December 3, 2022
interesting facts

It’s as if time has stood still: gruesome photos have been released of prototype Soviet space shuttles that have been sitting in an abandoned hangar in Kazakhstan for years. In our next column of interesting facts, we’ll reveal exactly what you can see in the pictures!

Two giant space shuttles and a rocket lie unused in the middle of nowhere at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur space centre. Although the area is closed to the public, a few adventurers have plucked up the courage to sneak in and see what’s inside. Among them was photographer Ralph Mirebs, and later Alexander Kaunas, along with a few others. According to the latter team, the journey there was not without its problems. They trekked for miles across the desert, then crawled through ditches and bushes to reach the hangar, where they spent three nights among the rusting space shuttles.

The space shuttles were developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, with the aim of somehow competing with the US’s miracle machines. These shuttles not only flew unmanned, but were also capable of carrying cargo that would be used to build space stations and weapons. For their noble purpose, they are now covered in dust and bird droppings. What could have happened?

In 1988, the space shuttle Buran had already successfully left Earth once, but shortly after the mission, President Boris Yeltsin suspended the programme for financial reasons. The shuttle was left in the Baikonur hangar, but due to extreme temperature fluctuations on the Kazakh steppe, the roof collapsed in 2002, directly onto the shuttle. The Ptichka space shuttle was to have been the next test subject, but since the project was scrapped, it has been languishing next to the Buran.