Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Remember the Soviet space shuttle? Way back in the early 1980's, the Soviet Union apparently got a case of "shuttle envy," and though they had experimented with a few unique designs (smaller scaled test vehicles), decided ultimately to build a darned-near drop-dead copy of the US shuttle. The most pronounced and obvious difference was the planned addition of two air-breathing jet engines to allow the Soviet item, named Buran ("Snowstorm") a come-about/landing abort capability.
Oddly, the craft was flown only once, and an unmanned flight at that. In 1988, after a launch through moderate storms, the craft performed two orbits of Earth and returned to land, under computer control, just a few feet from its projected touchdown point. For reasons not fully clear, the next flight was not planned until 1993, 5 years later. But the program was cancelled before that could occur. Buran was then quietly mothballed and left to sit under a large shed in Kazakhstan. There is sat, quietly moldering, until 2002, when record snowfall built up on the (apparently little-maintained) shed roof, and it collapsed, crushing Buran, which sat below. An ignominious end for an apparently capable, if unoriginal, spacecraft.
WELCOME TO THE FUTURE, CIRCA 1969
Welcome to the Missions to the Moon book blog. This is a place to re-live the heady days of the Apollo and Soyuz lunar programs- perhaps the crowning achievements of the 20th Century. Many blog entries will include a new downloadable image or artifact from the space age- items rarely seen and not available in print. It's all in the spirit of my newest book, Missions to the Moon- to remember the great adventure of the Golden Age of space exploration, and ponder what wonders await us in space.
For more info on the author, go to www.rodpylebooks.com.