Russian Cosmonauts
Russian Cosmonauts

Inside the Russian Space ProgramAn out-of-this-World Journey

May 22 - 30, 2014
Be a VIP observer of the heart-stirring launch of a manned Soyuz spacecraft
Starting at $14,995

Get as close to outer space as possible while still keeping your feet on the ground during our exciting new tour of the Russian Space Program. Meet a cosmonaut in Star City and enjoy unparalleled access to briefing sessions and VIP viewing areas at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome as preparations are made for a Soyuz launch.

Journey outside Moscow to Star City, the formerly secret training facility for Soviet cosmonauts, where today space travelers from all over the world prepare for flights. In addition to meeting with a Russian cosmonaut, you'll examine the Mir Space Station Simulator, the Hydrolab for zero-G training, and the largest centrifuge in the world. Then, fly to Kazakhstan’s arid steppe to visit the Russian space launch facility, Baikonur Cosmodrome, to witness the manned launch of a Soyuz spacecraft. Mingle with cosmodrome workers, officials, and former and current cosmonauts at the pre-launch activities, including the rollout of the Soyuz from the assembly hangar to the launch pad, the raising of the rocket ceremony, and the walk along the alley of Cosmonauts. Enjoy VIP viewing at the launch site to see the Soyuz spacecraft break free of the earth’s atmosphere on its way to the International Space Station. Limited to 22 participants.

Two optional extensions are also available following your tour. Take an express train to St. Petersburg and explore renowned palaces, museums, and churches (see Tour Extension link). OR, expand on your in-depth exploration of space travel with participatory cosmonaut training options or high altitude aerobatics in a MiG-29 Jet Fighter (see Activities and Excursions link).

*Note: Due to launch date fluctuations, we recommend you keep your schedule open at least two weeks before and two weeks after the program dates.

Check out our slide show for a photo journey of this tour!
View photos by clicking "Next Photo" at the top of the page!

Itinerary Days 1-2 — U.S., Moscow, Russia
Depart the U.S. for Moscow. Arriving in Moscow, meet fellow travelers at a welcome dinner. (D)

Day 3 — Moscow
Drive outside of Moscow to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, or GCTC, in the once highly classified and secretive Star City. The center was established in 1960, and since 1968 has been named for Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Today the GCTC remains the premier training facility for Russian cosmonauts and foreign astronauts planning manned space flights.

Trace the evolution of the Soviet space program, exploring the Mir Space Station Simulator (the Mir was operational from 1986-2001), and learn about training joint Russian-American crews on the simulator of the International Space Station (ISS). At the massive hydro lab, or Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, learn how crews acquire skills for operations outside the space station under simulated weightless conditions. The world’s largest centrifuge, used for simulating G-loads, is on the program as well.

Enjoy lunch in the Star City cafeteria, used by the crewmembers in training and other facilitators of the Star City complex. Then meet and talk with one of the Russian cosmonauts. Each participant receives a special certificate recognizing his or her visit to Star City. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Baikonur, Kazakhstan
Fly to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, on the arid steppe of Kazakhstan. This is a special flight for those going to witness and participate in the launch. On arrival, enjoy an opportunity for a lecture or a meeting with a local guest speaker to prepare for the next few days. You will enjoy unparalleled access to VIP viewing areas and briefing sessions during your time here. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Baikonur
Begin with an early morning viewing of the roll-out of the awe-inspiring Soyuz Rocket. Follow the Soyuz to the launch pad site and watch the raising of the rocket together with the press, military personnel, cosmonauts, and their relatives.

Visit the main launch pad, the “Gagarin Start,” where the Sputnik launches took place, and mingle with the press and other guests. Visit the Baikonur Museum, the Yuri Gagarin and Sergei Korolev living apartments, the monument to the beginning of the Space Age, and the Zenit launch pad. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Baikonur
Tour the Buran hangar (approximately the size of the Astrodome) where the rockets are assembled, and one of several other launch pads. Visit the local school where students study and build model rockets. Attend the ISS Crew Press Conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel, a chance to ask any burning questions you may have of the next ISS crew. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Baikonur, launch of the Soyuz, fly to Moscow
Today is the day of the manned space launch of the Soyuz to the International Space Station. Witness the process before, during, and after the launch. Experience behind-the-scenes events, including the send-off from the Cosmonaut Hotel and the Space Crew ready-to-go official report. Gather at the exclusive VIP launch viewing area for the heart-stirring launch of the Soyuz. After celebrating the launch, catch the flight back to Moscow. (B,L,D)

Note: The order of events in Baikonur may be moved around to coincide with the launch time window.

Day 8 — Moscow
Enjoy a day of touring in Moscow. First, head into the suburbs for a tour of the Monino Air Museum. The Aviation Museum in Monino, the largest and most complete in Russia, is a coveted stop for anyone interested in aviation. Located at a former Soviet Air Force base, the museum displays dozens of Russian and Soviet aircraft from various periods and artifacts from the history of Russian aviation. Aircraft include the famous Tupelov Tu-95 – a huge Cold War bomber called the "Bear” – and plenty of MiGs and Yaks.

Stop at the Space Exploration Museum, or the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics, as it’s called here, housed in the base of the monument named “To the Conquerors of Space.” The museum was built in 1964 to commemorate the 1957 launching of Sputnik, the first-ever orbiting satellite. It was the lights of Sputnik moving across the night sky that convinced the U.S. to step up its own space program. The museum celebrates the Soviet Union’s exploits in space, and includes artifacts like Yuri Gagarin’s space suit and the first rocket engine, designed and built in 1931.

Finish the day with a tour of the Cold War Museum Bunker. Over 200 feet below Moscow is the Secured Command Post “Tagansky,” an abandoned relic of the Cold War built to withstand a nuclear attack. Stocked with food and provisions, the 75,000-square-foot space was meant to sustain 5,000 people for three months. Ordered by Stalin in 1951, the shelter was finished in 1956, and soon became a secret communication bunker and, reportedly, a missile control center.

Raise a toast to an out-of-this-world journey during the festive farewell dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Moscow, U.S.
Depart Moscow for the U.S. Those taking the optional cosmonaut training spend an extra day or two in Moscow training at Star City and depart for the U.S. the following day. See the Activities and Excursions link for descriptions of Optional Cosmonaut Training in Star City. Others may consider an optional post-tour excursion to St. Petersburg. See Tour Extension link for details. (B)