The Planet

Two Soviet Space Shuttles Found In An Abandoned Hangar 

by Tod Perry

May 20, 2016
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One of the prominent themes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the aftermath of war and empire. The story’s hero, Rey, is introduced living in the wreckage of massive Imperial starships abandoned on the planet Jakku. But we needn’t look to galaxy far, far away to experience the same type of wreckage from the fall of an empire. In Kazakhstan there lies two rotting Soviet space shuttles abandoned after its demise in 1991.

In 1988, the U.S. resumed its space shuttle program after it was put on ice in the wake of the 1986 Challenger disaster. At the end of the year, the Soviet Union debuted its own identical-looking shuttle, Buran (“snowstorm” in Russian). On November 15, 1988, Buran orbited the Earth and landed successfully. But after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, funding for the space program dried up and the shuttle remained Earthbound forever. 

Buran was destroyed in 2002 after the building housing it collapsed. But its two siblings, the never-flown and 95-percent completed, Ptichka (“little bird”), and another unnamed shuttle used to test equipment still sit in an abandoned hangar in Kazakhstan. The two space shuttles were recently photographed covered in dust and bird droppings in a deteriorating building at the Baikonour Cosmodrome. 

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Baikonour Cosmodrome

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Two Soviet Space Shuttles Found In An Abandoned Hangar