Noah’s Space Ark

Picture Source: The Telegraph

Picture Source: The Telegraph

Spaceport. Cosmodrome. Be still my beating heart.

We do not hear as much as once we did about space exploration. Yet high in the heavens above us Russians and Americans co-operate in a common spirit of exploration. And somewhere on Mars a small robot has just drilled another hole in the planet’s rock. Hubble peers through space, and has found dead stars with planet-dust whirling about them; Cassini gazes out at hurricanes on Saturn, and the Kepler unmanned spacecraft took itself into safe mode for an unknown reason.

That’s the News from NASA. But there’s another cosmodrome, another gateway to the stars: Baikonur, on the desert steppe of Kazakhstan: the world’s first space launch facility. the world’s largest space launch facility. Sputnik 1 took off there; Yuri Gagarin left and rejoined the earth’s surface, held in thrall, in the meantime, by its curved gravitational path. It has been home to  Soyuz, Proton, Tsyklon,Dnepr, Zenit and Buran spacecraft, and took over shuttling supplies to the International Space Station after the Colombia tragedy.

Under Russia it was Leninsk. But it was returned to Kazakhstan, and Yeltsin afforded it a name change, though no-one knows where its most recent name came from. Some say Baikonur was so named to misdirect the West. It is really a small Russian mining town about 20o miles northeast of the launch pads.

It has a small, unassuming museum, created partly out of Yuri Gagarin’s cottage, filled with bits and pieces from the space race.

NASA uses barges; but Leninsk was gifted the largest industrial railway on the planet to haul the great spaceships to their launch pads.

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

Today my eyes lit on a Telegraph picture of the day. It was the bottom portion of a space  rocket, a jet bound for the stars. A Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket, to be precise, with a distinctive cargo. It carried a Bion-M satellite.

The Russians have never had much compunction about sending animals into orbit. The last rocket was expected to land on May 19 according to the Russian Space Web.And if it is like its predecessor,  the satellite going into space yesterday was filled with biological experiments.

Animals in space. A sort of cosmic Noah’s ark, lacking only a cataclysm on earth to make the allegory complete.

The first Bion-M flight started out on April 19, and if the landing was successful, touched down a calendar month later.

I wonder how much we will learn about the creatures that spent a month orbiting the globe?

Take a look at these amazing panoramic views. Hypnotic, epic, unforgettable.


17 thoughts on “Noah’s Space Ark

  1. For those of us who started out in the 50;’s reading about the rockets (V2 and others) on into the sound barrier triumphs (and disasters) and into the space age in the 60’s whith that amazing step onto another body in space at the end of the 60’s the adventure never ends. The characters change, some even get to go home and live out the life of a retired Hobbit.

    Yet the goal is the unachievable and yet daily achieved. Learning. Learning about what is on our world, and beyond our world.

    Romance indeed

  2. The pictures being sent back by Commander Hadfield from the space station are wonderful. My children believe we will one day colonize a moon in our solar system. I never would have dreamed of that, and they take it for granted because they read it in Time for Kids or someplace.

  3. I’m with you, Kate. Space exploration is fascinating, and we don’t hear nearly enough about it. On G+, they have star parties every so often, where people get together and talk about astronomy, and I’ve listened in to a couple of those.

  4. It makes me sad to think of those little critters in space, I worry about them being scared, or sick, or whatever. The Russian rocket transport is definitely much different from the type NASA uses. What a wild photo that is.

  5. It reminds me of two stories that illustrate the differences between the Russian approach and that of the Americans. The first is a sad one – 3 US Astronauts died in a fire on a Mercury mission 😦 The module used pure Oxygen inside the cockpit. The Russians only used normal air. The second is, I’m pleased to say, amusing – the US spent a lot of dollars designing a pen that would work in space – the russians used a Pencil 😉 Different attitudes to space travel – sometimes it isn’t about technology.

    Picking up from a previous comment – perhaps it’s time for the British Interplanetary Society to dispatch some ameobas from the whitehall area into space. Only for research purposes, you understand… 😉

  6. So interesting.
    I find that after all the hype of the orbiting and moon landing, there has been distressingly little further progress. All predictions then were that the turn of the century would see people going on little excursions to the planets instead of to Blackpool or Ibiza.

  7. When I was a kid growing up in the 60s Kate, I loved the space program, but then it became rather anticlimactic after the moon landing. Now I’m haunted by the possibility that we’re heading straight for WALL-E world, a future that might not be that distant even if I’m not around to see it. I checked out the link. Yeah, those panoramic views are sweet. Too bad the text is all in Russian.

  8. I really enjoyed the photos from the Russian site. I am always fascinated with the scale and scope of the rockets. Most of my “contacts” are now retired, but I have had friends who were instrumental in the space program as engineers–the true rocket scientists, including a good friend who worked closely on the Mars Rover. They are brilliant people with such enthusiasm for the space program that a little of their exuberance spilled over to me, although I’m rather limited in what I understand. I do stand outside and watch the Space Station when it is in our “flyover” space. I think our American space program has gone a little cold for now. I don’t really know the reason, other than funding. I suppose we’re too busy with conflict to dream.

  9. Fascinating, as always Kate. I’m just old enough to remember the race to space and finding Sputnik in our summer sky as it orbited earth. It was an amazing, exciting time, this earlier time. I’m sure it still is, but it doesn’t hold the same cache it once did. I’ve had laser surgery on my eyes, thanks to technology developed for the Hubble, and Tom uses a glucose monitor that came out of the space program. Well, you get the drift. I find myself wishing we spent more on, as Debra implies, dreaming than conflict. What a good post this was.

  10. I have always been fascinated by the idea of seeing the Earth from another world! It will be exciting to see the results of this latest experiment. I think space exploration is worth every cent spent on it. Thank you for a fascinating post Kate. Those panoramas are unbelievable!

  11. Not only interesting space and political history, but railroads and a picture of a train too! Your writing and blog never cease to make me happy. Such a fun collection of trivia, facts, and insight.

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