The current turmoil in Kazakhstan has not seriously affected the country’s famous spaceport, Russian officials said.
Rising fuel prices have prompted a recent wave of protests across Kazakhstan, an autocratic Central Asian country that was once part of the Soviet Union. Some of the protests turned violent, leading to the deaths of dozens of anti-government protesters, according to The New York Times.
But Baikonur Cosmodrome – the spaceport was established by the Soviet Union in southern Kazakhstan in 1955 and remains the starting point for all Russian crewed space missions – has remained largely unaffected by the unrest, follow Roscosmos, Federal Space Agency of Russia.
“The situation in Baikonur is normal; all law enforcement agencies are working regularly,” Roscosmos Press Service told Space.com by email. “The head of the Baikonur administration, Konstantin Busygin, regularly reports on the situation around Baikonur to Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin.”
NASA astronauts are fairly frequent visitors to Baikonur; they launched towards the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Russia Soyuz spacecraft from the site many times over the years.
In fact, Soyuz was the only trip to orbit for astronauts in nearly a decade after NASA decommissioned its space shuttle fleet in 2011. That changed in 2020, when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule begins its mission to the ISS from Florida. (Aerospace giant Boeing is also working to put its space taxi, the CST-100 Starliner, into service soon.)
But no NASA employees or assets are currently in Baikonur, so the agency is not directly affected by the current situation in Kazakhstan, agency spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com via email. .
Of course, what is happening in Kazakhstan matters in the bigger picture and on several levels, from humanitarian to political.
“The latest protests make sense as the country has so far been seen as a pillar of political and economic stability in a volatile region, even if that stability comes at the cost of a political government suppresses dissent,” The New York Times wrote. “The protests are also important because Kazakhstan has aligned itself with Russia, whose president, Vladimir V. Putin, considers the country – a body duo to Russia in terms of economic and political systems – as a part of Russia’s sphere of influence.”
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow them on Twitter @Spacedotcom or above Facebook.
https://www.space.com/kazakhstan-unrest-baikonur-cosmodrome-roscosmos-nasa Unrest in Kazakhstan does not affect the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Russia says