October 22, 2007

Russia's Space City Frozen in Time

Mansur Mirovalev:

Rockets still pierce the heavens in a halo of smoke during launches, and engineers and military men still crack open bottles of vodka to celebrate a successful launch. What has changed are the passengers. Nowadays Baikonur embraces the world, from wealthy space tourists to the world's first Malaysian cosmonaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, who blasted off for the international space station on Oct. 10.

The city itself is a rusting relic of the golden age of Russian rocketry, yet if anything, its place in the space industry is heading toward expansion. For at least four years after the space shuttle program ends in 2010, the U.S. will completely depend on Russia - and Baikonur - to send its crews to the international space station.

Facilities and equipment are workable but old. Remnants of demolished buildings and pieces of rusty metal dot the landscape along the roads to the launchpads. Dozens of apartment blocks that were abandoned after the 1991 Soviet collapse stand in rows like tombstones, their windows bricked up.

Posted by James Zellmer at October 22, 2007 9:00 AM | Subscribe to this site via RSS:
Posted to History | Technology