Rocket with a Contrail. Telling about the secrets of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space

August 3

The 110-meter titanium monument to the Conquerors of Space, dedicated to the launch of the world's first Soviet artificial Earth satellite, is one of the most famous and tallest monuments in Russia. The materials of represent the history of its building and the way the Museum of Cosmonautics was opened in its stylobate.

The People are Creators

October 4, 1957. The first artificial satellite of the Earth, Sputnik-1, successfully entered the orbit, igniting the space age of mankind. The sensational news was discussed all over the world, the satellite signal was caught by radio amateurs in different countries.

During 92 days of its stay in orbit, the satellite made 1,440 revolutions around the Earth, having covered about 60 million kilometers. Gradually, it began loosing speed, and when it entered the dense layers of the atmosphere, it burned out due to friction against the air. This happened in January 1958.

Already in March, an all-Union open competition for the best design of the obelisk dedicated to the launch of the satellite was announced. By the summer, the participants sent about a thousand diagrams, drawings and layouts. The works for the competition came not only from different cities of the USSR, but also from other countries. 365 of the best ones were shown at the Manege Central Exhibition Hall.

The winning project “The People are Creators” — a rocket soaring skyward with a smoke contrail - was approved in October of the same year. It was submitted to the competition by architects Alexander Kolchin, Mikhail Barshch and sculptor Andrey Faydysh-Krandievsky. The last two were already very famous: Barshch designed the building of the Moscow Planetarium, and the Faydysh-Krandievsky sculptural bas-reliefs had received the 1st degree Stalin Prize several years earlier.

Renovate the Project

While the architects and the sculptor were working on the future obelisk project, another event of global significance happened in the space industry: On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin went into orbit in a manned spacecraft. In this respect, the name of the monument was decided to be changed to a more specific one — “Conquerors of Space”.

Location of the future monument also had to be changed. Initially, it had to be built on the observation deck of the Vorobyovy (then — Lenin) Hills, next to Moscow State University. But this idea was quickly abandoned - a huge monument would have been lost in this space, already saturated with architectural dominants. As a result, the choice fell on a vacant waste ground near the main entrance of VDNKh.

It was decided to install the 110-meter obelisk on a stylobate (pedestal) clad in granite. On the stylobate facade — immortalizing the poetic lines of Nikolai Gribachev:

And our efforts are rewarded with the fact

That, overcoming lawlessness and darkness,

We have forged fiery wings

To our country and our century!

On its side walls there are bronze high reliefs (a kind of relief). They depict everyone who paved the way into space, except for ... Sergei Korolev. His participation in launching the satellite at that time was classified. However, a monument to Korolev appeared nearby — on the alley of the Heroes of Space. This happened after the scientist’s death.

The monument became one of the first monuments of Soviet modernism (this term appeared later, already in our time). The distinctive features of the style that prevailed in Soviet architecture from 1955 to 1991 include using the facing materials such as granite, marble or shell rock, massive glazing of the surface, as well as ornamentality — availability of monumental mosaic panels, bas-reliefs, high-reliefs.

Titanium Giant

The changes were made to the monument appearance. The ground glass, from which it was expected to make a rocket contrail, was replaced with polished titanium plates. By the way, this idea was given by Korolev himself: as he said, such plates would beautifully reflect the sky, and besides, they are more practical. Getting this material in the right scope was quite difficult, but Sergey Korolev was able to get the deliveries. The monument was being erected before his eyes, he visited the construction site almost every day. In addition, it was visible from his window - Korolev lived on the 1st Ostankinskaya Street.

Installation was the most difficult stage of the work — a huge steel monument weighing 250 tons was assembled by human force, and then raised using special cranes. The going up 110-meter-high structure appeared in all its glory on October 4, 1964, seven years after the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite. The giant monument is the second highest one in Russia. Now it is second only to the Victory Monument on Poklonnaya Hill, built in 1994-1995.

“...We examined the monument from all sides — it is simple, majestic and beautiful,” Nikolai Kamanin, Air Force Colonel General, Assistant to the Air Force Commander-in-Chief for Space, wrote in his diary on the opening day.

The Memorial Alley of the Heroes of Space, where the Korolev monument was subsequently erected, was opened in front of the monument in 1967. Here a monument to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (installed in 1964), who developed the idea of an artificial Earth satellite and was the founder of theoretical cosmonautics, busts of Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova and many other famous cosmonauts can be seen. New monuments appear these days too. For instance, in 2016, four of them were opened - to Alexander Alexandrov, Valentin Lebedev, Svetlana Savitskaya and Vladimir Solovyov.

The monument becomes a museum

Sergei Korolev suggested to place the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics (now the Museum of Cosmonautics) in the monument stylobate at the stage of work on the architectural project. He insisted that cosmonautics should be popularized. But the museum appeared only in April 1981 — its opening was timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's space flight. The museum interiors were designed by the artist Oleg Lomako, who created the illusion of being in outer space inside. When decorating the premises, the most modern materials at that time were used; in the main hall, a cosmonaut sculpture of an against the background of a bright stained-glass panel was installed.

The museum collection began to be formed back in 1969. Today it contains over 100 thousand items, divided into 12 thematic funds. These are documents, photographs, equipment, models, archival periodicals, audio and video recordings, works of art. Among the latter, an important place is occupied by the works of the legendary cosmonaut and artist Alexei Leonov.

The permanent exhibition consists of the sections “History of the Universe”, “Morning of the Space Age” (reflects the early period of space exploration), “Creators of the Space Age” (dedicated to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Sergei Korolev and other personalities), “International Space Park”, “Exploration of the Moon and planets of the Solar System”,“ Cosmonautics for Humanity” (talking about the applied use of satellites), “International Cooperation in Space”, “International Space Park”, “Space House in Orbit” (introduces the life of astronauts).

In 2006 — 2009, the museum underwent a large-scale restoration. The design work was supervised by the People's Artist of Russia Salavat Shcherbakov, the author of famous monumental works, including a monument to Prince Vladimir on Borovitskaya Square. He decorated the walls of the premises with plaster bas-reliefs in the form of constellations, on the ceilings he depicted a map of the starry sky and the planet. The reconstruction project obtained the Grand Prix of the International Union of Architects.

Today, the meetings with cosmonauts, conferences, lectures, discussions are held here, there is a library, a cafe, a storage facility and a cinema hall, similar to the cockpit of a starship.


Latest Events

Dikaya ohota korolya Staha

September 26

Proryv Dzhima Ellisona

September 26
If you continue to use our website, you are agreeing to accept the use of cookies on your device. Cookie files ensure the website’s efficiency and help us provide you with the most interesting and relevant information. Read more about cookie files.
Accept ccokies