovalenok and Piotr Klimuk donated their officer uniform overcoats. The core exhibit is a real landing section, with renovated dashboard and chairs, in which astronauts return to Earth. This capsule, although operational, hasn’t flown in space. Enthusiasts found it at Minsk’s Tsentr research and production organisation, which used to manufacture products for the space industry. Yet another unusual exhibit is the door to room No. 305, from the Cosmonavt Hotel, at which astronauts stay before going into orbit. Space pilots who attended the opening ceremony left their autographs on the famous door. After a spontaneous autographing session, Oleg Novitsky said, “Collaboration is of primary importance, as no one can work in space individually. Russia and Belarus have very close relations, dating back to Soviet times. Belarus can be proud of its excellent optics and sophisticated devices for space investigation.

Four years ago, on July 22nd, 2012, the Soyuz launch vehicle sent a Russian satellite and Belarusian space apparatus into orbit at 500km, showing our two countries’ co-operation. Last January, a Belarusian telecommunications satellite was launched into orbit. The satellite forms the basis for the national satellite connection and broadcast system.

Head of Minsk’s DOSAAF aero club, Nikolay Mochansky, who collected a large share of the exhibits, believes that the exhibition should be given status as an aviation and astronautics museum.

By Andrey Drob
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