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Day 5, Monday, April 07

Today the appointment is at nine o’clock, after the breakfast we go to the cosmonauts hotel, in the North-East of the city, to attend the press conference. On the spot there are an important security system, soldiers at each corner of the park and police officers in the street.

Cosmonauts hotel

Cosmonauts hotelStreet ahead the hotel

While waiting for the conference they get us in the hotel park to see the cosmonauts alley. It’s a long alley of tree at the end of the park which give onto the Kazakh’s plains, each trees was planted by a cosmonaut or a crew before his departure or on its return.

Cosmonauts pathKazakh plain

The first tree is off course the one of Gagarin. Then we can see the one of Titov, Leonov and Tereshkova. Then I search for the French trees, Chrétien, Andre-Deshays… but I can’t find them. Many trees do not have their plates any more.

Gagarin s treeTitov s tree

Tereshkova s treeLeonov s tree

Victor is very stressed, there is no more time, we have to leave in a few moment. We leave the park and wait once again in the street.


A few moments later we have the authorization to go in again and we go through the group of Koreans who are agitated close to the guards. We arrive in a dark crowded room and I try to go in front to assist to the press conference. The cosmonauts (Sergei Volkov, Oleg Kononenko and Korean Yi So-yeon), as well as the second crew enter the small room under the flashes’s crackling. They are in a separate room behind a glass to avoid being contaminated. The journalists ask them few banal questions but also very personal, Yi So-Yeon focuses the attention and many of the questions will be for her. A journalist asks her if she had a affair with one of her colleagues cosmonauts or how much children does she want. She will answer calmly that their relations are strictly professional.

Press conferenceEnd of the conference


Forty minutes later we go out to visit the Soyuz integration building, MIK 112, on the cosmodrome.

To the cosmodrome

The guide which is doing the visit is the director of the MIK and he answers our questions very pleasantly. The Soyuz we saw yesterday came out from this building. We can see the booster rockets and the central body of the next Soyuz (for a Progress cargo) there. There we try to go everywhere we can to take pictures, but the watchwomen often order us to stay back. Except for Raymond, who manages to persuade one of them and finds himself at the end of the hangar to take his photographs quietly.

MIK SoyuzAssembly line

Booster lateralAssembly line

When exiting from the building I ask the person in charge if it is possible to see Buran and Energia in the next hangar (MIK Energia-Buran), but he answers me that there is nothing interesting there, just remains. I insist to get close of the doors, but he answers me that it’s dangerous it’s his responsibility, I agree. Because people spend time to leave the building, I move towards the hangar but the distance is too important and the minibus is going to leave. Here is the more closer I could get (it was fifty meters away).

MIK Energia-Buran

We leave the 112 area to go to the Energia-Polyus launch pad, on the way we go round the famous MIK Energia-Buran which collapsed in 2002, destroying Buran 1.01 (the model which flew) and an Energia launcher, then we pass beside the tests building of vibration of Energia (which shelters a model of the Energia-M launcher). A little further is the Buran’s fueling building (MZK), it should shelter the flight model Buran 1.02.

MIK Energia-Buran

Vibration test EnergiaMZK

We pass not far from the 110 launch pad. It is the launch pad of the lunar rocket N1 and Buran-Energia. It hasn’t been used since 1988 and it is in a sad state. After a few tens of minutes we arrive on area 250. It is the Energia-Polyus launch pad or Universel launch pad. We pass a guardroom, and here we are on the launch pad. This place was intended for the tests of various launchers. The first tests of Energia’s engines took place here. The launcher was put in vertical position then the engines were started during 8 s (not more because it could have damage the launch pad). It was also used as integration tests. In 1987 it is from here that the first Energia rocket with the combat space station Polyus payload left off (response to the Star Wars American project).

Launch pad N1 Energia-BuranLaunch pad Energia-Polyus

The guide is a former technician who worked on the launch pad since its beginning in 1983. He tells us the story of this place and some anecdotes with lot of emotions. At the time when they started to dig the cradle they found traces of old civilization, they informed the authorities and a commission of archaeologist came on the spot. This discovery add too much delay to the project of construction and when they rediscovered, a little later, other traces of artifacts, they put them side, and forget of course to inform the authorities. Now the cradle is full of rainwater and with a little attention we could hear frogs there.

Service towerSupport tower

Up of the tower


At the time to go back I ask to Victor if it is possible to see the launch pad of N1/Energia-Buran, but he answers me that this is dangerous. How the 110 area is more dangerous than the 250, where we are, which is an storage area of liquid oxygen?
The problem isn’t to avoid calling up the past by speaking about the two larger projects of the Soviet space history which failed, the lunar rocket N1 and the Buran space shuttle?

We get into the minibuses and we are nearly leaving when the Russians of the third minibuse inform us that their « small children » have escaped. These children, of which the parents seemed to be unaware of all concepts of education, had started to climb the support tower. After a few minutes we could see them going down with a big smile on their face, very proud of their silly thing.

On the way back we negotiate a stop close to the N1 launch pad to take some photographs with good conditions.

Launch pad N1 Energia-Buran

Once returned downtown and after having eaten we ask Victor to lead us at the post office. Indeed, to send a letter from Baikonur, it is mythical. Some people like Andrea had already printed on stickers the address of the recipients to be faster. But unfortunately it would seem that all the post offices of the world function in the same way. Three people at the counters and a fourth behind, but only one open counter. Then inevitably when ten tourists who do not speak Russian wants to send about fifteen letters each it makes problem, it is long. But with patience and helped by Victor we could send them and return to the hotel.

Post officePost office

Post officePost office

Near the post office, in a park, a statue of Gagarine is raising his arms to the sky.

ParkGagarin s statue

Once at the hotel after a small refreshing rest we decides to go out to walk a little and see the house of Korolev which is not far from there. Unfortunately, it is too late and the park is closed, but we continue our walk and enter an apartment building, the stairwell is in a sad state and shows the living standard of the inhabitants of this city.

Apartment buildingApartment building


This evening Victor must, once again, take us to the same restaurant, but the Germans as the Americans had found another place. On the way, the minibus drop them off then when leaving Hugo revolts, after some discussion with Victor and the manager of the restaurant we can finally come with them.
The meal will proceed in a typically Kazakh Yurt (but with a Proton rocket for decoration, we should not forget the place where we are).


Proton rocket

Some additional pictures:

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Comment from stooks
Time: 2008-07-08, 11.09

Heh, heh – I loved your post office woes anecdote.

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