The fall of the Soviet Union was swift and unforgiving. Hardly twenty years ago before the lowering of Red flag in 1993, the Union was strong as ever and built astronomical projects for space exploration. Early Russian breakthroughs in the field were far more superior than that of NASA, and it was only the controversial manned flight to the moon that restored some parity in the American camp. Otherwise, the Russians were the first to make a satellite, send a camera to the Moon and conduct the first manned flight.
As the Soviet empire collapsed, the economy of the nation crumbled. Such was the scarcity of funds that many projects that were due to be completed had to be scrapped and left as they were. No dismantling and even covering of the high-tech equipment was done before leaving them there. The independence of the Kazakhstan from the Union also played its part as the facility was located in one of its vast desert landscapes.
This cosmodrome at Baikonur (formerly Leninsk) is the World’s first space shuttle hanger and continues to be the largest setup for this purpose. Baikonur was leased to the Russian Space Agency by the Kazakh government till 2050. The abandoned shuttle hanger is located near Baikonur, and it is very odd why this amazing facility and the priceless two modern shuttles inside were ignored and allowed to rust for twenty years. Imagine all the hard work and resources gone to waste over here.
The Buran shuttle present inside the hanger even underwent a test unmanned flight in 1988 before the site was closed down.
Look at the enormousness of the whole thing. Layers of rust and dust now accompany the abandoned machinery. It appears to be the lair of an evil scientist to me.
The neglected shuttle speaks volumes of the demise of the programme. Its design is sleek and modern, comparable to any recent crafts of NASA. The Buran shuttle, in particular, had the engine at the back, and fixed wings having flaps so that it could be controlled in the return flight.
The hanger was also home to other working shuttles that had seen action in space. They were taken to museums, but why these two weren’t even taken there, we cannot provide a satisfactory answer. The hangers measured 433 x 203 feet, and it is the largest building located in the Baikonur facility. There are three beam cranes capable of moving 400 tonnes around. They were primarily used to lift the heavy equipment including the shuttles themselves.
The cockpit of the Buran shuttle is in a good shape, however, some of the equipment is missing. The structure has been made with reinforced steel to avoid shockwaves during high-speed travel. The outside of the shuttles are covered with heat-resistant tiles to prevent overheating and catching fire from air friction.
Look at more of these pictures. The sudden abandoned nature of the place gives me the chills. Any moment now, the ghosts cosmo scientists will come and reclaim their fabled project and unleash their wrath!