In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight and the installation of the Yuri Gagarin statue on the Mall, the British Council
presents Gagarin in Britain, an exhibition on the life of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the early Soviet space programme.
This exhibition is part of a wider programme of cultural and educational links between the UK and Russia organised by the British Council. It showcases items from the Vostok (East) manned space programme rarely seen in Britain: the first space suit SK-1, including the padded inner lining, blue rubberised pressure-suit and outer orange layer; and an ejector seat of the model used by Gagarin when he parachuted out of Vostok 1 at an altitude of 7km.
These exhibits are complemented by Soviet posters from the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics; a film made by Roscosmos showing original footage of the early training programme and the 1961 launch itself; a model of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite in the world, launched in October 1957; an array of space food; and one of the earliest dog space suits, used prior to mans first spaceflight to test the capacity of living creatures in space.
Accompanying the artefacts is a photographic exhibition telling the story of Gagarins life, featuring more than 80 photographs from the Gagarin family archive and other sources, many never published before. They show the small town of Klushino where Gagarin was born; the devastation brought about by the Nazi occupation; and the tale of a young man of modest beginnings gradually becoming a pilot, then a cosmonaut, then within an instant of his return to earth the most famous man on the planet.
A special section is devoted to Gagarins visit to Britain from 11 to 15 July 1961, with photographs of the extraordinary welcome given to him by the British public, and of his meeting with politicians and people alike.