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.