Ralph Mirebs, an urban explorer and photographer in Russia, has revealed extraordinary photos of Soviet space shuttle prototypes gathering dust in an abandoned hangar in Kazakhstan.
A photojournalist Ralph Mirebs went to Kazakhstan after reading about the Soviet space exploration programs. Curious, he ventured out there investigate. As you can see, it was one hell of a find.
In 1973 during the Cold War era when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were competing for space bragging rights, the latter building this facility. In it were the space shuttle Buran and another mock-up shuttle.
In 1993 the entire program was abandoned as the U.S.S.R. was dissolved and the facility was abandoned due to lack of funds.
Then, in 2002, an earthquake and storm rattled the decaying hangar so much that it collapsed, completely destroying these two wonderful pieces of space history inside. The only thing that’s left are the hauntingly beautiful pictures.
Information about photographs in the above video – If you’d like to see the entire collection of Ralph’s photos, click here to go to his blog. Link
1. A photographer has managed to gain access to the building housing the abandoned Soviet space shuttle programme. Ralph Mirebs travelled to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and found the two crumbling, dust-covered craft that was built for the Buran orbital vehicle programme back in the 1970s and 80s.
2. The reusable spacecraft project began in 1974 but was formally suspended in 1993 after it completed just one unmanned orbital spaceflight in 1988
3. They are generally considered as a Soviet equivalent of the United States’ Space Shuttle but in the Buran project, only the plane-shaped orbiter itself was theoretically reusable, and while Orbiter K1 was recovered successfully after its first orbital flight in 1988, it was never reused
4. The Buran programme was started by the Soviet Union as a response to the United States Space Shuttle programme. The project was the largest and the most expensive in the history of Soviet space exploration.
5. The only orbital launch of a Buran-class orbiter took place on November 15, 1988 from Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad. OK-1K1 was lifted into space, on an unmanned mission, by the specially designed Energia rocket.
6. The Energia rocket lifted the vehicle into a temporary orbit before the orbiter separated as planned. After boosting itself to a higher orbit and completing two revolutions around the Earth, ODU (engine control system) engines fired automatically to begin the descent into the atmosphere. Exactly 206 minutes into the mission, Orbiter OK-1K1 landed, having lost only eight of its 38,000 thermal tiles over the course of the flight. The automated landing took place on a runway at Baikonur Cosmodrome.
7. The outside of the building housing the Buran space shuttle orbiters at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
8. The rusting insides of the building
9. Inside the cockpit of one of the shuttles
10. The American shuttle’s 30-tonne payload-to-orbit capacity and, more significantly, its 15-ton payload return capacity, were a clear indication that one of its main objectives would be to place massive experimental laser weapons into orbit that could destroy enemy missiles from a distance of several thousands of kilometres.
11. Soviet officials were also concerned that the NASA space shuttle could make a sudden dive into the atmosphere to drop bombs on Moscow.
12. Soviet engineers were initially reluctant to design a spacecraft that looked superficially identical to the shuttle, but subsequent wind tunnel testing showed that Nasa’s design was already ideal
13.Inside one of the Buran space shuttle orbiters
14. After the first flight of a Buran shuttle, the project was suspended due to lack of funds and the political situation in the Soviet Union
15. The two subsequent orbiters, which were due in 1990 and 1992 were never completed after the project was officially terminated on 30 June 1993, by President Boris Yeltsin
16. At the time of its cancellation, billions of rubles had been spent on the Buran programme
17. Inside the building housing the remains of the Buran space shuttle orbiter program at the Baikonur Cosmodrome
18. ‘Buran’ is the Russian word for ‘snowstorm’ or ‘blizzard’. Ironically, in 2002, a hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome collapsed during a massive storm as a result of poor maintenance