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Life on Orbit

Russian space program continues despite the end of the USSR. Russia has the leading role in building the International Space Station. Russia remains the only country that is launching manned spacecraft to the ISS, and Russian cosmonauts are performing essential actions in repairing the Station and solving urgent technical problems. Space Station is a big system of sophisticated technologies, from the control panel to air generation, showers and lavatory.

Androgynous Peripheral Attach System (APAS) (Production duplicate). USSR, Moscow region, Kaliningrad, 1973

This is the key mechanism used for docking spacecraft in space, for example, for docking additional modules to the space station. It was developed by the design bureau of RSC Energia in the early 1970s. The docking systems are divided into two main classes: the active-passive and universal. In the first case, the two units of the mating ships are not symmetrical, most often one has the shape of a pin, and the other — the cone. Such system is more accurate, but not universal: two spaceships with identical ports (ring-ring or cone-cone) will not be able to dock. To address this shortcoming an androgynous unit was developed: one APAS would always able to dock to another, regardless of whether it is passive or active. For the first time, APAS-75 was used in July 1975 during the test flight of «Soyuz — Apollo». With APAS system the ships successfully mated twice and were docked for almost 47 hours. Later arrived some more sophisticated versions of docking systems — APAS-89 and APAS-95, the latter is still used these days. On the International Space Station, the single docking mechanism is in use that allows the station to dock ships like H-II Transfer Vehicle, Cygnus and Dragon SpaceX.

From the collection of the Polytechnic Museum

«Irtysh-MT» Hypobaric chamber

The development of this chamber started during the preparation of one of the space flights in the All-Union Research and Testing Institute of medical equipment in the early 1970s. The Soviet Union did not have portable hypobaric chambers at that time and they were greatly needed and not only in the space industry. The development of the "Irtysh-MT" chamber finished in 1974. Weighing only 75 kilograms, it could create a positive pressure of up to 1.2 atm, and the oxygen supply was enough for an hour long hypobaric session. Moreover, due to its unique design, which combined hard hemispheres with a soft corrugated wall, the chamber was very easy to transport and could be set up in a matter of minutes. It was actively used during the war in Afghanistan, as well as during rescue operations after the Spitak earthquake in Armenia in 1988. Currently, the updated version of this chamber is used under the name «Irtysh-2MT».

From the collection of NPP «Zvezda»

Shower cabin from Mir Space Station. 1986

An unusual exhibit, which is associated with many myths concerning «how do they do it in space?…». Even basic hygiene procedures are challenging over there, so the primary means of hygiene in space were and still are wet wipes, towels, and a special dry shampoo. However, the 1970s saw the shower cabins functioning in zero gravity (on the «Salyut-6» station). One might ask, where would all the water come from? In fact, you will not need that much water for washing, since in space the water does not drip down like it does on Earth. Inside the cabin, the water gets «caught» and rubbed all over the body, while the cabin provides a flow of air to prevent the liquid from spreading in all directions. According to the astronauts, the most difficult part in the process of taking a shower is the cleaning of the cabin from the dispersed water. Thus, at the «Mir» station the shower was turned into a more comfortable sauna. Curiously, at the International Space Station, both the sauna and the shower cabin were rejected in favor of the traditional wipes.

From the collection of NPP «Zvezda»

«Soyuz TM-14» descent module, 1992

«Soyuz TM-14» descent module

«Soyuz TM-14» delivered the crew of the eleventh mission to the «Mir» space station. The crew consisted of two Russian astronauts Alexander Kaleri and Alexander Viktorenko and the German astronaut Klaus-Dietrich Flade. This flight is notable for being the first since the collapse of the USSR, as well as the first Russian-German mission. The launch and the docking went without accidents. The Russian cosmonauts spent 145 days on the station, and Klaus-Dietrich Flade returned home with the crew of «Soyuz TM-13» eight days after the launch. During the mission, a number of important scientific experiments was carried out: the study of the genome, the growing of ultra-pure crystals and the study of physiological effects of zero gravity. On the way home the crew of "Soyuz TM-14" also included the Frenchman Michel Tognini, who had arrived to «Mir» earlier as part of the twelfth expedition. In general, the landing of «Soyuz TM-14» was a success, but the descent module eventually landed upside down. However, the astronauts were not injured.

From the collection of RSC Energia