Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Space and Russia

Two subjects that have always fascinated me are the space program and the USSR. So when I run across stories about the Star City cosmodrome at Baikonur in Kazhakztan, the former super-secret Cape Canaveral Russian equivalent, I'm hooked.

These days Star City is no longer supersecret. In fact, due to the closure of the US shuttle program, for a fiver year period until the US gets the replacement vehicles ready, the only way to get to the International Space Station will be through Star City. It was huge Russian Proton rockets launched from Star City which transferrred the ISS into space.

So here's a piece from the New York Times outlining the US experience with Star City. In part:

Those early days (1994) were also marked by wariness and distrust, and the first Americans had a strong impression they were being watched. Mark Bowman, an early contract employee in Russia who is now back in Moscow as deputy director of NASA’s human space flight program in Russia, recalled a weekly teleconference with his boss in Houston. “Thirty minutes into the call the line would go dead,” Mr. Bowman said. “And that would happen every 30 minutes.”

One day during the teleconference, Mr. Bowman warned 28 minutes in that the line was about to go dead and said testily, “I sure wish these damned KGB guys would get longer tapes.”

“The next telecon we had,” Mr. Bowman recalled, “I swear to you, it went 45 minutes and then it went dead.” Apparently, he said, his hosts had upgraded to 90-minute cassettes.

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