When photographer Ralph Mirebs happened upon an abandoned hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, he did not expect to find the remains of two shuttle prototypes within its walls. These prototypes, Buran orbiters, were the Soviet response to NASA’s shuttles. A third orbiter – 1K1 – actually made it into orbit in 1988, but was destroyed when the hangar housing it collapsed in 2002.
These relics provide us with more insights into the Buran program, which got its start in 1974 and ended in 1993. The smaller of the two shuttles shown in the derelict hangar – nicknamed Ptichka, or “little bird” – would have docked at the Mir Space station if the Soviet Union hadn’t dissolved in 1993. The second vessel was a full-scale, static model for testing purposes.