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STS-1 Tenth
Soviet Space

Soviet Space Exhibition Gala

Launching the Soviet Space Exhibit
Photo Credits Mine
Cover from my Soviet Space Gala Passport
My Soviet Space Gala Passport Photo
The cover of my Soviet Space Passport My Soviet Space Passport photo
In the second half of 1991, there was an exhibit of space artifacts from the Soviet Union.  To launch the exhibit a black tie gala was held on June, 1991.

The main reason that I wanted to attend the gala is that two cosmonauts were supposed to be guests of honor there.  Those cosmonauts were Konstantin Feoktistov, and Svetlana Savitskaya.  The price for the gala was a little steep.  It cost $250 per person and I almost didn't go. 

Even with the steep price, I figured that it didn't hurt to find out more information about the gala. I called up the woman who was organizing the gala to find out more about it.  She said that there were going to be several Soviet Space dignitaries in attendance. 

She went on to tell me that if I wanted to go, she would make sure I got to sit at the table with one of the dignitaries.  Now that was a tempting offer.  I could possibly have dinner with the person in charge of engine technology, or chief of the space suit design bureau. 

Since I already owned a tuxedo, my expense to attend was limited to the $250. I accepted her gracious invitation.  It was exciting to be going to this gala, but it was also lonely.  None of my space friends were going. I also couldn't justify another $250 ticket in order to be able to take my girl friend.

The gala was really well organized.  At the start, you were given a passport in which you could get your photo affixed.  The passport was red which fit in with the Soviet theme of the exhibit.

When I arrived, there were many people were milling about.  This was obviously the social event of the year for the upper crust of Fort Worth. Everybody seemed to know everybody, except for me. 

I kept my watchful eye out for Cosmonaut Feoktistov.  Earlier I had learned that Cosmonaut Savitskaya was not able to attend. That was a little disappointing, but the chance to meet the only surviving member of the Voskhod I crew was well worth it.

I had brought along a couple of books to get autographed and a picture.  There was an opening ceremony were the dignitaries were announced.  That helped a lot, because sometimes it is difficult to recognize what the astronauts cosmonauts look like many years after they have left the program. 

The Fort Worth Symphony then played the national anthems of both the United States and the Soviet Union.  When the anthems were finished people headed into the exhibit.

I headed in the opposite direction because I knew that is were Dr. Feoktistov was.  The dignitaries would be the last in because of the way that things were arranged. 

I approached Dr. Feoktistov and he was gracious enough to sign my books and photo for me.  The pressure was off now! It was time to enjoy the banquet.  The banquet tables were intermingled with the exhibit. Instead of one large banquet hall you had small intimate rooms of no more than five or ten tables.

The tables were covered with black velvet as were the chairs. Truly, it was a beautiful setting.  I grabbed a glass of Scotch from the bar and wandered around the exhibit.  I was hoping to find a way to strike up a conversation with someone. 

I stopped over by the Lunokhod exhibit.  There one of the Soviet Technicians, associated with the exhibit, was speaking to a woman.  The lady obviously had no concept of space exploration but was trying to conduct a conversation anyway.  The technician's command of the English language was excellent.

Slowly, I worked my way into the conversation.  I had a marvelous discussion with the technician. He worked on the software for the Lunokhod and also on the Phobos spacecraft.

One thing that I was curious about was how long it took them to develop their space probes.  He said that it took about two years to develop most of them. That seemed remarkably short to me.

He explained that most of their probes are built off of one common platform. That way it isn't difficult to change the experiments from one probe to another, from Venera to Phobos.  I thought that was superb idea.  I knew how long it had taken the United States to develop some of its space probes like Galileo. I wondered why we did not use the same time and cost saving measures.


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UPDATED : February 23, 2007
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