Photographer David de Rueda has captured various abandoned Soviet spaces.
His favourite place he’s captured is a hangar in the steppe of Kazakhstan that holds two space shuttles from the USSR’s once-active Buran program.
The space shuttles have not been touched in nearly 30 years.
Photographer David de Rueda has never been afraid to venture into uncharted territory. His photography has made him explore abandoned radar stations, power plants, factories, and even two rarely seen relics of the Soviet space race.
The two shuttles, both a part of the Buran project (buran means blizzard in Russian), are located inside the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Once a part of the USSR’s plans to take the Cold War into space, the shuttles were designed similarly to NASA’s space shuttles, and meant for carrying cargo into space.
The shuttles have sat for nearly 30 years, untouched and left abandoned. When de Rueda first documented the hangars that house the shuttles back in 2015, he was mesmerised.
“The first trip was such an adventure, I didn’t even imagine I’d do it again,” he told Business Insider. “But almost a year later, I was back. This time, the plan was to explore a second hangar, housing Energia-M, a rocket test prototype. It meant we would spend more time on site.”
Although this wasn’t his first time going inside the hangars, de Rueda said it wasn’t easier the second time around. “These abandoned structures are off-limits,” he said.
Take a look at the eerie photos he captured below.
Simply getting to the hangars was an adventure in itself. “We had to go by ourselves,” de Rueda said. “180 kilometers off-road driving in the Kazakh steppe and 45 kilometers of walking in a highly restricted area.”
Because the hangars are located near active facilities, de Rueda had to be extra careful. “The Kazakh steppe is a hostile environment, especially during winter. We had to walk long hours in the cold night on muddy terrain, trying to remain unseen,” he said.
During his three visits there between 2015 and 2017, de Rueda claimed security had gotten tighter. “Now the shuttles are watched even more carefully.”
The hangars are large, measuring about 492 feet wide, according to de Rueda.
The Buran project started building these shuttles in 1980. They weren’t revealed to the public until 1988.
The Buran’s one flight occurred in November 1988. But shortly after that, the program was suspended.
“The program was very expensive and after the fall of the USSR, they just stopped it. These shuttles were the pride of the country, now they’re completely forgotten,” de Rueda said.
The shuttles no longer belong to the Russian government. They are now owned by a Russian-Kazakh company.
The shuttles have kept in pretty good condition, de Rueda said. “The shuttles and the rocket have been exposed to dust, bird poop, and extreme temperatures for almost 30 years. Time has left its mark. But other than that, they’re rather in good condition,” he said.
For de Rueda, the risk of trespassing is worth it: “The journey was really hard but it was entirely worth it. This place is unreal.”
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