by Kurt Channing
“Buran,” which means “snowstorm” in the local lingo, was the name given to the Russian Reusable Space Vehicle, what the Americans call a Space Shuttle. Given the state of the Russian economy at the time, it was probably decided to cut down on marketing costs and name all such vehicles the same, a much less media-friendly move than the dreaming up of swashbuckling individual monickers like “Discovery,” “Atlantis” and “Columbia.”
|Because they’re cousins… identical cousins..
can you spot which vehicle now serves borscht?
Nonetheless, Buran serves as an interesting experiment in nature-vs-nurture, at least in the field of Space. The two Shuttles are as indistinguishable as a Ford Taurus from a Mercury Sable, at least from the exterior. Buran’s guts may be more up to date, though all I can hint at is that the gauges are all in metric and feature those silly backwards ‘N’s. Its maiden (though unmanned) flight was in 1988, nearly three years into the hiatus following the Challenger explosion. Despite the success of the mision, in which Buran looped a couple of times around the planet before returning, the writing was on the wall, and sweeping changes in Russia put all Burans out of commission, never to fly again.
So where are they now? One of them was turned into a restaurant, on Gorky Park. Sort of like the Moscow equivalent of New York’s Tavern on the Green, except the Tavern doesn’t have a simulator in the cockpit or its cargo bay doors sealed against the weather. Another one was used as a sort of tourist attraction during the Sydney Olympics, and it recently resurfaced with a “For Sale” sign on the window:
However, no takers yet. Maybe they should try parking it near the intersection of Wickham and Sarno, it’s a pretty high-traffic area and it would certainly dwarf the unwanted trucks and Monte Carlos that seem to be part of the natural fauna in the area. Melbourne is pretty close to the Kennedy “Spaceport,” home of its glamorous American cousin. Who knows, this could be another “Prince and the Pauper” in the making.