National Geographic : 1986 Oct
SPACE VIEW OFA COSMODROME A vast complex for assembling and launching rockets sprawls across the Kazakhstan steppe in a satellite view of the Baikonur Cosmodrome (left). As large as nine Kennedy Space Centers, it is off limits to Western observers. The pad that launched Yuri Gagarin into history in 1961 still sends crews to the Soviets' two orbiting space stations. From Baikonur depart probes to the moon and the planets, and satellites destined for geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the Equator. Leninsk, a city of some 55,000, houses spaceport families; the green of irrigated fields shows up red in this false color image. Baikonur's busy heart becomes clearer in a photograph made from a U.S. shuttle (upper right). These pictures and a lifetime of study enable Soviet space analyst Charles P Vick to identify probable details of Baikonur's anatomy. Core of the cosmodrome, photographedin 1983 from the U. S . shuttle Columbia (top), occupies a small portion of the huge complex (map andfacing page). The letter A marks the pad that launched Gagarin;B, the boosterassembly building; C, a medium-lift launchpad;D and E, launchfacilitiesfor a Soviet shuttle and heavy-lift booster (a launchpadexplosion nearD in 1969 crippledSoviet plans to walk on the moon); F, the shuttle landing runway. Other lines show roads, railroads,pipelines, and power lines.