. 24/7 Space News .
Russia's cosmos town, an isolated relic of Soviet glory
By Nikolay KORZHOV
Baikonur, Kazakhstan (AFP) Dec 8, 2021

Malik Mutaliyev walks by an abandoned amusement park in wintry Baikonur, a secretive town in Kazakhstan's inhospitable steppe that appeared alongside the eponymous Baikonur Cosmodrome where the Soviet Union's space programme rose to glory.

"Our town has lived through a lot: Perestroika, the fall of the Soviet Union, electricity shortages. We've been through it all," says the 67-year-old former chief architect of Baikonur.

The settlement located in the desolate north of Kazakhstan in Central Asia has gone by many names: Site No. 10, Leninsk -- in honour of the Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin -- and now Baikonur.

It was here nevertheless and from the cosmodrome some 30 kilometres (18 miles) away that the first satellite launched into space -- Sputnik in 1957 -- and both the first man sent into orbit, Yuri Gagarin, and later the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, were dispatched from this spot.

Three decades after the Soviet collapse, Baikonur remains a key facility, specifically for manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS). On Wednesday, two Japanese space tourists launched to the ISS from Baikonur.

"All this is the achievement of people, the many generations of people that have put in a lot of work," Mutaliyev says, referring to the town that he helped build.

That work began in 1955, when the Soviets established a settlement on the banks of the Syr Darya river to house workers involved in building the cosmodrome.

The site later expanded to accommodate servicemen and their families working on classified space projects.

"I remember the times when the so-called elites were here. There were a lot of educated people," says Oksana Slivina, a teacher who moved to Baikonur when her father was stationed to the town by the military.

For many years, the town was closed to outsiders. Even today, anyone entering Baikonur is required to present a permit at the town's guarded checkpoint.

Located miles away from large cities, Baikonur was chosen due to its remote location in the desert, ideal for testing rockets.

Temperatures are brutally hot in the summer and plummet well below zero in the winter but the skies are usually clear and ideal for launches.

- 'Many are leaving' -

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Baikonur became part of what is now Kazakhstan. Residents left en masse, abandoning homes in the face of an uncertain future.

Now it is leased by Russia from Kazakhstan under a contract that expires in 2050. Both Russian and Kazakh languages are used interchangeably, as are the two countries' currencies.

"Our goal was not to let the city fall apart and to preserve it for future development. I think we have managed that," says Mutaliyev.

The town lives and breathes space.

Its streets carry the names of Soviet space heroes. Buildings are decorated with space-themed art and streets are peppered with monuments to rockets, engineers and of, course, to Gagarin, a Russian national hero.

The town of around 76,000 people, which appears frozen in time, is a well-preserved relic of Soviet architecture and urban planning.

The younger generation see their future elsewhere.

"Many are leaving. Usually parents stay because the salaries are good and kids leave to Russia or elsewhere," says Georgy Ilin, a secondary school graduate.

The 21-year-old said he was planning to leave, too, to enter university, since "there is nowhere to study here".

Young people, Mutaliyev conceded, "don't see any prospects here".

He says the town has become "dormant" and hopes that Russia's return to the burgeoning space tourism, ushered in with Wednesday's launch, will give it a necessary boost.

Slivina, the teacher, says it would be a "shame" not to use the town's unique status to attract visitors.

"Of course money needs to be invested here -- and big money -- so it doesn't become embarrassing and so there is something to show people besides the launch pads," she says.

But the 57-year-old said she would always remain loyal to her home, that for many years was Earth's gateway to space.

"The town is close to my heart. I've spent half my life here. I will love it no matter what."



Related Links
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Northrop Grumman signs NASA to design space station for low earth orbit
Dulles VA (SPX) Dec 02, 2021
Northrop Grumman has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA under the Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development program for $125.6 million to design a safe, reliable and cost-effective commercial free-flying space station in low Earth orbit (LEO). Northrop Grumman's commercial space station design will use current flight systems and advanced crew-focused technology under development that allows for rapid deployment with modular expansion to meet the growing needs of the space economy. "Under this agr ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Space Habitat Market size to grow by USD 94.92 Bn

NASA selects second private astronaut mission to Space Station

Experiments riding 24th SpaceX Cargo Mission to USS included bioprinting, crystallization, laundry studies

Russia's cosmos town, an isolated relic of Soviet glory

Webb placed on top of Ariane 5

ESA contract to advance Vega-C competitiveness

NASA 'Fires Up' Artemis RS-25 Rocket Engines with New Components

NASA Completes Upper Part of Artemis II Core Stage

ExoMars discovers hidden water in Mars' Grand Canyon

Scientists envision what Mars would look like as an exoplanet

NASA begins testing robotics to bring first samples back from Mars

NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Reaches a Total of 30 Minutes Aloft

On they march as China records 401st flight of Long March rocket family

China's Long March carrier rocket embarks on 400th mission

First crew of space station provide a full update on China's progress

Milestone mission for China's first commercial rocket company

Kepler Communications announces testing of Aether Network with Spire Global

New space economy ready to lift off thanks to Finnish innovation

Kleos' Patrol Mission Satellites Ready and Shipped to Launch Site

Europe opens up a new space to commercial services

NASA-NOAA tech will aid marine oil spill response

New smart-roof coating enables year-round energy savings

Nike buys virtual sneaker firm as metaverse buzz grows

Technique enables real-time rendering of scenes in 3D

Founding members of world's first independent space science mission confirmed

Life arose on hydrogen energy

Stellar "ashfall" could help distant planets grow

"Newer, nimbler, faster:" Venus probe will search for signs of life in clouds of sulfuric acid

Deep Mantle Krypton Reveals Earth's Outer Solar System Ancestry

Cracking the mystery of nitrogen ice dynamics on Pluto

Planet decision that booted out Pluto is rooted in folklore, astrology

Are Water Plumes Spraying from Europa

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.