Onliner reader Denis Malyshitsa had a long-standing dream: to visit a real spaceport and see the Buran space shuttle. At one time they were the pinnacle of the scientific thought of the USSR, but in the end they turned out to be a "space rake", which was hit by a collapsing economy of a great country. Denis dreamed of going to Baikonur on his own, without guides, travel agencies and passes. At the same time, he was lucky to see the launch of the Soyuz MS-15 manned spacecraft from the Gagarinsky launch. Publish a travel story.
I quickly found three more friends for whom the theme of space and the “Buran” was not alien. After conferring, they decided to go to Baikonur by car. This is the most convenient and affordable travel option. Moreover, only in July I got a driver’s license and it was tempting to test myself on a long trip. The choice in favor of a car has been determined! After replacing the timing belts, all filters and oil, the front suspension arms, the silent blocks, brake pads, our “swallow” was ready for an adventure of almost 7,000 km in length. Of the equipment, everyone had sleeping bags, rugs, 2 tents and a supply of provisions for an autonomous existence for several days. The benefit of experience for participating in such adventures was enough for everyone.
The road through the neighboring country was good. The myth of the wretchedness of roads in Russia is dispelled.
The border with Kazakhstan passed quickly, in about an hour. A few questions about the purpose of the visit (of course, tourism and only it), filling out the migration sheet, and voila – we are in the country of steppes and koumiss. By the way, for citizens of Belarus at checkpoints there is a separate line, it’s enough to say that you are a “union” (the Customs Union is implied). Otherwise, you risk standing for several hours in kilometer-long lines from Tajiks / Uzbeks / Kyrgyz.
Giant open spaces, without forests and lakes, with straight roads at first surprised. But to go for hours non-stop on them tires. One steppe to the horizon. And nothing more. Although stop! I’m lying.
The camels, boldly walking along the highway, did not let us relax, now and then crossing the road in front of the car at the most inopportune moment. On the way, we made short stops to stretch our bodies and take photos of local landscapes. Well, refuel. Diesel is translated into our money 1 ruble per liter. Gas is even cheaper. But car insurance pulled 25 dollars.
The spaceport is a sensitive facility, is under protection, and access to it is limited. Therefore, there was no question of dropping into the territory by car. But two extreme people from St. Petersburg, whom we met near Baikonur, tried to break through the steppe in a sedan. As a result, a helicopter flew in, hovered over them and made it clear: this is a bad idea, guys, poking around on a sensitive facility. They hastily “made legs”, tearing off the muffler, and urgently came up with a new penetration plan.
And here we are at the approaches to the spaceport. The car is parked in a safe place. Before launching a rocket with three astronauts on board, less than a day. And to our final point 40 km still go at night along the steppe. You can’t use flashlights, there is no moon, there is no night vision device (night vision device). Full darkness. In such circumstances, we had to go. At first, they hoped that their eyes would get used to the dark and that they could walk comfortably. But how wrong we were – it didn’t get any better. The countless burrows of rodents were particularly disturbing, in which you easily fall down on your knee, risking damage to the ligaments. When you look up at the sky, the speechless voice disappears: you cannot see such a number of stars in Belarus. After making a couple of shots, we continued on, focusing on the lights of the spaceport, which were far ahead.
We walked and talked, but then, against the background of the many-hour journey, at a fast pace, we noticed that we were beginning to carry some kind of nonsense. Heavy backpacks rubbed shoulders, sand in shoes also added a thrill to our trip. Fatigue made itself felt, the beginning of something seemed in the dark. Complete silence. Plus seven centigrade. No cloud cover – ideal conditions. After 12 hours of walking, we were near the building of the MZK (assembly and refueling complex). The last 6 km were the hardest. And the night UAZ patrols scurrying around the spaceport invigorated us better than any coffee. Already in the afternoon, we noticed that in addition to UAZs, BRDM also traveled along the steppes, providing security for the cosmodrome.