The whoops of excitement at Peterborough Cathedral when it was first whispered that we had been selected to host Tim Peake’s Spacecraft Tour could probably have been heard from the International Space Station!
This is our 900th anniversary year, and we have been celebrating not only this remarkable medieval building and all the engineering, skill and faith that went into it, but also the people associated with it. There are the big names like Katharine of Aragon and Mary Queen of Scots, but had you heard of the 18th century Dean, Peter Peckard, whose role in the anti-slavery movement was pivotal but little known?
More to the point, had you heard of George Alcock MBE (1912–2000)? This passionate amateur astronomer lived locally and discovered five comets and five novas. He was described by Patrick Moore as ‘one of the best and most dedicated comet and nova-hunters of all time’. His memorial was presented by the British Astronomical Association and hangs in the New Building (which is not that new; the fan vaulting having been completed in 1509).
We like to think that George would be delighted that the Soyuz spacecraft and the Space Descent VR are coming to Peterborough, and that the numerous visitors who come to see them here will catch his enthusiasm for our solar system.
We are looking forward to welcoming many people who come to see the Soyuz capsule whilst it is here. We have worked hard in recent years to ensure that this ancient building has level access throughout and we have a new Visitor Centre too. The spacecraft will sit in the north transept and under the central tower, surrounded by stunning architecture and beautiful ceilings. It is certainly going to have the ‘wow factor’.
With Peterborough just 45 minutes by fast train from London and the Cathedral just 10 minutes’ walk from the station, do make a point of coming to see the spacecraft in its stunning new setting from mid-August to early November. You will have a warm welcome.
Tim Peake’s Spacecraft will be on display at the Museum of Science and Industry from Saturday 10 March until Sunday 13 May 2018.