Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Tours to Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Weather in Baykonur The location of the cosmodrome was of prime strategic importance, and after much consideration, an ideal spot was found in the vast steppes of Kazakhstan, Baykonur ...
Turning a small town into a household name the world over had tremendous historic significance, and was the launch pad for a whole new chapter of civilization. In the year 2000, from June 2 to 4, the 45th anniversary of Baykonur Cosmodrome was celebrated with great fanfare.
In 1954, when the project was concieved, it was referred to as an "experimental range", since no such word as cosmodrome existed in the Russian language. When one of the construction workers asked Sergei Korolev what was going to be built here in the middle of nowhere he was told "Stadium I - the biggest stadium in the world". It was the period of the so called "cold war" and great secrecy surrounded the site. The USA was keeping track of the number of nuclear weapons in the USSR, and trying to maintain an equal or greater stockpile.
One year before, on 12 August 1953, the first soviet hydrogen bomb had been tested in Semipalatinsk at the nuclear experimental range. Viacheslav Malyshev, the Vice Chairman of the Cabinet, understanding the destructive power of the bomb and envisioning the creation of a rocket, invited Sergei Korolev to discuss the matter and he and scientist Sergei Krukov came up with a sketch of the legendary R-7, which would ultimately carry up to 4.5 Megatons of nuclear energy to a target. Malyshev never did get to see the first rocket, as he died from serious radiation he was exposed to while watching the detonation of the hydrogen bomb.
Marshall Georgyi Jukov was commissioned to find the ideal site for the testing ground. Baykonur was remote, in the endless steppes of Kazakhstan, yet thanks to its location close to the then still intact Aral Sea and its bustling ports accessible by rail and road, the location allowed for the easy shipment of building materials. Also, during the entire launch process, rockets would have to stay above Soviet territory so their trajectories could be monitored.
Border areas would not do. Parallel to the construction of the base at Tyura-Tam in 1955, about 300 km further North, building activity of another kind took place, namely the construction of a fake wooden rocket model and launch pad to detract the attention of foreign secret service agencies. And indeed, on 21 August 1957, as a complete surprise to the world, the first R-7 was successfully launched, and on 4 October of that same year, the R-7 catapulted the first "sputnik" satellite into orbit.
With the secret out at last, the name Cosmodrome was established and on 12 April 1961 Yuryi Gagarin blasted off from here to become the first man to orbit the Earth on his spaceship "Vostok". The flight lasted for 108 min. By then, the space industry had attracted a great workforce, so the town of Baykonur, having grown into a city, was renamed Leninsk and the rocket site was referred to as Baykonur.
There were not only moments of triumph; Prior to Gagarin's first journey to space, a rocket exploded on the ground, and over 100 victims perished. After the successful journey in space of the first female cosmonaut in June 1963, another rocket explosion took place, again at the cost of human life.
In 1994, Russia re-launched her space program at Baykonur. At present, Russia has an agreement with Kazakhstan allowing them the exploitation of the site for another 50 years.
Owing to the Russian space program, the city and the cosmodrome are growing and developing. It is possible to visit Baykonur as a tourist, to travel out into the vastness of the Kazakh steppes, a fantastic and memorable experience for all adventurous travelers, and not only for those interested in the history of space technology.
OrexCA.com organizes tours to Baykonur cosmodrome and invites those who wish to visit Baykonur city, cosmodrome and its sights ("Proton" launch complex, space shuttle "Buran", Gagarin's launch site, the test complex of the heavy transport rocket "Soyuz", memorial house of Yuri Gagarin and visionary Sergey Korolev, launch complex "Zenit", and etc.).