back to article Who gave dusty Soviet-era spacecraft that unwanted lick of paint? It was an idiot, with a spraycan, in Baikonur

A further indignity has been heaped upon Russia's Buran Space Shuttle as images surfaced showing at least one of the surviving Soviet-era spacecraft was defaced by a graffiti "artist". According to Google's translate tool the text states: "Before climbing to the stars, a person should learn to live on Earth!" Buran defaced! …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Soviet tech..

    Another Concordski...

    1. Jason Hindle Silver badge

      Re: Soviet tech..

      Nope. It landed without crashing and was unmanned. Technically a triumph, not a failure, by what turned out to be a fast failing state.

      1. MonsieurTM

        Re: Soviet tech..

        Not a failure at all. It was built because in 1976 the Space Shuttle was also a weapons system designed to drop nukes on the USSR, going "over the pole" and then turning 90 degrees (hence the need for such big wings). This use was already obsolete at the time, but the Soviet designers were ordered by the politicians to build it. It was abandoned because it was ridiculously expensive (even if a fraction the price of the Shuttle) and there was simply no use for it. (I refer to the Bart Herndrick's book, recommended.)

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          WTF?

          Re: Soviet tech..

          "...the Space Shuttle was also a weapons system designed to drop nukes on the USSR, going "over the pole" and then turning 90 degrees (hence the need for such big wings)...."

          Interesting theory, Monsieur, but...

          1. In space, wings are not of much use.

          2. Wings are helpful in the atmosphere, for lift and turning.

          3. Unfortunately the Space Shuttle glides like a streamlined brick.

          4. The US already has quite a large assortment of nuclear-tipped ICBMs

          1. Mike Richards Silver badge

            Re: Soviet tech..

            The Soviets were deeply worried about the ability of the Shuttle to deliver a first strike on Moscow. As far back as 1976 they ran simulations suggesting the Shuttle could make a strike on a first orbit. Two scientists, Okhotsimsky and Sikharulidze extrapolated from a 1974 NASA report that the DoD was potentially the largest user of the Shuttle.

            The politburo positively freaked when the US announced it was building the Slick 6 Shuttle pad at Vandenberg for inserting payloads into high-inclination orbits that would take it over the Soviet Union.

            The Soviets were misled by the Shuttle's economics - they did the maths and couldn't see how it could be cheaper than expendable rockets for launching conventional payloads; but it did have a much greater ability to diverge from its original trajectory so they concluded that it had to be for special purposes - such as a single-orbit misison to deliver a nuclear warhead and decapitate the USSR.

            They believed this so much that the Buran programme was ordered to copy the American programme as much as possible rather than building on a series of highly-developed Soviet spaceplane projects.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Soviet tech..

              "The politburo positively freaked when the US announced it was building the Slick 6 Shuttle pad at Vandenberg for inserting payloads into high-inclination orbits that would take it over the Soviet Union.

              "

              SLC 6 at VAFB is what they use now for Delta 4 Heavy launches (one left to go). That rocket could drop a really big payload on somebody if they wanted.

            2. adam 40 Silver badge

              In soviet Russia, cans spray YOU!

              It _was_ built for a special purpose.

              Much like our nuclear reactors were subsidised by making enriched uranium and plutonium for our weapons programme, the space shuttle was uses by the DoD to launch many satellites (which could be lofted without prying eyes.)

              So the DoD subsidised the whole thing.

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Soviet tech..

          The reason for the Shuttle's big wings was so that the USAF could use to launch southwards into a polar orbit, deploy or retrieve some kind of surveillance payload, and then land back in Vandenberg. They were not there to help it 'turn', more so that it could glide the ~1000 km back to the launch latitude after the Earth had turned underneath it's orbit. NASA incorporated the military requirements in order to get more support in Congress (in the end though, the military barely used the Shuttle).

          Spacecraft are no use for 'dropping bombs'. If the shuttle had a bomb in it's payload bay and opened the doors in orbit...nothing much would happen. Depending on where the centre of gravity of the shuttle is, the bomb might slowly drift to the front or back of the bay.

          Getting a bomb to drop down from orbit would involve scrubbing off ~7 km/s of velocity, ie, the same amount of energy used to lift it into orbit (although atmospheric drag would do most of the work, to be fair). As others have mentioned, if you want to drop a bomb on a country a long way away, the easiest way is to strap it to the top of a rocket on a sub-orbital trajectory. This would also be a lot harder to detect than launching a Shuttle.

          The Soviet rocket scientists had looked at the Shuttle's designs, and couldn't work out why the US were building it that way, when the sensible option would be to build a civilian Shuttle with smaller wings and payload bay, and to use rockets for military payloads. The Soviet leaders saw the US spending loads of money on something which didn't make sense according to public information, and assumed that therefore it must have a secret military purpose! Hence, the USSR must have one too.

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Re: Soviet tech..

            The us military realised it would be more efficient to just give the satellite its own wings, rather than using a giant spaceship, and so the X-37 was born.

          2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: Soviet tech..

            Dunno, the rod from god looks like it could be effective.

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: Soviet tech..

              Sure, but all the kinetic energy it releases when it hits the target come from the kinetic energy used to put it in orbit in the first place.

              At the end of the day, if you want to drop things from orbit you need to use a boat-load of energy to get the thing above the atmosphere, then another bunch to extend that into an orbit, and then a similar amount to get it out of orbit and onto your target.

              If you just use a sub-orbital trajectory like an ICBM, you only need the original boat-load of energy to get above the atmo, without needing to get into and then out of orbit. (and your weapon doesn't need it's own propulsion, or systems to survive for long in space etc.)

              Pretty much the only benefit of a weapons system that can stay in orbit is the element of surprise, ICBM launches will probably be noticed, but a 'rod from god' is probably not going to be detected until it's too late. However, for a country with the resources to build and field such a weapon's system, it could be easier and cheaper to just get some special op's types to smuggle in a bomb.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Soviet tech..

            "in the end though, the military barely used the Shuttle"

            Mainly because the the sidesaddle configuration - a product of their demands - was considered too dangerous for both manned and sensitive payload missions

      2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: Soviet tech..

        Like the UK you mean.

        1. Ken G
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Soviet tech..

          What engineering triumph are you referring to?

        2. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: Soviet tech..

          I presume you're talking about the unrivalled distinction that the UK has of being the only nation to achieve orbital flight and give up.

          Black arrow could have been throwing up satellites at half the cost for the last 50 years

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Soviet tech..

      TU-144 at the Technik Museum Sinsheim...

      https://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/en/tupolev-tu-144

      1. seven of five Silver badge

        Re: Soviet tech..

        Yep, alongside a Concorde. Both increasingly decaying, but most impressive none the less. A visit is strongly recommended. As is the entire museum.

    3. MonsieurTM

      Re: Soviet tech..

      The Tu-144 was a different design to Concorde. It only looks superficially similar. It is larger with a greater passenger capacity. The wings were a more simple double-curve not more complex triple curve. It has canard wings unlike Concorde. But the engines were not as good as Concorde (whose engines were derived from those used on the Avro Vulcan), which was it's chief failing.

      Both were disastrously affected by the FUD the US spouted at the time regarding noise pollution, etc (because the US had nothing to compete with). Thus in a game of political "nyer nyer" the US refused overflight of Concorde (thus the Tu-144), so Concorde was denied overflight of the USSR (which killed the far-eastern market), hence the Tu-144 denied overflight over Europe & the US. So the route to the middle east became problematic as the US (via agitprop) stirred up European sentiment against Concorde. So it was relegated to flying to the Bahamas & NY. And the Tu-144? Well: banned overflight over the EU and US and their allies, it could only fly in the USSR - so no longer had political leverage, thus was abandoned to becoming a mail-plane.

      Just like for Concorde there were plans for a Mk.II that would have resolved many of the issues (the Tu-144 was significantly noisier inside than Concorde due to the inboard placement of the heavy engines - these were to be replaced with vastly superior ones, that never happened.

      1. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

        Re: Soviet tech..

        Concorde flew to both Washington DC and NY, among many international destinations. However, even when all other routes had been shut down due to unprofitibility and noise, the NY route was the last remaining. ["Concorde", britannica (dot) com].

        The reason the US abandoned govt sponsorship of the SST is because it was recognized and acknowledged early that it would be an economic failure. In the meantime Boeing developed and sold a lot of 747's, making a huge profit.

        There were complaints about the Concorde's noise because it was noisy. The SST had the additional feature of being too noisy inside the aircraft - not good for luxury appeal.

        1. EvilDrSmith

          Re: Soviet tech..

          Without digging out any references...

          I think that BA proved that although Concorde was noisier than contemporary airliners 'at source', it had a steeper climb out, so that the actual noise level experienced by people living and working around the airport was no worse (and actually better in some cases).

          However, the US authorities kindly took their time in considering this argument, by which time a lot of potential orders for Concorde had been cancelled.

          Also (again, from memory, not checking the references), one of the particularly clever bits on Concorde were the engine air intakes, that gave it a significant boost in thrust.

          Some very clever engineering in Concorde.

          Also, my understanding is that BA operated Concorde at a profit right until its end-of-service (note: operated, so not covering the development costs, just measured against operational costs)

          1. KBeee Bronze badge

            Re: Soviet tech..

            One of my biggest regrets is not flying on Concorde when it was still flying and I had the chance. Had the money, had the opportunity, never did it Grrrrrr.

            A story I heard was the Very Clever engine air intakes plans were "obtained" by the Soviets, but the plans they obtained had been altered to be useless.

            1. Mike Richards Silver badge

              Re: Soviet tech..

              There's another story that French intelligence became aware that the Soviets were looking for information on how to develop the high-performance tyres used by Concorde; so they got Michelin to cook up a new formula that had the consistency of bubblegum and leaked that to the Soviet agents.

              I have this vision of a futuristic supersonic airliner glued to the runway somewhere in Siberia.

          2. Martin Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Soviet tech..

            ...so that the actual noise level experienced by people living and working around the airport was no worse...

            Yeah, right. In the mid-eighties, I went out for a while with a young lady who lived in Richmond, and aeroplanes to and from Heathrow flew over her place every day. After the tenth time I heard a particularly loud plane go over, and I looked outside to see Concorde yet again, I decided the case that Concorde actually WAS louder was fairly convincingly proven.

            But my goodness - what a beautiful aeroplane, and how I wish I'd flown in it.

          3. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: Soviet tech..

            most of the tech on the Concorde was of British design, but we couldn't afford to finish the project, so the french were roped in...

            The engineering genius that designed the air-intakes was I believe Ted Talbot based at BAC Filton, Bristol it delivered air to the engines at Mach 0.5 independent of the speed of the aircraft, and in some flight modes, actually provided 63% of the thrust.

        2. Jason Hindle Silver badge

          Re: Soviet tech.. @CrackedNoggin

          "There were complaints about the Concorde's noise because it was noisy. The SST had the additional feature of being too noisy inside the aircraft - not good for luxury appeal."

          It was noisy alright. In the late 80s, the pilot who flew one over our house, in Old Trafford, to impress his mum (local to us, apparently) got in a ****load of trouble over it. We thought a bomb had gone off very close by (and that was just fairly low, subsonic).

          1. gerdesj Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Soviet tech.. @CrackedNoggin

            I've lived in the flight path of Lightnings, Phantoms, Jaguars, Star Fighters etc. A Concorde was quite noisy but you should hear a pair of flights of four Phantoms taking off on an exercise scramble.

            On the bright side, living in W Germany back in the day, we used to get some very impressive air days at the local crabbery. I recall a pair of Army Harriers doing a synchronized dance a few feet off the ground at RAF Wildenrath. They span in harmony and did a pretty nutty reverse and point their tails upwards. They hovered a couple of feet up and tapped their nose wheels on the ground sort of in time to music you couldn't really hear over the noise!

            1. John H Woods Silver badge

              Re: Soviet tech.. @CrackedNoggin

              yep - remember those sorts of things - grew up in JHQ Rheindahlen - those were the days ...

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Soviet tech..

          "it was recognized and acknowledged early that it would be an economic failure"

          The XB-70 contributed a lot to that reocgnition. it was used in a lot of tests over Kansas to test Boom tolerance of the population of airliner-sized craft and it quickly became realised that it wasn't feasible to allow them even over sparsely-populated areas

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Soviet tech..

        "Both were disastrously affected by the FUD the US spouted at the time regarding noise pollution, etc (because the US had nothing to compete with)."

        Boeing had a concept SS craft but the financial prospects didn't work for any of the US airlines.

        Pollution was a big problem. The Concorde burned 2.5t of fuel just taxiing from the terminal to the end of the runway.

    4. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Soviet tech..

      In many ways the Buran was better than the Space Shuttle.

      1. Ken G
        Holmes

        Re: Soviet tech..

        I don't know why the downvotes - aside from not being man rated it was a more efficient design. The shuttle main engines were pointless since the SRBs did most of the pushing, Buran could orbit for twice as long with a larger payload and operate under remote control.

        1. Jason Hindle Silver badge

          Re: Soviet tech..

          It's the remote control stuff that was most impressive at the time. I think the US would have struggled to achieve that back then. No idea how much truth there is in this, but I was told the Soviets wrote a lot of the systems in Pascal!

  2. DarkwavePunk

    Shame

    It's not like it was anything anyone could describe as "good" at the time. It is however a piece of history. It should be respected as such.

    Also the graffiti is utter wank.

    1. chrisw67

      Re: Shame

      Given the amount of pigeon poop on those wings we can only hope the vandals get a solid dose of psittacosis.

    2. TVU

      Re: Shame

      That Buran ought to be cared for and curated in a proper aerospace museum somewhere.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Shame

        If the Russians don't want to preserve and display the Buran, the Smithsonian could likely raise the money to house one in the US. I'd love to see one, but I'm not interested in flying to Russia (or flying anywhere for that matter where I'm not up front in the left hand seat).

    3. iron Silver badge

      Re: Shame

      In what way was a spacecraft with a 100% success rate not describable as good?

      Or is your problem its politics rather than its function?

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Shame

      It needs to become a museum.

      Maybe they could do a full exhibit of the history of the USSR space program, considering Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin and other "firsts" they had during the cold war.

      If it becomes a tourist destination, so much the better!

      (I would like to visit Bletchly Park some day)

      The unused Apollo rockets and surviving Space Shuttles have all become museums, as I recall. Why these Soviet shuttles (and mockup) have not become museum pieces already ctually surprises me.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Shame

        Bob, Bletchley Park is good, but you'll enjoy the National Museum of Computing next door even more. HMU if you ever come to the UK - I'll buy you a warm beer.

      2. LogicGate

        Re: Shame

        Bobastic: I often disagree with your opinions, but here is one that I can fully support.

        Pity that the current cleptocracy in power makes it impossible for Russia to realise it's potentials.

  3. HildyJ Silver badge
    Unhappy

    How low the mighty have fallen

    It's sad to hear of the latest indignity. Not mentioned is that the Buran which actually made it into Earth orbit was destroyed when its poorly maintained Cosmodrome collapsed. The Soyuz spacecraft is basically an upgraded version of the 1986 model. The last successful Russian space probe was Vega-2 in the mid 80s. This from the country that gave us so many satellite and manned spacecraft firsts.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: How low the mighty have fallen

      Not mentioned is that the Buran which actually made it into Earth orbit was destroyed when its poorly maintained Cosmodrome collapsed.

      I don't know if the article was updated after you posted your comment, but there's definitely mention of that in it:

      "The only orbiter to fly, 1K, was reduced to scrap when the roof of the building housing it collapsed on 12 May 2002."

    2. MonsieurTM

      Re: How low the mighty have fallen

      It was fortunate for the USSR that the Buran was cvanned early, rather than soldiering on like the white elephant that was the Shuttle: look at how NASA is coming along leaps and bounds after shucking off that mill-stone.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: How low the mighty have fallen

        all those downvotes, but it's true - the shuttle was the ultimate camel and ended causing more problems for NASA than it solved

  4. karlkarl Silver badge

    Gosh, in some ways it must be cool to live in a country that has things like that laying around.

    In the UK all we focus on is hording land and selling shite smart phones to each other. We never do interesting or important things.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Give the Russians 17 years to catch up...

      Buran got to orbit once in 1988 before being cancelled. Black Arrow put one satellite into orbit in 1971 before being cancelled. Given time I am sure Buran will be just as forgotten as Black Arrow is now.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      It's in this state because there is a corrupt populist autocratic government too busy handing out money to their mates while something as important as this is left to rot as they can't even find a museum for it.

      So perhaps you will get your wish soon.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        "It's in this state because there is a corrupt populist autocratic government too busy handing out money to their mates ..."

        I assumed you were talking about UK.

        1. Wincerind

          "corrupt populist autocratic government"

          To be honest that could be any country on Earth. It's the common cry of those who's corrupt populist autocrats aren't currently in power.

          1. Norman Nescio

            Well, obviously, people have been voting for the wrong corrupt populist autocratic lizards. Got any gin?

            (pace Douglas Adams)

          2. Wincerind

            Ooh 10 downvotes. That'll be either 10 politicians or 10 fools who believe their politicians are all scrupulouly honest.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      We have Concordes on display at various places, for public to look at, walk underneath and on board. This is better than leaving them laying around. The Russians should consider taking 2K Buran and the full size model and creating a tourist exhibition from them, as US have done with their retired shuttle fleet. Leaving them to rot in sheds in not something to be admired.

    4. rg287 Silver badge

      Gosh, in some ways it must be cool to live in a country that has things like that laying around.

      For a given value of "laying around".

      Going and seeing many engineering marvels at IWM Duxford or the Cosford RAF Museum is significantly quicker and easier than trolling across the Kazakh Steppes, then trekking 15km across open tundra dodging security to trespass into the Buran hangars.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        FSVO "dodging security" - the guards have been remarkably friendly to people who were respectful of the site and let them view everything freely. That's unlikely to be the case from now on

    5. Dave559 Silver badge

      Once upon a time, the UK did embrace the "white heat of technology" quite fully: Concorde, InterCity 125, Advanced Passenger Train (which was arguably cancelled too soon, and the tilting technology went on to contribute to the Pendolino train designs), the whole 80s computer boom, Psion, Symbian, ARM, etc.

      Interesting projects do still continue, but sadly the general public rarely hears about them, and so there is much less awareness of them (which probably also contributes to much less government enthusiasm for funding related research, and so becomes a vicious circle). Cancelling "Tomorrow's World" is arguably one of the worst things that the BBC ever did…

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Second. The worst was replacing the prior, iconic theme and intro with the swimming baby.

      2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Not forgetting TSR2.

        "All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics. TSR2 simply got the first three right." - Sir Sydney Camm

    6. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "In the UK all we focus on is hording land and selling shite smart phones to each other. We never do interesting or important things."

      There is an amazing amount of science that comes out of the UK.

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Pint

    Technik Museum Sinsheim

    Associate museum to the Technik Museum Speyer, don't plan a visit without making time for the other!

    https://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/en/

    ...and as you will be in Germany, make some time for -->

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Technik Museum Sinsheim

      They know their audience - slide show at the top starts with the Concorde and Charger, next pic is a tasty looking burger.

    2. Ken G
      Thumb Up

      Re: Technik Museum Sinsheim

      Thanks for that, I'll drive over when I get my Digital Green Certificate next month.

  6. Nicodemus's Knob

    A nice day out

    To be honest, I'd rather go to Cosford with the grandchildren, https://youtu.be/N2v2s9m-pt0 than go see a space shuttle clone covered in shit and graffiti with half of it missing but each to their own.

  7. Porco Rosso

    Paris 1989

    Shame

    I saw the Buran in all its glory on a the back of the massive Antonov An-225 Mriya with open bay. And in my opinion when the USSR showed the Buran as an Technical-Might PR-stunt (after the withdrawal of Afghanistan) at Paris, they basically knew they lost the technical race.

    It was in the suppliers halls of Le Bourget - that you could clearly see that the West was accelerating its technological advance on the USSR. The exposed USSR chips, e-card etc where clearly behind. And more importantly every Western supplier who exposed at the fair had to show they where already developing future parts on CAD-CAM stations. The Bull, Nixdorf, SUN, HP, Digital, SGI, etc station where on every corner. CAD/CAM was already a common tech in the western supply chain.

    NON at the other side.

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: Paris 1989

      Lucky you seeing Buran!

      The Soviets were falling behind, but we have to give credit to the Energia carrier rocket - it was a beast and one that we could do with today.

      100 tonnes to orbit. Four high-performance stage combustion liquid hydrogen engines (the first the Soviets had ever built), four boosters each with the most powerful liquid fuelled engines ever built - and they were designed to be reused.

  8. wolfetone Silver badge
    Pint

    To be honest, if people were that bothered about the Buran in the first place they wouldn't have left in a hangar that's falling down around it.

    Kudos to the poet with the spray can.

  9. Dave559 Silver badge

    Otherwise it might be only the graffiti that remains

    "Otherwise it might be only the graffiti that remains"

    Why does this somehow remind me of:

    "… Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

    The lone and level sands stretch far away."

    It is certainly sad to hear that a piece of space history has been left to rot away, and that it has been vandalised. Really it should be in a museum somewhere, where people can admire it properly.

    Although, according to the historical documents that I have seen, Buran went on to be fairly successful… (I have to say, I've really enjoyed For All Mankind, and would definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in humanity's various space programmes.)

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: Otherwise it might be only the graffiti that remains

      You'll certainly never look at duct tape the same way...

      1. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: Otherwise it might be only the graffiti that remains

        Yes, the duct tape plotline (trying to be vague to avoid spoilers) was a bit weird, to say the least. Part of me wonders whether it would actually be a plausible/realistic scenario [1] (the, what seemed to me, anyway, "history actually could have gone this way" feel of the series was part of the attraction), but part of me also just didn't like it (for (…spoilers…) reasons).

        [1] Admittedly it's perhaps only a bit ahead of Apollo 13 in terms of unexpected uses of duct tape.

  10. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
    Alien

    Man, this spaceship is *late*...

    > The decaying spacecraft have been documented over the years by trespassers venturing inside the structures.

    Just waiting for a consignment of lemon-soaked paper napkins.

  11. Precordial thump
    Go

    Poyekhali!

    Graffitists who seem to know their space history, anyway.

    Cheers, Yuri!

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