The Soviet Union’s decades-long attempt to counter the U.S. space shuttle program officially ended after just one test flight, flown in 1988. The Buran orbiter was doomed not because of its engineering and design, which some have argued was even better than NASA’s shuttle, but because of timing. Begun in 1976, the Buran project finally came together just as the Soviet Union was falling apart. Russian president Boris Yeltsin called off the program for good in 1993.

After that, the two Buran orbiters just sat there. One was destroyed in a building collapse during a 2002 earthquake, but the second is still housed with a test model in an immense facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the launch site that’s still used for Russian rocket launches (including the ones that take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station). Photographer Ralph Mirebs went inside, documenting the vast infrastructure of the long-defunct space program that’s just gathering dust in a cavernous warehouse.

See the rest of Mirebs’ photos from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Live Journal.

[h/t: Ars Technica]

All images (c) Ralph Mirebs via Live Journal