Brief career

As with the Shuttle a variety of more or less complex dummy orbiters were built during MKS development, some of which were used in glide tests. However, the real Buran orbiter flew just once, on 15 November 1988. Like other Soviet spacecraft, the entire system had been designed for automatic as well as piloted flight, and Buran's first and only mission was controlled entirely from the ground. The flight lasted 206 minutes, during which the spacecraft orbited the Earth twice and executed a perfect landing. The system had proven itself - but too late. By now, the Soviet system was in its death throes, and the programme was suspended as a cost-cutting measure. Two half-finished orbiters were left in limbo while Buran was reduced to touring air shows as a display of ingenious Soviet technology. By the time the programme was formally cancelled in 1993, the country and system that produced it were themselves things of the past.

APPROACH AND LANDING

Buran glides towards the landing strip under automatic control at the end of its first flight around the Earth. Longer automatic flights should have followed over the next few years, before manned flights in the mid-1990s.

SAD END

After the project's cancellation, the Buran orbiter remained stuck in Kazakhstan, sheltered in a deteriorating hangar at Tyuratom. In May 2002, the roof of the hangar collapsed, destroying Buran and its Energia launcher and killing eight people.

SAD END

After the project's cancellation, the Buran orbiter remained stuck in Kazakhstan, sheltered in a deteriorating hangar at Tyuratom. In May 2002, the roof of the hangar collapsed, destroying Buran and its Energia launcher and killing eight people.

1 August 1974

Valentin Glushko, head of the newly merged NPO Energia design bureau, orders work to begin on a new heavy-lift launcher and a reusable orbiter spacecraft.

12 February 1976

Work on the MKS system is formally approved by the Soviet government.

1 January 1986

Constant delays lead to an extensive shake-up in the Buran project's management.

15 May 1987

The first launch of the Energia rocket puts a Polyus military satellite into space, though it is classed as a failure when a guidance problem prevents the Polyus reaching its proper orbit.

29 October 1988

A first attempt at launching Buran is aborted 51 seconds before launch due to a software fault.

15 November 1988

Buran makes a successful automatic flight.

30 June 1993

President Yeltsin of Russia cancels the MKS project.

TECHNOLOGY

THE ENERGIA LAUNCHER

With a central core surrounded by strap-on boosters, Energia resembled many past Soviet rockets, but it was also a modular system - different configurations of boosters, and even extra stages stacked on the rocket, could turn it into a general-purpose heavy launch vehicle. Even without Buran, Energia could have had a useful role as a launcher, but it was ultimately cancelled with the rest of the MKS, leaving the Proton as Russia's heavy-lift rocket ^jj of choice.

NEAR MIR

The crew of Discovery photographed cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov watching their close approach in February 1995. Polyakov, an expert in space medicine, was nearing the end of a record-breaking 14-month endurance mission aboard Mir.

ORBITAL UPGRADE

Astronaut Rich Clifford works on the Mir docking module during STS-76 in March 1996. Although tethered to the Shuttle, Clifford also tested a new emergency manoeuvring unit called SAFER.

APPROACHING MIR

Atlantis photographed Mir honging above the Earth shortly before the third docking of the spacecraft, in March 1996.

STS-86 ROLLOUT

Atlantis made seven flights to Mir from 1995-97. A refit in late 1997 led to Endeavour and Discovery making the last two flights.

WORKING IN SPACE

Working together

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the chaos that followed in its successor states finally brought the Russian and American space programmes together for a series of daring Shuttle-Mir missions.

JOINT MISSION

The STS-71 mission patch refelected Atlantis's historic link-up with Mir. As was os helping to create the then largest man-made object in space, the mission was also the USA's 100th manned spaceflight.

JOINT MISSION

The STS-71 mission patch refelected Atlantis's historic link-up with Mir. As was os helping to create the then largest man-made object in space, the mission was also the USA's 100th manned spaceflight.

ATLANTIS DOCKED

Cosmonauts Solovyov and Budarin photographed the united Shuttle and space station during STS-71 on 4 July 1995. The cosmonauts had boarded a Soyuz spacecraft for an inspection "flyaround" prior to the departure of Atlantis. Together, station and Shuttle comprised by far the largest structure ever put into space.

The Soviet Union's dramatic disintegration at the end of 1991 left its space programme in chaos. While much of its infrastructure was inside Russia itself, some vital assets were beyond Russian borders in suddenly independent states. Kazakhstan, for instance, was soon demanding payment for use of its launch facilities at Tyuratam. Meanwhile Mir remained in orbit, its politically stranded cosmonauts Alexander Volkov and Sergei Krikalev dubbed "the last Soviet citizens". Cash shortages meant the station was still only half-finished, with two large modules still waiting on the ground. Eager to extend the hand of friendship and help stabilize the fragments of their former rival, American politicians saw the possibility of once more turning space exploration to political ends.

In June 1992, US President George Bush and Russia's new President Boris Yeltsin announced their intention to cooperate in space. NASA Administrator Dan Goldin and Yuri Koptev, director of the newly formed Russian Space Agency (RSA), soon agreed a tentative programme of astronaut exchanges. With the aid of a substantial cash injection from NASA, normal service on Mir was resumed, and in February 1994 Sergei Krikalev became the first cosmonaut to fly aboard the Shuttle. By this time, the new Clinton administration had broadened the scope of cooperation with the Russians, who were to become major partners in the International Space Station (ISS - see p.286). A series of joint Shuttle-Mir missions would help keep the Russian station operating and

TECHNOLOGY

EXERCISE IN SPACE

TECHNOLOGY

EXERCISE IN SPACE

Long stays on Mir meant that American astronauts had to get used to the exercise regimes cosmonauts had been practising for years. While it was relatively easy to recover from a few days of weightlessness aboard the Shuttle, ^months in orbit had greater physiological effects, and astronauts such as Shannon Lucid used Russian equipment to keep fit in space. With no gravity to work against, most of the exercise devices forced the user to work against tension or interia. These included a cycling machine and a treadmill with elastic attachments to strap down the user.

BIOGRAPHY

HELEN SHARMAN

Briton Helen Sharman (b.1963) became her nation's first astronaut with an eight-day stay aboard Mir in May 1991. Food scientist Sharman was selected in 1989 - one of thousands who applied for the Project Juno mission, intended to be sponsored by British | business. She spent 18 months in training at Star City, and when the fee for her trip could not be raised, the Soviet Union agreed to let her fly in exchange for her assistance in their own experiments.

give NASA astronauts experience of long-duration spaceflight before construction work on the ISS started in the late 1990s.

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