Soyuz TMA-03M capsule now on display in the Netherlands
NOORDWIJK, the Netherlands — After a journey of 193 days in space, a few years in Russia at the Energia factory, and about a month on the road, the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft found its permanent new home in the Space Expo Museum in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. An event was hosted at the museum to honor the spacecraft component.
Soyuz TMA-03M was the vehicle that took the second Dutch astronaut, Andre Kuipers, along with his two crewmates, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and NASA astronaut Don Pettit, to the ISS and back.
On Monday, Sept. 19, the capsule was presented to the Dutch media by Andre Kuipers, Oleg Kononenko, and the Dutch minister of Economic affairs Henk Kamp. The general public will be able to see the capsule starting today (Tuesday, Sept. 20).
“Oleg, come over here, look – it’s 703, it is our capsule. The serial number is 703, that’s our Soyuz,” a jubilant Andre Kuipers called out to his commander Oleg Kononenko. Monday’s event was the first time both men saw “their” Soyuz again since it landed on July 1, 2012, in Kazakhstan.
A few hours before the media event began, Kuipers walks through the museum looking for the Soyuz TMA-03M capsule that he and his comrades launched in towards the International Space Station back on December 21, 2011.
“Great, this looks nice. I’m very pleased [with] the way they put her up for display. I’m very pleased that it could come to this museum in the Netherlands; in a way, this is Dutch cultural history,” Kuipers said.
Several years ago, the Space Expo museum came up with the idea of bringing the capsule to the Netherlands. Fundraisers helped to get the necessary 450 thousand Euros together that had to be paid to the Energia Company and to cover insurance and transportation costs. With the help of the Dutch government, the Netherlands Space Office (NSO), the Energia capsule manufacturer, and ESA’s Moscow bureau, the paperwork was made ready for shipping the Soyuz to Holland this summer. The trip by truck from Moscow to Noordwijk took five days to complete.
A special opening program was held for the new museum exhibit piece on Monday. Guests at a special opening program that was held on Monday included the Dutch minister of Economic affairs Henk Kamp, the Russian Ambassador to the Netherlands Alexander Shulgin, the Mayor of Noordwijk Jan Rijpsta, and ESA/ESTEC director Franco Ongaro.
After opening words by Space Expo’s Director Rob van den Berg, Andre Kuipers introduced his capsule with video file footage of the Soyuz TMA-03M mission from launch to landing before answering questions from schoolchildren. After that, the Dutch minister of Economic affairs Henk Kamp spoke a few words on the importance of spaceflight in the Netherlands and how this new display could serve to inspire young people to pursue fields in science.
Finally, the spacecraft was unveiled after a countdown to zero and with the symbolic pressing of a large red button that would drop down the curtain and reveal the Soyuz TMA-03M capsule for the first time to the public eye. For the assembled media, the two space flyers walked around their capsule and stepped inside to relive the many (training) hours they had spent inside.
Oleg Kononenko has completed three long-duration missions on orbit. The last one ended in December of 2015 when Soyuz TMA-17M returned to Earth. The veteran cosmonaut has logged some 533 days in space, and it looks like he might be ready to return to orbit.
“Yes, a new mission to ISS for me in late 2018; for sure, this will be a half-year flight, but there might be a chance that it could be a year-long mission. We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” Kononenko told SpaceFlight Insider.
A native of the Netherlands, van Oene became ‘infected’ with the ‘space virus’ by an enthusiastic school teacher in 1981. Since 1994 he has been a freelance space photographer and writer for magazines and websites in Holland, Belgium and ‘Spaceflight’, the magazine of the British Interplanetary Society. van Oene is also the co-founder and CFO of SPACEPATCHES.NL. This Netherlands-based foundation currently produces all the official Soyuz crew patches for the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos.