Ralph Mirebs, an urban explorer and photographer in Russia, has revealed extraordinary photos of Soviet space shuttle prototypes gathering dust in an abandoned hangar in Kazakhstan.
The abandoned hangar is located at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which is still in operation today (with the close of NASA’s shuttle program, Russian Soyuz shuttles are the only way for astronauts to reach the International Space Station). The Buran prototype shuttles found by Mirebs, however, are from an earlier era – they are the last remnants of a space program that began in 1974 and was finally shuttered in 1993. The only operational Buran shuttle, Orbiter 1K1, completed one unmanned orbital flight before it was grounded. Unfortunately, this shuttle was destroyed in a hangar collapse in 2002.
Mirebs’ photos show this forgotten space program derelict and frozen in time. Hopefully, his photos will inspire the Russian government to put these shuttles in a museum where they belong.
“Yes, seeing the shuttles and rocket was the main purpose of my trip to Baikonur. I had read about it in books on the history of Soviet space exploration.
“However, I did not know what state they would be in, and didn’t know about the other equipment inside the hangar.”