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.
The abandoned hangar is located at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which is still in operation today (with the close of NASA’s shuttle program, Russian Soyuz shuttles are the only way for astronauts to reach the International Space Station). The Buran prototype shuttles found by Mirebs, however, are from an earlier era – they are the last remnants of a space program that began in 1974 and was finally shuttered in 1993. The only operational Buran shuttle, Orbiter 1K1, completed one unmanned orbital flight before it was grounded. Unfortunately, this shuttle was destroyed in a hangar collapse in 2002.
Mirebs’ photos show this forgotten space program derelict and frozen in time. Hopefully, his photos will inspire the Russian government to put these shuttles in a museum where they belong.
This abandoned hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan holds a historic treasure…
…two abandoned space shuttles from the scrapped Soviet “Buran” space shuttle program
The program was cancelled in 1993 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and only one unmanned orbital flight was ever completed
The hangar once maintained an artificially high atmospheric pressure to keep dust out, but those systems have long since failed
Now, the shuttles are covered in dust and bird droppings, and have shattered ceramic tiles and windows
Some of the equipment has been torn out – perhaps salvaged for rare earth metals
The rear shuttle was to be an operational prototype while the one in the front was a test mock-up
The shuttles are still surrounded by the pneumatic platforms that allowed workers to work without damaging any ceramic tiles
“The romance of space exploration is gone, leaving only dry figures and financial statistics. Why spend billions on space if it does not bring profit in the foreseeable future?” Mirebs asks on his blog
“The race between the two superpowers had a beneficial effect on scientific and technical progress”
“You can regret the lost time and mourn the greatness of the past, but the facts remain – Russia is rapidly losing its status as a leading space power”