A Ghost of the Soviet Shuttle Program
When NASA started to dip its toes into the waters of what would eventually become its Space Shuttle Program back in 1972 it got the world’s attention.
This included then-space exploration rival Russia, which began its own fixed-wing program in 1976.
This Energia-Buran Program enlisted 1286 private companies along with 86 governmental departments. After 18 years and only one unmanned orbital flight, the program was scrapped in 1993.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome, which housed the program, turned from a state-of-the-art mission control center to a ghostly glimpse of what could have been for the Soviet program.
The only skeletons left in this closet are the dust-covered shells of two Soviet shuttles.
A Look Inside the Soviet Shuttle Buran
NASA’s shuttle program may have gotten all the glory, but having the spotlight doesn’t always mean what it’s being shone on is the best of what’s out there.
One major advantage held by the Soviets was the ability to fly their shuttle remotely. Buran, as the first shuttle was christened (loosely translated, ‘snowstorm on the steppes’), would also have room for six cosmonauts.
What helped the Americans win the shuttle battle was that NASA was the glue needed to keep the program together and on track. When the shuttle program took off, that’s all the Americans had to focus on.
The Soviets, on the other hand, had three ongoing programs in place it refused to put on hold, including the Mir space station.