Who would have thought that Leicester, a self-deprecating city in the Midlands, would host one of the UK’s leading tourist attractions?
Leicester was chosen as a location for the National Space Centre because of the University’s stellar Department of Physics and Astronomy/The Space Research Centre. Every year since 1967 has seen a Leicester-built instrument operating in space.
A transparent beehive (designed by Nicholas Grimshaw, once architect now major DJ on Radio 1), The National Space Centre houses Blue Streak and Thor Able rockets, as well as one of only two Soyuz capsules on display in the West.
It boasts a precious piece of Moon rock – there’s only 1kg of it on planet Earth, and only two pieces on public display in the UK.
The centre is stuffed full of facts about our solar system, lots of valuable insights into how to live in space (how space toilets work and how urine is recycled into drinking water) and even a Soviet canine high-altitude pressure suit. Stray dogs were launched from the nose cones of rockets at a speed of 700m per second and parachuted back to earth from an altitude of 80kms.
You can find out about the most famous canine astronaut Laika’s unfortunate end in the Rocket Tower.
In the Tranquility Base, prepare to become a trainee astronaut on a lunar base in 2025, culminating in the ultimate test: the bone-rattling, simulated ride to Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa.
A trip to the National Space Centre is better than any anti-depressant drug – when you’re sitting in the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium, immersed in the starry, and infinite, sky you can’t help but feel how amazing our universe is and how much more there is beyond ourselves.
As the first Briton, and woman, in space, Helen Sharman says, “I love travelling – and I think it was being in space, looking back at the Earth, that made me realise…how little I know, and how much I can actually learn by going to different parts of the world.”
That’s one of the best reasons to travel I’ve ever heard. I’m off to book some flights. On a plane, not a rocket. Not yet anyway.