November 01, 2012

Where We First Touched Outer Space

Where We First Touched Outer Space
Evgeny Rudnev

As the aged Tu-154 touched down in the Kazakh steppes not far from Baikonur Cosmodrome, it immediately became evident that we were in the middle of nowhere. It might not have been the end of the world, but we could see it from here.

We de-planed into something that looked less like an airport than a huge shed with metal gates. Our suitcases were deposited directly on the ground, in the dirt. It was amazing to think that it was here, just over 50 years ago, that humankind made first contact with outer space.

Baikonur is our planet’s first and largest spaceport. It is located 200 kilometers from the dying Aral Sea, in the Kyzylorda region of the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. In Kazakh, the word “baikonur” means “fertile land with many herbs.” Yet the fruits of this land are completely inedible.

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