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His Strange, Short Encounter With Buran In Bahrain

A reader of Airliners.net went to Bahrein 2 days ago and had an interesting meeting:

Out of a pure coincidence I had the opportunity to see, touch and photograph the Russian orbiter Buran two days ago. As you might know, the static test model (not intended for space travel) BTS-02 is in storage in Bahrain since 2006, It is hard to find out the full story but apparently the Auto und Technik Museum Sinsheim (Germany) bought this frame for static display but there is some sort of issue going on about who owns it, so in the meanwhile it sits there in the desert sun in the middle of a huge pile of junk and containers.

I flew from Dubai to Frankfurt two days ago and stopped for a half day in Bahrain to explore the country. I had previously looked up the orbiter’s approximate location in Google Earth, so I drove to the area with my rental car. It is a slightly dirty, run-down dock yard / industrial area. I parked my car as close as possible to where I thought I’d find the Buran, and started walking around. It was really hot and humid, you step out of the air condition and you sweat right away. I reached a huge wall and from my memory it was right behind it, so I walked along the wall past various large buildings until I came to a gate with a guard. I asked him if he could help me, and he said yes the « Space Shuttle » is inside this particular container yard (more like a junk yard) but unfortunately I could not go there. I kind of started a conversation with him and we sat down in his air conditioned office, we talked about his native country Pakistan, and finally I asked him why I couldn’t see the Buran and he told me his boss wouldn’t let him take anyone near it, so I asked him where his boss was and he said he’s off duty due to Ramadan.

Problem solved! I convinced him that when his boss isn’t here he can’t see me (which is true) so we wandered through piles of scrap metal and what not. And then the Buran was right before me. What an incredible feeling! This beat-up wingless shoe box was once the pride of the Soviet space program! The heat tiles in the bottom were all burnt up, so there must have been some sort of fire testing. The whole frame looked very low-tech, hoses and tubes hung out from where the wings were once attached. Even though the frame was completely surrounded by containers and a building wall, there were two particular angles from where I could take photos that showed at least a part of the fuselage. The guard told me not to take any more pictures than these, and he wanted us to leave as soon as possible (not sure if it was for fear of his boss or piles of scrap metal collapsing above us). I would have loved to stay a while to enjoy the special situation, but after only about 3 minutes we left again.

I’m uploading two shots into the A.net database right now, they’re not perfect, but I’d say they’re pretty rare, so I hope they accept them. There’s no photo of Buran at Bahrain in the database, you don’t even find many photos elsewhere on the internet, also there is no photo of this particular frame and there are only a handful of Buran photos altogether. So I’ll see if they take it!


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Comment from the narrator
Time: 2008-03-03, 2.14

very interesting story. just goes to show, guards too are normal people. hopefully we’ll see this Buran in Rotterdam shortly.

Comment from Mahmood Ali Hasan Mahmood
Time: 2008-04-16, 8.12

well guess what….I’m the son of ‘The Boss’, and im telling!!

Comment from Ghulam Mustafa
Time: 2008-07-09, 1.14

This is real nice story. Last week I was also surfing google earth and wondered when come to know that Buran is in Bahrain. I would request Bahrain authorites to please put the BURAN in some proper place untill the legal dispute is over. Because Buran is a histriy in itself and it is heritage of mankind.

Comment from Vassili Petrovitch
Time: 2008-07-09, 1.29

Buran OK-GLI is in Germany now (in the Speyer Museum). It will be part of a space exhibition.

Pingback from News From Space! – The Original Space Weblog » Soviet Shuttle Finally Gets a Home
Time: 2008-10-16, 5.41

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