On the desert steppe of Kazakhstan sits the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s first and largest operational space launch facility. It was built by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s as the base of operations for its rising space program, and continues to function as an active spaceport to this day. But within the busy facility, which was the launch site of both Vostok 1, the first manned spacecraft, and Sputnik 1, the world’s first orbital spaceflight, sits an single building, unused and decaying in the dusty air. This building houses the skeletal remains of the Buran orbital vehicle program, the largest and most expensive program in the history of Soviet space exploration.
The Buran program was started by in the 70’s by the Soviets as a response to America’s Space Shuttle program.
The construction of these ships started near the end of the Cold War. When the Soviet Union collapsed, President Boris Yeltsin elected to shut down the Buran program. With that decision, these plans for these expensive spacecrafts to make it into space were lost.
Because these craft were created during the heart of the Cold War, the Soviet engineers were initially reluctant to duplicate a NASA design. But, as it was considered an ideal design, they consented.
Russian urbex photographer Ralph Mirebs gained access to the facility to explore the frozen-in-time spacecraft.
Mirebs was even able to gain access to the cockput of one of the shuttles.
These forgotten shuttles remain as a part of a gone-by era when two nations were embattled in a great space race. To see more, check out the rest of Ralph Mireb’s images here.