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Day 4, Sunday, April 06

Waking up at five past thirty for the appointment in front of the hotel twenty minutes later. At six o’clock everyone is there and our minibus leaves for the cosmodrome. We haven’t eaten but it is not important we are is too excited. On the way stop at the Sputnik hotel (close to the northern door) to take the Americans (a convoy always be in one piece, if a bus was late the others should wait it).

We cross the town during the night, it’s peacefull, the monuments are not lit and it there is nobody in the streets.

On the road to the cosmodrome we see far away different kind of installations (the tracking station Vega, the liquid nitrogen factory, …). Then, after fourty minutes we arrive at the rear of the building 254 (Soyuz assembly). We are the last, the doors of the hangar are already opened and we can see the rocket laid down on a train.

Suddenly, a siren resounded, it’s the horn of the engine, slowly the convoy moves and the crackling of the flashs almost light the rocket continusly. The train advances slowly in a religious silence, then in a few moment it reaches the fencing and we can’t follow it. It went so quickly that we forgot to pose our coins on the rails (Russian tradition).

Rool out of the rocketRool out of the rocket

Vaisseau Soyouz TMAConvoy

While the convoy move away I run towards the crawlers N1/Energia-Bourane to make some photographs.

Crawler N1 Energia-BuranCrawler N1 Energia-Buran

I ask Victor if I could go to see the integration building of Energia-Bourane located about one hundred meters further but he flatly said no.

MIK Energia-Buran

When everyone had finished to take his photographs of the convoy, which now had disappeared behind a small hill, we go up in the minibus direction the other observation point, a level crossing.

The sun had raised and on the way we start with shoting frantically all that we see. We had seen these buildings and installations in photographs hundreds of times but to see them in real was a really exciting feeling. On the way, we pass near these garages for cars made from the fuselage of the lunar rocket N1. This installation well summarizes the smartness of the Russians are made.

MIK Energia-Buran, SoyuzGarages

In fifteen minutes we are on the level crossing, there are already some cars parked and its elevated position is perfect to take photographs of the convoy and the launching pad.

Gagarins launch padBus

While waiting for the convoy to arrives we take our small lunched in the minibus and we speak a little with the cosmonauts present. Rui which had brought its Who’s who on the cosmonauts starts to do it autographier sequence with Oleg Valeriyevich Kotov, Alexander Alexandrovich Volkov, only Pavel Vladimirovitch Vinogradov refuses.


We ask again in Victor if it is possible to put coins on the rails, he asks to his colleague (that I saw smiling only once), he answers him that it’s uselly children who do that, I insist but without success. No way! with Didier we move away a little from the crowd and pretending to make photographs of me on the rails I discreetly put coins of five roubles. Then we go back like nothing appends.

Pose de piecesFlatten coins

The convoy made its half-turn close to aera 2 and now we can see the rocket arriving, pushed by the locomotive, it advances slowly and in front of it men in uniform are walking to look at the rails. When it arrives on the level crossing one heard some repeted noises, obviously we weren’t the only ones to put coins. Once the convoy goes away I take back the coins, we find Hugo who does not hide his smile, he opens his hand and shows us the ten coins he put too! Only time to take some photographs of the rocket then we hurry to the minibus to go to the Gagarine’s launch pad, to see the erection of the rocket.


Arrival on the spot there is already many cars and bus and an important crowd move towards the rocket. We go through a guardroom (which does not control us! strange). Then we assiste to the last preparations for the erection. There are many people but it is very impressive because we are at 10 m of the rocket. A few minutes after the rocket is drawn up and positioned on the tulip I find Hugo who shows me a small staircase to go down from the launch pad. I take it and I’m on the cradle now. I am closely followed by Didier, Andrea, Philippe and a guard which starts to shout as soon as we approach too close to the cradle. From there the sight is splendid (we are no more in blacklighting), and we wait until the service tower is closed.

Arrival on the launch pad On the launch pad

Preparatifs Erection of the rocket

Rocket on the tulip Soyuz rocket

Erection of the service tower Soyuz rocket

Andreas (the person in charge for the German group, which often comes in Baikonur) says us that the Russians are particularly exceeded by the Koreans who go everywhere without asking for authorisations, in particular the journalists which went to the other side of the cradle (oups it was prohibited?).

It is ten past thirty and one leads us towards building 254 of Progress assembly (not very far from that where we were early this morning).

We take again then the minibus to go to visit the Progress assembly building MIK 254. Arrived on the spot we have a little pause (to wait until the Russian group go out), it’s the moment to have some rest.

Philippe and me

Then we enter, first they shows a video of crew boarding in Soyuz TMA-11, then we walk a long corridor to arrive in the dress room of the cosmonauts.

RoomSoyuz seat

We can see in a corners, behind a window, a Soyuz seat and the equipment to test the sealing of the suit. Then they bring us to the Progress assembly room. It’ a very big hangar, on the opposite wall the face of Korolev is painted with the quotation: « The way to the stars is open ».

Korolev s citation

Unfortunately, their is no many things to see, all the desks are under covers, the only Progress vessel present is dissimulated in a scaffolding and it’s impossible to go further. In another place hidden under a cover is the DM-SLB stage of a Zenit and closed by it seems to have a wall of heat shield tiles of Buran.

Progress spaceship in scaffoldingMur de tuiles

We leave the building and Victor suggest us to see the Nedelin launch pad. This launch pad is called thus since the tragedy event of the « Nedelin disaster ». October 24, 1960 whereas the Soviets test a new launcher R16 ICBM suddenly the second stage turn on, the rocket filled with the « Devil’s Venin » (UDMH) explodes. Approximately 200 people are killed, technicians,engineers,military graded tops and the artillery marshal Nedelin. This accident caused by serious failures in the safety protocol will not be revealed by the Soviet authorities until 1990.

Once that everyone returned in its bus, us with the Germans, the Americans in another minibus and the Russians in the last, we leave.

The road is long and chaotic, we run to the North-East of the cosmodrome, but there is no road, it is necessary to return to the fork (in the medium). On the way, we go through the Zenit factory zone, it’s almost an abandoned place, only some buildings still seems to be working. We can easily imagine the activity of this place during the Eighties, at the top of the program. Then, the road becomes increasingly impracticable, it is time to arrive.

On the Nedelin’s launch pad there is nothing. Just a monument in the center with names, dedicated to the memory of the victims. The observation bunkers are still up but not in a very good shape. We can go down the launch pad but it’s full of rubbles.

Nedelin s tragedie monument Bunker

On the way back, to our request, we make an halt in front of a station to take photographs of the Zenit launch pad. The minibus stop just after the Zenit security area. We go down and immediately a guard arrives shouting and sermonizing Victor to go away immediately.

Zenit areaZenit launch pad

The sun is strong this day and on the way back to Baikonur we tried to sleep a little.

Arrived in town we eat (it is fifteen past ten) in the same one restaurant the same meal as the day before.

After the meal approximately sixteen o’clock we decide to walk at the market, which is closed to the restaurant, that did not please to Victor and his colleague didn’t want the group to be spilt, they definitely don’t want us to meet people. No way, we go.

The marketThe market

The marketThe market

Then we return to the hotel, Victor fixes the appointment at ten to nineteen to have a small ride in the city.

Military command center

We first go to the monument dedicated to the various names of the city close to the Northern door. Indeed, the city which was secret has been named Baikonur only since 1995. It was called Zaria, Leninskiy, Leninsk, then finally Baikonur. There we meet children who play and a wedding procession.

Names of the townChildren play near the monument

A Kazakh wedding

We continue on the same avenue to see other monuments, but the one we wanted to see is that lying Semyorka.

Baikonur, first cosmodrome in the worldNedelin


Later we stop on a place to see the bust of Korolev. But Victor is not very with ease in guided tours and reads text that we already know already (especially with Korolev), we walk a little on the place and meet some people to talk.

KorolevA building

A buildingChildren

To finish this small visit of the city takes Victor bring us to the Yangel monument (missiles manufacturer). To the opposite side of the street we can see the electric power plant. This factory is also dedicated to the heating, i.e. the buildings do not comprise an individual boiler or electric radiators. The hot water of the radiators is generated by the electric power plant and is transported through a not-buried network of pipes (which make porticos to cross the streets). To that is added a second network of yellow air pipes for domestic gas and finally a last network, green, for urban watering.

Yangel missileUsine electrique

Children playing

Heating systemHeating system

Arrosage publicDomestic gas

We could not visit all the town and will continue another day. Then we eat about at twenty o’clock (it’s been a long time since we haven’t eat in this restaurant!).

Some additional pictures:

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