The National Space Centre in Leicester

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”   –  John F Kennedy                                   

I was born in Leicester (for overseas readers it is pronounced simply as Lester) in June 1954. My family left the city for the nearby town of Rugby six years later. When asked I always say that I am from Leicester and I am always proud to say so.

Last year I visited the city for the first time after sixty years and went to the Richard III exhibition, this time round I went to the National Space Centre in the heart of the city.

Leicester has the National Space Centre because the University of Leicester has played a significant role in Space exploration and the research and development of Space technology.  Not a lot of people know that.  I didn’t!

Despite the so called Tory ‘Levelling Up’ agenda most National Museums are in London but as well as Space in Leicester there are National Museums in York (Railways), Beaulieu (Motor Cars), Wakefield (coal mining) and Portsmouth (Royal Navy).

I am not sure exactly what I thought might be there, after all  I have been to Cape Kennedy in Florida so why did I need to go to the National Space Centre in Leicester.

The place certainly surpassed my modest expectations.

I was immediately impressed.  The centre is four stories high and clad in inflated pillows made of toughened plastic – the same material used on the Eden Project domes in Cornwall.  This material is 1% of the weight of the equivalent amount of glass and post construction was described by the Guardian newspaper as “one of the most distinctive and intriguing new buildings in Britain”.

I imagined that it might take an hour to go round – it took four and the last one was rushed so I will have to go back.  It has sections about the Solar System, the creation of the Universe , a Planetarium, full size rocket displays (I kid you not) and a top floor dedicated to the first moon landing.

I found it really interesting, this member of staff has seen it umpteen times and is clearly bored with it all.  Bored enough to take a nap…

The Apollo 11 space flight seemingly fulfilled US President John F. Kennedy’s aspiration of reaching the Moon before the Soviet Union by the end of the 1960s, which he had expressed during a 1961 speech before the United States Congress.

But not everyone was convinced and almost immediately some theorists began to produce evidence that disputed the Moon landings claim.

Different Moon landing conspiracy theories claim that some or all elements of the Apollo Project and the Moon landings were falsifications staged by NASA and that the landings were faked in some giant hoax.  Some of the more notable of these various claims include allegations that the Apollo astronauts did not set foot on the Moon at all but instead NASA and others intentionally deceived the public into believing the landings did occur by manufacturing, destroying, or tampering with evidence, including photos, telemetry tapes, transmissions, and rock samples.

he most predominant theory is that the entire human landing program was a complete hoax from start to finish. Not a Giant Leap but a Giant Cheat.

Some claim that the technology to send men to the Moon in 1969 was not available or that the Van Allen radiation belts, solar flares, solar wind, coronal mass ejections and cosmic rays made such a trip impossible with a success rate calculated at only 0.017%.  Others argue that because The United States could not allow itself to be seen to fail to achieve Kennedy’s aspiration, the obsession with beating the USSR and the huge sums of money involved (US$ 30 billion) had to be justified, that the hoax was unavoidable.

As the theories gathered momentum it seemed that rather than being filmed on the Moon all of the action actually took place on a film lot and in the middle of the Nevada desert.

For a while I must confess to having been taken in by these conspiracy theories but when I think about it the size and complexity of the alleged conspiracy theory scenarios makes it wholly unlikely.  The most compelling reason of all is the fact that more than four hundred thousand people worked on the Apollo project for nearly ten years and all of these people, including astronauts, scientists, engineers, technicians, and skilled labourers, would have had to keep the secret ever since and that, I suggest, would be completely impossible

My favourite story about the space race is that because it was supposed that a standard ballpoint pen would not work in zero gravity because the ink woudn’t flow to the nib, NASA spent millions of dollars developing the zero-g Space Pen, while the pragmatic Russians came up with the alternative of using a simple pencil or a wax crayon.







Click on an image to view the Gallery…


Quiz Time…

1  How many men have walked on the Moon?

2 Who was the third person to walk on the Moon?

3 How many orbits of the Earth did Yuri Gagarin complete in 1961?

4 In what year did Leicester City win the Premier League Title?

5  James T Kirk.  What does the T stand for?

25 responses to “The National Space Centre in Leicester

  1. From Memory, I only know the answer to the first and last questions. At one time, I “knew” the answer to #2 and #3, but I could not retrieve those from my memory banks at the time of this writing. I suppose I could cheat and Google(TM) the answer.

    #4 holds no interest, so not only don’t I know the answer, I don’t even care what it is.

    Lastly, cute pen/pencil story, but, like many stories, not true:

    I’ve owned the same Space-Pen (the bullet version) since the mid-70s (I think), and I changed the cartridge once, but only because I wanted to switch from medium to fine point. I still carry that pen every day in my pocket (I hate using pens that countless other people used) and sometimes demonstrate to people that it can write on almost any surface.


  2. That was a really interesting post. I had no idea that this museum had so much to offer.
    I must admit that like you I have had my doubts about the moon landings, mainly because they were not followed up. Gerry Anderson thought Moonbase Alpha would be there in 1999 and Kubrick also thought there would be a moon base by 2001. What went wrong?
    And conspiracies can be huge. Absolutely nobody knew what Bletchley Park was, even as late as 1970-1975. And up to 25,000 people were working there during WW2


  3. ahh was in Lester in 1980 but did not go there do not know if open then. nice memories I am sure, cheers


  4. It still seems incredible to me and not quite real that this was actually accomplished, Andrew, but I never seriously doubted it. Would I go into Space? I’d far rather go to the Space Centre.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t even attempt questions 4 and 5. When are you giving us the answers? Just think, three years Emily was at University in Leicester and not one of us ever visited the Space Centre. Our loss…


  6. this sounds like a really cool museum. i had no idea it even existed –


  7. Right. That’s going on my list for our September holiday.


  8. A most interesting museum, it sounds


  9. I never bought into the conspiracy theories regarding the moon landing, Andrew. The conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s death were harder for me to discount. –Curt


  10. Sounds amazing, and I had never heard of it either.


  11. Pingback: The National Space Centre in Leicester – Nelsapy

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