Baikonur - History

History

The original Baikonur (Kazakh for "wealthy brown", i.e. "fertile land with many herbs") is a mining town a few hundred kilometres northeast of the present location, near Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan's Karagandy Province. Starting with Vostok 1 in April 1961, the launch site was given this name to cause confusion and keep the location secret. (The original Baikonur's residents took advantage of the confusion by ordering and receiving much scarce materials before government officials discovered the deception.) The new Baikonur's railroad station predates the base and retains the old name of Tyuratam.

The fortunes of the city have varied according to those of the Soviet or Russian space program and its Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The Soviet government established the Nauchno-Issledovatel'skii Ispytatel'nyi Poligon N.5 (NIIIP-5), or Scientific-Research Test Range N.5 by its decree of 12 February 1955. The U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance plane found and photographed for the first time the Tyuratam missile test range (cosmodrome Baikonur) on 5 August 1957. See right for a composite satellite image of the early Tyuratam launch complex, the cosmodrome (30 May 1962).

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