Watch the only time that the Russian space shuttle flew into space

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.


The return was actually a remarkable achievement: Buran's first flight was completely automated, from liftoff to landing, a feat that it executed to perfection. This is a capability that NASA's orbiter didn't have at the time.

Buran launched attached to an Energia rocket—the most powerful liquid fuel rocket to date—which allowed it to carry five more tons of payload than the American space shuttle (30 tons vs 24.4 tons.)

Russian designers also claim that the Buran was a lot safer than the shuttle. Not only the Buran didn't have to suffer the impact of foam insulation parts falling from a fuel deposit, but the thermal tiles cutting and layout were better and more effective. Cosmonauts also had the capability of abandoning the ship at any time during the flight—even the people in the mid-deck could eject using sideways ejection seats.

Too bad that they never got to enjoy them. Or good, considering that Buran was designed as a nuclear weapons delivery device.