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Cosmodrome Celebrates 55th Anniversary

3. June 2010 by Michelle 0 Comments

In 1955 Soviet military workers started building a secret town in the middle of the Kazakh desert. It was named Baikonur and some say this was to confuse and misdirect the West to a town about 200 miles northeast. With harsh climate conditions and extremely rural surroundings, many were surprised that this became the site of the world's first and largest cosmodrome.


Only 2 years after the project began, the Baikonur Cosmodrome hosted the launch of Sputnik, the world's first man-made satellite. Then in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to set off into space, straight from Baikonur. A few years later, the first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova blasted off from the site as well. As the space program expanded, so did the town. By the 1970s, the secret city started sprawling with stores, cinemas, a stadium, over 300 apartment buildings, 9 schools, and 18 hotels. While it was still closed to the public, more employees were needed and more families began moving in.


Since then more than half of all of all the space launches in history began at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, and currently one-third of all annual launches are held here. The entire center covers over 7,000sq.ft. and features 11 assembly buildings and nine launch complexes with 15 launch pads. The infamous "motovoz" is a diesel-powered train which shuttles between the town and launch complexes.


Today, the town welcome visitors and guided tours of the cosmodrome can be scheduled at least 45 days in advance. A newer hotel, called the Sputnik, offers foreign guests luxurious amenities which were unknown to the area in the past. At $250 per night, guests can enjoy a large swimming pool, western-style gym, perfectly purified water, and full body massage. When lounging in the Sputnik's bar on the eve of a major launch, some lucky guests can see a U.S. astronaut, a French space official, and a British reporter, all drinking Stoli and flirting with hot Russian women!