Abandoned Soviet era copycat Space Shuttles

Two Russian, Soviet era, space shuttles abandoned in Kazakhstan. via CNN

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, with the US and Russia locked in the depths of the “Cold War”, the US took a major step ahead of Russia in the ‘space race’ by launching the inaugural Space Shuttle mission. Russia felt the need to compete with the US and develop their own version of the Space Shuttle, which they did with great similarity.

A few years ago, some photographers from Europe found their way to sneak into an abandoned hangar in Kazakhstan (neither was named Borat) not too far from the active Russian space launch pads that are currently used today, where these two old Russian shuttles still sit.

It was the Soviet response to the space shuttle, designed to take the Cold War into space. But after just one flight, it was mothballed. Now, the ruins of what was called the Buran program are left to rust in the steppe of Kazakhstan.

Two shuttles and a rocket lie in disused hangars, not far from the launchpad of that first flight, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It’s an active spaceport about 1,500 miles southeast of Moscow, still used today to send and retrieve astronauts from the International Space Station.

The site is not open to the public, but a few adventurers have mustered the courage to sneak in and take a look.Among them is French photographer David de Rueda, who visited the site three times between 2015 and 2017: “The space shuttles are only a few hundred meters from active facilities. Getting there was an epic adventure, we didn’t know if we would make it because the Kazakh steppe is a hostile environment. But it was entirely worth it. This place is unreal,” he said in an email interview.

CNN

These shuttle, called Buran (Russian for ‘blizzard’), only went on one flight in 1988, a year before Communism and the Cold War fell along with the Berlin Wall. As the world changed, the Russian money used to fund this experiment dried up and they never did any further flights.

The photos in this article are spectacular and you have to think that the sheer thrill that the photographers had in sneaking into these hangars must have been off the charts.

A New Day To Look Forward

Yesterday was the last day that we never had a female Vice President of the United States. Congratulations to VP Kamala Harris. This is a big deal and we should not let it go unnoticed.

And stating the obvious here, but the poem by Amanda Gorman. WOW!

Today is a good day for the United States and the World. There is work to do. A LOT of work. But today is a good day to build on.

How Thanksgiving Became “Thanksgiving”

Image source: Wikipedia Commons

Yes, there was a feast near Plymouth Plantation between the European settlers and the Native Americans way back in 1621. That is the branding and the omnipresent visuals that have pervaded the holiday over the past decades. The reality is that Thanksgiving did not become a ‘thing’ until the era of the Civil War. From the awesome Substack newsletter of Heather Cox Richardson (History Professor at Boston College):

That first Thanksgiving celebration was not in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest feast in fall 1621, and while early colonial leaders periodically declared days of thanksgiving when settlers were supposed to give their thanks for continued life and– with luck—prosperity, neither of these gave rise to our national celebration of Thanksgiving.

We celebrate Thanksgiving because of the Civil War.

Heather Cox Richardson

During the Civil War, there was a period when the prospects of the Union army was not looking good. So the Governors of several states declared a ‘thanksgiving’ holiday to celebrate the troops efforts and drum up support for the cause. The original date of Thanksgiving was August 6th. However, as the Civil War raged on, the Union Army started to secure some victories – none bigger than Vicksburg on July 4th of 1863. And from there, Lincoln decided that a second date for giving thanks to the troops was needed.

The following year, Lincoln proclaimed another day of thanksgiving, this time congratulating Americans that God had favored them not only with immigration but also with the emancipation of formerly enslaved people. “Moreover,” Lincoln wrote, “He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”

Lincoln established our national Thanksgiving to celebrate the survival of our democratic government.

Heather Cox Richardson

It is always interesting to peel back the perception of how certain traditions started to learn the real history of what circumstances really led to what we celebrate today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gaelic Football’s Final Four The Same As Bloody Sunday 100 Years Ago

Bloody Sunday Ticket - Tipperary v Dublin
Image via Adams Auctions (https://www.adams.ie)

Recently, and over the next few years, there will be several centennial anniversaries related to the Irish War of Independence that took place roughly 100 years ago (1919-1921) and was led by Irish heroes like Michael Collins. A key event during that difficult time was the Bloody Sunday massacre that took place 100 years ago this past Saturday, November 21st. It was on this day where people attending a Gaelic Football game at Croke Park in Dublin were attacked by British operatives in retaliation for the death of 14 British intelligence officers earlier that day at the hands of the Irish Republican Army. Charles Piece wrote a great piece at The Defector detailing what happened:

Dublin was on edge. That morning, in a coordinated attack, guerrillas under the command of IRA leader Michael Collins fanned out of the city and systematically decapitated the British intelligence apparatus in the Irish capital. In a single operation, the IRA killed 14 people it had identified as British intelligence operatives. It was one of the most decisive episodes in the War of Independence that had begun in 1919 and it shook the British government in Ireland to its core. Suspicions arose that the gunmen may have planned to melt into the crowd at Croke Park; the GAA was born out of the same burst of Irish nationalism that eventually would lead to the Easter Rising and the birth of the IRA. (In fact, historians now believe that John McDonnell, the goalkeeper of the Dublin side, had been involved in the killing that morning of two British intelligence agents before showing up to play the match. That is one rich, full day.) The money raised at the challenge game would go to a fund that supported the families of Republican prisoners still held in British jails.

At Croke Park on the afternoon of November 21, 1920, about five minutes after the game had begun, the attention of the spectators was drawn by an airplane that circled above the stadium twice and then fired off a red flare. 

As if it were a signal, which it likely was, the police and soldiers surrounding the neighborhood stormed into Croke Park through its southwest gate and opened up on the crowd with rifles and revolvers. When the killing was done, 14 people were dead. They included three schoolboys—10-year-old Jerome O’Leary, 11-year-old William Robinson, and 14-year-old John William Scott—as well as Jane Boyle, a 26-year old who was planning to be married later that week, and Michael Hogan, a Tipperary player who was killed while crawling to cover. Somewhere between 60 and 100 people were wounded.

Charles Piece, The Defector

On that fateful Sunday 100 years ago, the final four teams that had survived the Gaelic Football playoffs were Dublin, Mayo, Tipperary and Cavan. And wouldn’t you know that fate would mess with us 100 years on.

The biggest of the planned centenary commemorations, some of which had been in the works for years, were downsized or outright canceled because of COVID-19. But the games went on, sans fans and English soldiers. And from the just-completed quarterfinal round of the GAA’s All-Ireland tournament (an annual competition that grips the nation and is played exclusively by amateur athletes representing their home counties) it appears that the Gaelic football gods remembered what happened all those years ago. The four sides that advanced over the weekend to next month’s semifinals—Dublin, Mayo, Tipperary and Cavan—are the exact same quartet that made the semis in 1920, the year of the bloodbath. 

The 2020 Gaelic Final Four semi finals will take place the weekend of December 5-6 and the Championship will be held on December 19.