Time and Space
As a space enthusiast, I was lucky enough to grow up during the 60s and my boyhood dreams were fuelled by the American and Soviet manned space missions. This was an era of achievement and seemingly impossible goals, which to a great degree were driven by the Cold War and the need for the two superpowers to demonstrate their technical supremacy.
At the start of this space race Russia took the early lead, having developed a powerful rocket system: the Vostok from knowledge gained to launch their very heavy nuclear weapons. As a result, on 12th April 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first man to be launched into space and complete an orbit of the Earth.
Soon afterwards fellow cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first man to complete a space walk on 18 March 1965. It was indeed a test of the Right Stuff.
As a prelude to a new Cosmonauts exhibition, in May this year Leonov, now 81, was invited to give a lecture at the Science Museum London about that space walk. A friend Robin Rees of Canopus Books was key in organizing this evening event which also tied into a book launch: Starmus; 50 Years of Man in Space in association with The British Interplanetary Society. Invited guest included Professor Stephen Hawking, Dr Brian May of Queen fame and British astronaut Helen Sharman.
The lecture was fascinating. Lenov who is also a keen artist, stood in front of a very large blackboard on which he illustrated his talk. He was very engaging and had a wonderful sense of humour. His account of the walk was breath-taking as technically it didn’t quite go to plan and his spacesuit inflated during the walk, which prevented him from getting back into the airlock. He had to go by instinct in the end and risk deflating his suit to allow his return. He and his fellow crewmember also had to manually land the spaceship as the auto guidance system failed. They then had to contend with wolves in the remote snowy area that they landed in until ground support could reach and rescue them.
At the end of the talk Lenov presented Stephen Hawking with a sketch that he’d done of him over lunch earlier that day.
As I’d mentioned earlier, my fascination with space continues, I’ve met and got to know some amazing people along the way, from Scientists to an American astronaut and naturally I’ve been collecting space related memorabilia too. I’ve started to build space themed watch collection recently, starting with the Omega Speedmaster, which many may know was flight approved by NASA and worn on the Moon during the Apollo era and many other missions since. I then started looking what other watches had been officially worn in space, which led me to my discovery of the Fortis B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph.
The B-42 is a wonderful timepiece, very well engineered and durable and the Fortis Cosmonaut series is the only watch range that has been approved by the Russian Federal Space Agency; Roscosmos for use in space. Fortis watches have completed over 100,000 Earth orbits and are regularly worn on-board the International Space Station. To reflect over 20 years use in space the case back is engraved with the Roscosmos logo and that of the Yuri Gagarin Institute. My US astronaut friend has Fortis watches in his collection too. So if you are looking for a great durable tool watch it is well worth taking a look at these.
And of course Page & Cooper made the whole buying experience a pleasure too, so thanks to Jonathan and his team are due.
Finally, if you’d like to see the exhibition, on 18 September 2015 the Science Museum will open its doors to, Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age. It will represent the most comprehensive and in-depth look into the Russian space programme, presenting the most significant collection of the country’s spacecraft and artefacts ever to be shown outside Russia. Maybe you’ll have added a B-42 to your collection in time for the event too.