For some reason, my social media feeds lately have been filled with images of “Russia’s secret space shuttles” that have fallen into ruin. This is a little puzzling, since those shuttles haven’t been ‘secret’ for decades, and they’ve been in terrible condition for over 20 years. But that got me thinking — was it a…
Russian photographer and urban explorer Ralph Mirebs just published one of the saddest photoseries on space exploration. He managed to get inside an abandoned hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where two Burans—the prototype space shuttles of the Russian space program—are slowly decaying in their burial crypt.
Today is the anniversary of the first and only launch of Buran, the Soviet space shuttle that was arguably better than the American original. The Russian space agency—Roscosmos—has published this video, showing the launch and return to Earth.
Russia's Buran program was very short lived. Like, only one flight short lived. But according to cosmonaut (and ISS alum) Oleg Kotov, the craft had some serious potential—outclassing its American rival at both saving lives and destroying them.
What happens when space programs are left to die? In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, the Buran reusable spacecraft program was canceled, leaving the launchpads and equipment to decay.
In the mid-1970s, the Soviets conceived of the Buran program as their answer to NASA and the U.S. Space Shuttle program. Though the ambitious project faltered after only one unmanned flight, many of its remnants still stand spectacularly today.
The Buran space shuttle was once the apple of the Soviet space fleet's eye. Unfortunately, it has now been reduced to floating peacefully down the river Rhine, where it will eventually come to rest at the Technik Museum Speyer in Mannheim, Germany. The great shuttle took to the skies only once during an unmanned test…