Weird Crap in Mike’s Place #4: Soyuz Control Panel
Growing up during the prime of the space-race oriented my nerdling interests for the rest of my life. As all cravings of sorts, I can either exercise my rather pedestrian will, or cave and feed it. In this case I chose to feed it against the better judgments of my bank account. So I collect NASA artifacts from the earliest days of the space program and even before.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Sotheby’s auctioneers had an event dedicated just to materials from the Soviet space program. Things such as prototypes of space suits for moon walking to personal things from the cosmonauts. This was just the beginning of the flood, which at one time “saturated” the market so much so, that it was possible to get Soyuz launch/entry suit (still used today) for less than $10K. Since then they’ve stabilized at about $20K.
One of the iconic components in all of Russia’s manned spacecraft was a mechanical earth globe showing the crew where exactly they were at the time. (US astronauts had to rely on printed maps or word from Mission Control). So when one of those globes popped up on eBay…
Sometime after that the party who sold me the globe told me that he had just gotten in the panel that it came from, but no one wanted it unless it had the globe. So I picked that up as well, like a “frame” of sorts.
It’s not known if this panel flew or came out of a trainer. It was far too clean to have been used in training day in or day out, and unless there’s another job for ground based panels outside of simulators, this did likely fly.
This panel was used on the Soyuz-T model of the spacecraft, from the late 80s to 90s. The Soyuz in various forms has been flying since it’s disastrous first flight in 1967. It has proven to be a good, reliable and relatively cheap transportation system. During the stand down after the Columbia accident, the Soyuz was our only means of getting to the space-station and still serves as the ISS’ emergency escape system.
These days the Soyuz is becoming a “glass cockpit,” by replacing much of the electro-mechanical displays and controls with touch screens (the trainers drive those screens with MS. Windows), with the Shuttle. But new cockpits just don’t have the feeling as a older hardware panels.
I have never seen another complete panel like this for sale, but weirdly enough I was able to get an English manual for the thing. They were likely used for training US astronauts preparing to fly to the Mir space-station at that time.
I do see some Russian panels popping up from time to time, but those are more likely from MIR space-station trainers, or an ancillary controls from the Soyuz.
It makes for a nice conversation piece, but it’s a heavy sucker, so had to bring in for Show and Tell.