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.

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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.

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