Last December, we went to the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland to see some space stuff. If you haven’t been to the center, it’s worth the trip! They have really outfitted the place with both educational and entertaining exhibits. Now, I’ve been a space geek since I was a kid, but one thing I never really knew about was the Soviet space program. During the Soyuz era of spacecraft, the only Soviet spacecraft I had ever seen was during the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975 – and that, of course, was on TV.
Flash forward to 2009, and the Chabot Space and Science Center had one on display. Well, that was kind of a treat ’cause I had never seen the inside of a Soyuz space craft — except, of course, on TV. I have to say, it was quite an education. First off, the capsule was really small — even though three people were housed in there. Secondly, the way the seats were positioned relative to the controls was really awkward. The guide who was at the space center said that when the cosmonauts were strapped into their seats, the only way they could pilot the ship was by using a long stick to press the right sequence of buttons. The equipment was also very primitive and surprisingly spare. In the pictures below, there are goofy pics of me and the family in a Mercury capsule. In the capsule, there are tons of buttons, switches and controls. However, in the Soyuz capsule, there was a small bank of buttons and a stick shift for piloting the ship. The reason why there were more controls in the Mercury capsule than the Soyuz craft was because the U.S. built redundant systems into the spacecraft and the Soviets didn’t. What that means is pretty simple: if, say, a piece of equipment failed in the Mercury, there was a backup system in place that the astronauts could use. In the Soyuz? If something failed, it failed and the cosmonauts were screwed.
Anyway, here’s a little picture gallery of the day. Enjoy!