The Soviet Unions attempt to match NASA with a partially reusable spaceplane system pushed the countrys space programme to the limit and ultimately foundered under pressure from technical difficulties and a faltering economy

With hindsight, the decision to develop a Soviet equivalent to NASA's Space Shuttle was a disastrous mistake - some have even suggested that the project's crippling development costs helped push the entire Soviet economy over the edge, ultimately leading to the country's collapse.

Of course, when the decision was announced in 1974, it seemed quite logical - NASA's Shuttle, partly financed by the US Air Force, was expected to play a key strategic role in the military exploitation of space, and naturally the Soviets felt they had to have a similar system to maintain parity - even if the exact applications for it remained uncertain.

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