Samara is the sixth largest city in Russia, and stands at the confluence of the Volga and Samara rivers. It has population of 1.25 million, and was called Kuybyshev between 1935 and 1991. Its factories played an important role in arming the defence forces of the USSR during the Second World War and after and for many years it was a closed city. Samara was also of importance in the Soviet and Russian space programmes. The Vostok rocket was assembled there, and the city’s part in space exploration is detailed in the Cosmic Samara Space Museum which opened in 2007.
This is a museum of modest size that nevertheless holds some of the key artefacts of the Soviet space programme, and enables visitors to share some of the experiences of astronauts. A P7 rocket outside the museum, dates from 1984, and was obsolete when it was installed on its plinth on 1 October 2001, the fortieth anniversary of the first manned flight. It is 68 m high and weighs more than 20 tons. There is a Soyuz space craft and another module that has actually been in space. Displays explain the development of rocket engines. Visitors gain some insights into life on a space craft, and in particular are able to sample space food, such as ‘cosmos borscht’.