Alexander Kaunas spent three days camping at the Cosmodrome Baikonur warehouse – 125-miles east of the Aral sea – in rural Kazakstan, in order to capture the USSR-era Buran space shuttles that have now been left to rot.
The Buran shuttles were unmanned space planes and both developed as part of Moscow’s Buran space programme.
During his time at the former Soviet-space base in 2016, Kaunas captured photographs of the two test rockets. Despite their size and complexity, the USSR never actually sent them into space.
Development on Buran (‘snowstorm’ in Russian) started in 1974, primarily for defence purposes in response to the perceived military threat posed by the United States’ own shuttle programme.
The programme was eventually shut down in 1993, after the Soviet’s spent years competing with NASA’s Saturn V missions that sent Apollo spacecraft to the Moon.
While they were at the site, Kaunas and his partner also photographed a vast Energia rocket, designed to propel the Buran into orbit.
The Buran, superficially at least, was practically identical to Nasa‘s shuttle, almost certainly as a result of Cold War espionage.
Having said that, the US didn’t make things particularly difficult for the KGB – all of the technology that went into the space shuttle programme was, inexplicably, unclassified and open to anyone.
The USSR built a total of eight test models and five production models and on 15 November 1988, the first flight-ready Buran shuttle was launched from the famous Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Although the flight was unmanned, the shuttle spent three hours in space and made two orbits of the Earth before landing safely.
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