It was 10 years ago today, 1 February 2003, that the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart on its way back to Earth. The STS-107 crew had spent 16 days in orbit and were just 16 minutes from landing when the accident tragically occurred.
This photograph survived on a roll of unprocessed film recovered from the accident. Bottom row (L to R): Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Rick D. Husband, mission commander; Laurel B. Clark, mission specialist, and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist. Top row (L to R): David M. Brown, mission specialist; William C. McCool, pilot, and Michael P. Anderson, payload commander.
On a trip to the USA in 2002, I attended a talk by astronaut and astronomer, John Grunsfeld. He was asked “why fly into space when the risks are so high?” and his reply has always stuck with me. It was pretty much “because it’s the most amazing thing to do.”
He went on to explain that while astronauts are fully aware of the risks involved – and they don't take them lightly – they are also certain that the benefits of what they are doing will lead to greater things for our future.
Today we remember the amazing men and women who have believed in the spirit of space exploration. I hope there will always be pioneers just like them, who are willing to push the limits of what’s possible and dream big for all of us.
Powerhouse Museum: "Sometimes, when we reach for the stars, we fall short..."
Objects in our collection don’t just go on display at our own museums. It’s also exciting to see them help other people’s exhibitions come to life. I’m particularly happy about seeing items from the space and astronomy collections being prepared for a new exhibition at ACMI called Star Voyager that will run from September this year through to January 2012. The objects being loaned include rare 19th century astronomical lantern slides, a historic surveying telescope and the gloves of a Soviet cosmonaut.
The cosmonaut glove was used by Vladimir Georgiyevich Titov on the Mir space station. Titov left Earth on Soyuz TM-4 on December 21 1987 and returned on Soyuz TM-6 on December 21 1988. He and fellow cosmonaut Musa Manarov had spent just over a whole year in space – a new record at the time. Titov, who had also been on one previous Soyuz mission, would go on to have two further trips to space on the Space Shuttle.
Photgraph of Sokol glove worn by cosmonaut Vladimir Titov.
Image: Marion Parker
Source: Museum Victoria
The glove is part of a Sokol KV-2 space suit. Each suit was custom made for a single cosmonaut, including individual moulding of the rubber part of the glove, shaped to the cosmonaut’s fingers. The Sokol suits were pressurised, and the gloves attached to the suits with an aluminium clip.
A lot of work went into making these gloves and there is also a lot of work involved in getting objects ready for display. Unfortunately, historic items like this aren’t always built to last. Museum conservator Marion Parker explains: “Modern materials like this will slowly degrade and we can't do much to stop this. What we can do is to control the conditions the objects are stored and displayed in to slow down these reactions.”
One of the nice things about getting objects out of the collection to show other people is that you get the chance to see them through new eyes and remember how exciting they can be. According to Sarah Tutton, curator at ACMI: “The opportunity to delve into the collection at Scienceworks has been invaluable and has led to some interesting tangents and avenues for exploration.”
I know what she means – it’s easy to get lost in the space collection!