On November 15, 1988, as snowy clouds and winds were swirling around Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Buran orbiter, attached to its giant Energia rocket, thundered into the gloomy early morning sky. Three hours and two orbits later, the 100-tonne bird glided back to a flawless landing just a few miles from its launch pad.
Despite the kind of strong winds that would rule out any launch or landing attempt by the US space shuttle, Buran touched down just 3m off the runway centreline.
And this planet-wide ballet was performed with its “pilots” safely on the ground.
That’s what one politician wants, saying NASA should keep flying the shuttle to avoid depending on Russia to fly astronauts up.
That could be a disaster, much better to take that average cost of $450 million per shuttle launch and offer $450 billion to the first private company to launch someone to the space station by, say 2011.
Or better yet, for eye-catchiness, take the cost of 2 shuttle launches and round up slightly. $1 billion ought to turn heads, don’t you think?