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Baikonur Cosmodrome

Baikonur, Kazakhstan

Many people know about Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and yet some don't actually know that it is in Kazakhstan. It was built during the soviet era in 1950's when Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union. That's why people still associate it with Russia.

Baikonur Cosmodrome is the launch complex where Sputnik 1, Earth's first artificial satellite, was launched. The rocket that lifted Yuri Gagarin, the first human in orbit, was also launched from Baikonur. In fact, all Russian crewed missions are launched from Baikonur, as well as all geostationary, lunar, planetary and ocean surveillance missions. Nowdays launches are still beeing made by the Russian Federation under the Lease Agreement between the two countries to rent the Baikonur Cosmodrome facilities until 2050.

The name Baikonur is misleading. The former Soviet Union used the name and coordinates of a small mining town, Baikonur, to describe the location of its rocket complex. In fact, the launch complex is about 322 kilometers southwest of the mining town near Tyuratam in Kazakhstan. This misrepresentation was done intentionally to hide the actual location of the launch complex. Although the true location is now known, the launch complex is still referred to as Baikonur.

Originally it was built for certain types of nuclear weapon test-launch site. To build one, certain criteria had to be met in choosing the right area. These criteria were: vast and sparcely populated area, preferably no agricultural activities nearby, presence of a railway and fresh water sources.

It was to be one of the most expensive projects that the Soviet Union undertook. The infrastructure alone was massively expensive – hundreds of kilometers of new roads and railway lines had to be created as well as a town to provide support infrastructure for the station and its workers. As was the case in soviet times the town was named after Lenin and was known as Leninsk until it was renamed Baikonur in 1995.

The cosmodrome was built in complete secrecy but today it receives visitors from all over the world. The spectacle which makes Baikonur worth visiting is the launch of a space rocket, which the vast majority of people only see in movies and documentaries. After suspension of the Shuttle program, Baikonur remains the only place on Earth where you can witness such an occasion! To get in the real cosmodrome is the dream of many travellers. And YOU can go to the real space tour — to Baykonur — the first and biggest cosmodrome in the world! Baikonur Spaceport Tour >>

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