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The Great Soviet Space Exhibition of 1927

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In 1927, the Soviet Association of Inventors decided to hold an exhibition dedicated to the possibility of space flight. In spite of some financial and bureaucratic difficulties — the government claimed that the subject of spaceflight was "still premature and problematical" and would only serve to "stir up the masses" — an extensive display of Russian and foreign inventions was arranged for public viewing.

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Here are 14 photos from the exhibition, published for the first time anywhere in nearly 90 years.

Opening in Moscow in April, the exhibition was organized by O. Kholoshchev (the only woman on the committee), I. Belyaev, A. Savarov, G. Polevoi and Pyatetsky.

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Included in the exhibition were displays relating to the work of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, Nicolai Fedorov, Nicolai Kibalchich, K.E. Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, Hermann Oberth, Max Valier and Friedrich Tsander, among many others. The displays featured plans, drawings and photographs as well as models built by members of the Association. The front of the building in which the exhibition was held was decorated with a spectacular bas relief, showing the earth seen from the rugged surface of the moon. The overall exhibition was divided into four general historic periods: the scientific-fantastic, scientific-realistic, planning and invention (theoretical), and invention and design (practical). The organizers assessed the various types of rockets and the methods for launching them, and expressed confidence in the eventual use of nuclear energy in space exploration.

The first such show to be held anywhere in the world, it was well attended and well received by critics and public alike.

Afterwards, an album of about three dozen photographs was published, from which this gallery of images was selected.

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1: The entrance, with a diorama depicting the surface of the moon.

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2: The organizers of the exhibition.

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3: An overview of part of the exhibition. In the center is the large model of a spaceship invented by Federov. At the far left can be seen part of Jules Verne's projectile and H.G. Wells' Cavorite sphere.

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4: The section of the show dedicated to "the period of invention and design". The rocket on the top of the tower is a model representing the moon rocket proposed by Robert Goddard.

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5: Another view of the "period of invention and design" as well as the area devoted to the work of Federov (center)

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6: A display of Robert Goddard's work, including a large model depicting the moon rocket which had gained him so much scorn in the US.

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7: A collection of publications written by Max Valier. An Austrian-born inventor, Valier was an indefatigable promoter of rocketry and spaceflight. His articles were translated and published all over the world.

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8: A model of Max Valier's spaceship. It was meant to be the end result of a gradual evolutionary design process that began with an ordinary propeller-driven aircraft. Valier was famous for publicizing rocket propulsion through rocket-powered cars, sleds, boats and aircraft. He also promoted the idea of rocket passenger transports for supersonic transatlantic flights. Valier was the first martyr to spaceflight, dying when an exploding liquid-fuel engine sent a shard of metal through his jugular.

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9: Tsiolkovsky's corner. The Russian schoolteacher was one of the trio of seminal pioneers who laid the groundwork for modern astronautics.

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10: A detail of the Tsiolkovsky display.

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11: A model of the spaceship invented by Federov. He planned to achieve propulsion through "electrochemical energy resulting from the use of intra-atomic energy." He planned for his 180-foot-lon rocket to carry six passengers. It would take off like a conventional aircraft, switching over to rocket power at an altitude of 15 miles.

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12: A diagram of the engine compartment of the Federov spaceship.

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13: A model of the Tsander spaceship. Like Federov's invention, Tsander's spacecraft would take off like a conventional aircraft, switching over to rockets at an altitude of 12-18 miles and a speed of 215-280 miles per second. Tsander's design was unique in that parts of the ship itself would be consumed as fuel. Once above the atmosphere where wings and propellers would no longer be needed, they would be converted by being melted and combined with a spray of liquid oxygen in the combustion chambers. Up to 90% of the rocket's original weight may wind up as propellant.

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14: A painting illustrating "enigmatic phenomena occurring in the upper layers of the atmosphere".

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