If you missed your chance to sign up for Space Camp or just want a closer look at the Russian approach to space exploration, an exclusive tour inside the Russian Space Program this fall may be for you. Operated by the Mir Corporation (no relation to the former Russian Space Station), Inside the Russian Space Program will give you a near-space experience with opportunities to see a manned Soyuz launch and tour a mock-up of the International Space Station (ISS), among other activities that are far beyond the reach of most travelers.The 10-day, $14,000 tour scheduled for October 9-18, 2012, is led by Dr. Steven Lee of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and provides exclusive access and insight into Roscosmos, Russia’s Space Program. Sandwiched between tours of Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and Mission Control in Moscow, the tour will include a trip to Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where participants can get behind-the-scene glimpses of the manned Soyuz rocket launch to the International Space Station. For an extra fee, travelers can sign up to attend Cosmonaut training, which includes a familiarization ride on the world’s largest centrifuge, a zero gravity flight, and a chance to wear a Russian Orlan space suit.
Although this is very much a 21st century tour, some of the activities on the itinerary can’t help but hearken back to the days of the Soviet Space Program, thereby making this a fascinating tour for Cold War history buffs. To wit, there are excursions to the Star City Museum, which has a reproduction of Yuri Gagarin’s office among other rockets, satellites, space capsules, and simulators; the Cold War Museum Bunker; the Gagarin Start, the original launchpad from which the Sputnik missions launched; and the Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery, where famous Russians, such as Chekhov and Khrushchev, as well as a number of cosmonauts are buried.