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September 24, 2008

The Baikonur Cosmodrome

When NASA's last scheduled Space Shuttle mission lands in June of 2010, the United States will not have the capability to get astronauts into space again until the scheduled launch of the new Orion spacecraft in 2015. Over those five years, the U.S. manned space program will be relying heavily on Russia and its Baikonur Cosmodrome facility in Kazakhstan. Baikonur is an entire Kazakh city, rented and administered by Russia. The Cosmodrome was founded in 1955, making it one of the oldest space launch facilites still in operation. Here are collected some photographs of manned and unmanned launches from Baikonur over the past several years. (26 photos total)

The Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft and its booster rocket, transported by rail to the launch pad to be raised to a vertical launch position at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on October 16, 2003, in preparation for liftoff October 18 to carry C. Michael Foale, Expedition 8 commander and NASA science officer; Alexander Kaleri, Soyuz Commander and flight engineer; and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Pedro Duque of Spain to the International Space Station. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A view of the bottom of the booster rocket for the Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft, shortly after the two were mated at an integration facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 12, 2005. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

Soyuz TMA-11 prime and backup crewmembers are protected behind glass during the State Commission meeting and press conference Oct. 9, 2007 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The crew was in preparation for their launch to the International Space Station Oct. 10 in their Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

NASA astronaut Peggy A. Whitson, Expedition 16 commander, has a pressure suit leak check performed on her Russian Sokol launch and entry suit at RSC Energia Assembly and Testing Facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in preparation for her launch on a Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft to the International Space Station scheduled for Oct. 10. (NASA/Victor Zelentsov) #

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov (C), US astronaut Michael Fincke (L) and his compatriot, space tourist Richard Garriott (R) practice inside a Soyuz-TMA space flight simulator in Star City (a training facility north of Moscow, Russia) on September 19, 2008. (DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images) #

Cosmonaut Salizhan S. Sharipov, Russia's Federal Space Agency Expedition 10 flight engineer and Soyuz commander, donned his launch and entry suit and climbed aboard the Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft October 5, 2004, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a dress rehearsal of launch day activities leading to their liftoff October 14 to the International Space Station. (NASA/Bill Ingall) #

Astronaut Leroy Chiao (r), Expedition 10 commander cosmonaut Salizhan S. Sharipov (c), and Russian Space Forces cosmonaut Yuri Shargin (l) donned their launch and entry suits and climbed aboard the Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft October 5, 2004, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a dress rehearsal of launch day activities leading to their liftoff October 14 to the ISS. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 17 Commander Sergei Volkov (center), Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko (right) and South Korean spaceflight participant So-yeon Yi bid farewell to well wishers April 8, 2008 prior to heading to the launch pad for their liftoff on the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft to the International Space Station. (NASA /Victor Zelentsov) #

Railroad tracks lead to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad. Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft and its booster were rolled out on March 28, 2006, for final pre-launch preparations. The Soyuz was set to blast off on March 30, 2006, (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

The Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft is rolled to its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan April 6, 2008 in preparation for launch April 8 to carry new residents and a spaceflight participant to the International Space Station. The Soyuz began the move from its assembly and integration building to the launch pad on a railcar at sunrise, arriving at the pad several hours later for final technical preparations. (NASA /Victor Zelentsov) #

With a mockup of the defunct Russian "Buran" Space Shuttle sitting passively nearby (lower right), the Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft and its booster rocket crawl on a rail car to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan October 16, 2003, in preparation for its liftoff October 18 to carry three astronauts to the International Space Station. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

Baikonur hosts both manned and unmanned launches. Here is shown a Russian Proton-M rocket carrying a Canadian communication Nimiq 4 satellite being transported to a launching pad of the Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 15, 2008. The Proton-M will carry the satelite into geostationary orbit on September 18, 2008. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

Spectators try to grab the highest viewing point to watch the launch of the Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft, carrying Expedition 13 crew members to the International Space Station on March 30, 2006. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

Preparations are underway for liftoff of the Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft as the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with the Soyuz spacecraft is installed on the launch system and the transporter-emplacer arm moves away, October 8, 2007 (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

A Soyuz spacecraft lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 10:54 p.m. (CDT) on April 26, 2003. Onboard were cosmonaut Yuri I. Malenchenko, Expedition Seven mission commander, and astronaut Edward T. Lu, NASA ISS science officer and flight engineer. Malenchenko represents Rosaviakosmos. (NASA/Scott Andrews) #

The Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft seen high overhead as it blasts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at daybreak on April 15, 2005 (Kazakhstan time), carrying three astronauts to the ISS. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

The flags of Malaysia, Russia and the United States sit between the phones used by officials to talk to the crew of the International Space Station in the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, outside Moscow, seen on October 12, 2007. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

Backdropped by a cloud-covered Earth, the Soyuz 14 (TMA-10) spacecraft approaches the International Space Station. Onboard the spacecraft are cosmonauts Fyodor N. Yurchikhin, Expedition 15 commander; and Oleg V. Kotov, Soyuz commander and flight engineer, both representing Russia's Federal Space Agency; along with spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi. With Kotov at the controls, the Soyuz linked up to the ISS on April 9, 2007. (NASA) #

Seen in front of the Earth's horizon and the blackness of space, the Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station. Onboard the spacecraft are astronaut Michael E. Lopez-Alegria, Expedition 14 commander and NASA space station science officer; cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, Soyuz commander and flight engineer representing Russia's Federal Space Agency; and spaceflight participant Anousheh Ansari. The Soyuz linked up to the Zvezda Service Module aft port at on Sept. 20, 2006.(NASA) #

Backdropped against the blackness of space and airglow of Earth's horizon, an unpiloted Progress supply vehicle approaches the International Space Station (ISS). The Progress 15 resupply craft launched August 11, 2004 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to deliver almost three tons of food, fuel, oxygen, water and supplies to the Expedition 9 crewmembers onboard the Station. (NASA) #

The Baikonur launch complex, seen directly in a photograph taken by an Expedition 13 crew member aboard the International Space Station on September 9, 2006. The name Baikonur is Kazakh for "wealthy brown," i.e. "fertile land with many herbs." (NASA) #

A Kazakh farmer herds cattle across the tarmac on April 19, 2008, at the Arkalyk airport in Kazakhstan. Arkalyk is used as one of the helicopter staging areas for the landing of the Soyuz spacecraft, as they parachute back to Earth. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

The city of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, is seen from the aircraft carrying Expedition 10 crew members on October 4, 2004. The crew will prepare for their launch on the Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft October 14, 2004, to the ISS. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #

A series of three photographs shows the Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft floating to a landing southwest of Karaganda, Kazakhstan at approximately 6:30 p.m. local time on April 21, 2007. Onboard were astronaut Michael E. Lopez-Alegria, Expedition 14 commander and NASA space station science officer; cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, Soyuz commander and flight engineer representing Russia's Federal Space Agency; and U.S. spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi. (NASA) #

Technicians begin the process of removing cargo from the Soyuz TMA-7 capsule (blackened from the heat of re-entry) at sunrise on the steppes of Kazakhstan on April 9, 2006, following the pre-dawn landing of three ISS Expedition 12 crew members. (NASA) #

Expedition 13 crewmembers - cosmonaut Pavel V. Vinogradov (center), commander, and astronaut Jeffrey N. Williams (right), flight engineer and NASA ISS science officer - along with spaceflight participant Anousheh Ansari are attended to by Russian and American search and recovery teams on the steppe of central Kazakhstan on Sept. 29, 2006 following their landing in the Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft after undocking earlier in the day from the International Space Station. (NASA) #

 
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