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.


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.

Peering Into The Abyss

The Event Horizon Telescope, named for a Black Hole’s point of no return, was able to capture the first image of a actual Black Hole, with the help of several other telescopes around the world and a multitude of scientists.

The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of the galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from here, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the power and malevolence of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.

Dennis Overbye, The NY Times

Mr. Overbye from the NY Times does a spectacular job of explaining the science behind the discovery and the overall process that scientists used to get to this point. I highly recommend reading the article in full.

The methodology and approach used to make this discovery essentially was a massive ‘proof’ that Einstein’s theory of releativity is accurate beyond any sort of reasonable doubt (if there ever was any doubt). His theory basically stipulated that gravity has the ability to warp time and space, and black holes are the result when that warping becomes so powerful that nothing can escape it.

The actual image of the black hole was interesting and revealing, compared to depictions in popular culture, in that surrounding the black hole is a ring of matter and energy so powerful that it is glowing “like the Eye of Sauron” as Mr. Overbye described.

The process the scientists used to capture and evaluate the images was really interesting – they basically used a multitude of telescopes around the world in a manner similar to how a computer engineer would use mulitple servers in tandem to creat a powerful super-computer. In an irony that illustrates the limitations mere mortals on Earth have, the volume of data and images captured by these telescopes was so massive that it could not be transmitted over the internet, and in turn had to be put on massive discs and shipped to a few labs around the world for analysis.

Plans are to keep monitoring this, and other, black holes over time and observe any changes or differences in behavior.

This sort of visual discovery opens up so many questions in my mind. What would happen, in the unlikely scenario where a living being would be able to pass through that “Event Horizon”? What is behind it? Would it act as a portal and transmit things somewhere the way it was depicted in the movie Interstellar? Or, as science defines, would it simply evicerate anything that comes close to it? Stuff like this is so interesting and facinating.


Scientific researchers have discovered a new planet that is orbiting a star – called Proxima Centauri – which are both very close to “our” Sun (in relative astrology measurements). Proxima Centauri is a star that coexists with another star located in the heavily studied Alpha Centauri star system. And this new planet – Proxima b – is orbiting Proxima Centauri.

What makes the discovery so cool is it appears that Proxima b has the type of climate that could support life. It has a climate that is extremely similar to the climate here on Earth, mainly because Proxima b is located within the ‘habitable zone’ that surrounds it’s star (Proxima Centauri). This is very similar to how Earth is in the ‘habitable zone’ that surrounds our star – the Sun.

Given the fact that Proxima b is within the habitable zone of its star, meaning liquid water could exist on the surface, it may also be the closest possible home for life outside of our solar system, the researchers said. Because of its location, the researchers hope that it provides an opportunity to “attempt further characterization via ongoing searches by direct imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy in the next decades, and possibly robotic exploration in the coming centuries.”

This next paragraph reads like something out of the movie “Real Genius“, where it’s minimizing in an uber-scientific way the “short” distance between Earth and Proxima b

Proxima b is a mere 4.2 light-years away from our solar system, or 266,000 times the distance between the Earth and the sun, which are 92.96 million miles apart. Previous rocky exoplanet discoveries, like those orbiting ultracool red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, were described as close at 40 light-years away.

Being that it is only a mere 4.2 light years away, it’s only fitting that Elon Musk get moving on a Space X roadtrip to this planet.

Source: CNN

Lego In Space

A pair of teenagers in Toronto constructed a homemade weather balloon that they then released into the sky with a few Lego accessories – including a Lego Minifigure. After a bit over 90 minutes up at an altitude of around 80,000 feet, their balloon came back to earth but not after taking several photos of the Lego

Via Make Magazine.

Icarus Project

A man from Highburton, West Yorkshire, Great Britain takes pictures of space and Earth using a helium balloon and a Canon digital camera he purchased on ebay.

He buys weather balloons from a supplier in the United States; pictures from balloon-borne cameras long pre-date the space program. He uses an off-the-shelf GPS locator, which gets signals from U.S. satellites, so he can track the balloon on Google maps. He bought a Canon pocket digital camera (a model discontinued in 2008) and attached a circuit board so that it would take pictures every five minutes.

I have to say that this is one interesting bit of engineering, and the results are quite impressive. The photos are just as good as the ones from the NASA program.