I recently put together a trip for my father who has had a long standing passion for space vehicle engineering. In the past he has visited various museums and complexes within the United States and I though it might be cool to see what it is possible to see of the the Russian space program. Dotted around Moscow are various cheap and easy to visit sites such as the Space Monument and Memorial Museum to Cosmonautics but I thought I’d make a post on how we visited Star City, the Cosmonaut training centre.
Firstly there is no real budget way to do this but you can save money on what tour operators are offering if you are travelling in a group of more than 4 people. As there were only three of us we did end up using a tour agency (http://www.justgorussia.co.uk/) paying around £160 a person for the day. This included the transfer too and from Star City and a translator as the guides at Star City speak Russian.
If you are in a larger group you can book a tour directly through Star City’s official site (Google Chrome does a good job of translating this page) http://zvezdniygorodok.ru/ekskursii-v-zvezdniy-gorodok/standartnaya-obzornaya-ekskursiya/. If I recall correctly it worked out at a fixed price of around £500 for a group of up to 20 people but you need to arrange your own transfers and translator which I would anticipate costing at least £80 for the transfer and £50+ for the translator.
Both the tour I took through the agency and the basic tour you can book directly allow you to visit the Soyuz hall which is filled with various Soyuz capsules used by both cosmonauts and astronauts to train for their flights. After this you will visit the Hydro-Lab where mock-ups of various ISS sections are submerged in a huge pool where cosmonauts can simulate working on them and then after that onto the absolutely gigantic centrifuge used to prepare cosmonauts, fighter pilots and F1 drivers for the high G-forces they will endure. There are numerous other things you can arrange to see but the prices rise dramatically (Open one of the Soyuz capsules £200, Enter a Soyuz capsule for 3 people £500, Take a ride in the centrifuge £1000 etc.). At each of the facilities you get an in-depth talk about it from guide.
If you are lucky you may get to see these pieces of equipment being used, unfortunately we were not, however we did have the pleasure of being shown around by a trainee cosmonaut who also works on the team that operates the centrifuge. He was vary reluctant to state whether he’d been nervous about any of the training he’d endured but did joke about how much they had ripped off British singer Sarah Brightman on her upcoming journey to the International Space Station as a tourist.
All in all it was a great experience to see these facilities and was just about worth enduring the 2 hours it took to travel 20 miles in Moscow’s horrific traffic!