More than 1.3m people saw the Soyuz module in which ESA astronaut Tim Peake returned to Earth during its 20-month tour of the UK.
Visitors flocked to see the capsule, which was displayed at seven museums in Belfast, Bradford, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, Shildon and York.
It also went on show at Peterborough Cathedral, which had won a national competition to host the spacecraft. Attendance at the cathedral increased nine-fold on the previous year.
The 1.5 tonne descent module carried Tim Peake along with Russian flight commander Yuri Malenchenko and American flight engineer Tim Kopra as they returned from the International Space Station at the end of the Principia mission on 18 June 2016. Its surfaces are charred from atmospheric re-entry, when it had to withstand temperatures of 1,500°C.
The module has now returned to the Science Museum in London, where it will go on permanent display as part of the museum’s Summer of Space, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.
The Apollo 10 command module simulator console—on long-term loan from the Smithsonian—joins the Soyuz module on display at the museum.
The control panel was used during the mission immediately before the Moon landings, which saw astronauts orbiting the Moon twice before returning safely to Earth.
Tim Peake said: “I am incredibly proud that more than 1.3 million people across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have had the chance to get up close to my Soyuz spacecraft. It is wonderful to extend the Principia mission’s impact in inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.”
Jeremy Wright, UK culture secretary, said: “The record number of people who saw Tim Peake’s Soyuz spacecraft highlights how science and space travel continue to inspire us. The tour’s success underlies why we make our world class culture accessible to everyone in all corners of the country.”
Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum, said: “The tour of Tim Peake’s spacecraft to museums in all four corners of the UK has been a testament to the power of culture to inspire. With Russian, European and UK space ingenuity all contributing to the success of Tim’s mission, the importance of international collaboration in achieving progress for us all is more starkly obvious than ever.”