Thursday, 31 March 2011
I see its fifty years since Yuri Gagarin's first orbit around the earth. To celebrate it as a piece of Big History there's a new play by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It's by Rona Munro and tells the story of Sergei Korolyov who was the chief designer of the Soviet space programme.
The play shows how Korolyov leaves a Gulag in Siberia after being wrongly accused as a Nazi sympathiser (because they both made rockets). He makes his way some 4000 miles to Moscow whilst still technically under arrest, so that he can rejoin a rocket programme.
Then he juggles the demands of the new politicos Kruschev and Brezhnev whilst figuring out how to get to the moon. He may not have made it to the green cheese, but his teams celebrated many of the other firsts associated with space.
It reminds me of the strange reverse logic of space travel. When I used to read comics as a lad, the space stories were futuristic but had possibilities. Most technologies accelerate, but space travel has gone into reverse. There's actually 12 men that have walked on the moon. Some have now died and others are in their later years.
Korolyov's little eagles are still very rare birds.