May 31, 2005

"A 35% chance of falling, flaming space debris is expected..."

The Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, has been used for decades to launch space missions, including manned missions to the International Space Station.

In April, Russia announced that military Baikonur launches would end soon, shifting space shots to the Pletsnesk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

All space-bound rockets consist largely of fuel tanks and booster stages that fall back to earth when spent, never reaching orbit. In landlocked Baikonur, Russia's primary launching complex in Kazakhstan, these spaceships crash to earth.

Apart from the fear of having a spaceship crash through their roofs, residents in the area complain of the ill effects of leftover toxic rocket fuel. With the relocation of Russian military launches, more than half of which currently take off from Baikonur, these people may get some relief. However, one group of people is probably sorry to see Baikonur lose business; the region's scrap metal dealers are getting rich trading metal from the rockets' titanium alloy hulls.

Commercial and manned missions will remain at Baikonur, so scrap dealers will still get a shot at some spare titanium, and the local cows still need to keep an eye to the skies -- lest a flaming hunk of rocket debris falls on 'em.

EurasiaNet has a photo essay showing some of the denizens of that part of the world, along with some of the space trash they collecct.

Posted by: mhking at 01:45 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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