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Space

Kazakhstan's Spaceship Junkyard 307

Posted by Zonk
from the mos-eisley dept.
Richard W.M. Jones writes "What happens to the booster stages of rockets? They fall back to earth, and in most cases into the oceans. But not in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where the first stages fall over populated farmland. The locals have become rich dealing in the titanium-rich scrap metal as this article and this remarkable photo essay show. So far the only casualties seem to have been a few dead cows."
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Kazakhstan's Spaceship Junkyard

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  • by nxtr (813179) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:51PM (#12673102)
    ...rocket falls on YOU!
  • by eurleif (613257) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:52PM (#12673108)
    So that's how cattle mutilations happen!
  • by Lingur (881943) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:53PM (#12673116)
    I predict that the server will go down like the boosters. First, heating up, then, burning up, and finally, nothing but scrap metal.
    • by eobanb (823187) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:18PM (#12673264) Homepage
      here, have a nice big helping of article text.

      KAZAKHSTAN'S SPACESHIP JUNKYARD
      A EurasiaNet Photo Essay by Jonas Bendiksen
      Text by Laara Matsen

      On April 16, Russia announced that it would henceforth launch military satellites at the Pletsnesk cosmodrome in northern Russia, ending the practice of launching satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This shift will deprive Kazakh children of the chance to watch some satellites take off, though Baikonur will remain the launchpad for commercial "birds" and manned missions. As these photos show, it will also spare Kazakhs the fallout, literal and otherwise, that occurs in a launch's wake.

      All space-bound rockets consist largely of fuel tanks and booster stages that fall back to earth when spent, never reaching orbit. In landlocked Baikonur, Russia's primary launching complex in Kazakhstan, these spaceships crash to earth. This photo essay visits the areas where the supporting rockets land, and shows the people living under the flight paths who contend with flaming spaceship wrecks several times each month.

      Apart from the fear of having a spaceship crash through their roofs, residents in the area complain of the ill effects of leftover toxic rocket fuel. With the relocation of Russian military launches, more than half of which currently take off from Baikonur, these people may get some relief. However, one group of people is probably sorry to see Baikonur lose business; the region's scrap metal dealers are getting rich trading metal from the rockets' titanium alloy hulls.
      • by NoseBag (243097) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:47PM (#12673393)
        Thank you!

        Since you were the first to most graciously post the article from the (so predictably) now-slashdotted server, you win.....(drum roll)....

        ONE SIDE OF KAZAKHSTANI BOOSTER-SMACKED BEEF!

        Yes good comrade...Kazakhstani beef. Not a substitute! This beef was slow-marinated in pure slavic hydrazine - no oxygen here! - after being gently but firmly caressed by a 13-ton booster moving at terminal velocity! Range-smacked! Bones and cartillage removed or pulverized in a split-instant! No abattoir farm for the Kazakhstani!

        Bon Apetite!
    • by cluening (6626) on Monday May 30, 2005 @12:20AM (#12674007) Homepage
      After seven years of the same "the server is going to do something vaguely related to the story!" comments, you would think people would stop rating them as 'funny'...

      (apologies to the original poster; yours just happened to be the one showing up as such right now)
  • Mooo! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Apathy (584315) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:53PM (#12673117)
    Sucks to be a cow ...
  • I hope this isnt the same server that is used to guide the rockets or theres gonna be a hell of a lot more dead cows
    • Dude, that doesn't even make sense. Why does ever joke about a slashdotting get modded up no mater how lame it is?
      • Dude, that doesn't even make sense. Why does ever joke about a slashdotting get modded up no mater how lame it is?

        Probably because the usual barrage of In Soviet Russia, hot grits, Step #3 profit, welcomed overlords, beowulf clusters, duped articles, petrified Portman, misspelled articles, Micro$$$oft anything, Jon Katz, Slashdotter virginity, and SCO Madness seem shriveled and flaccid in comparison.

        I'm not disagreeing with you, just making a point. If Slashdotters could recycle plastics and aluminum th
        • "If Slashdotters could recycle plastics and aluminum the way we recycle old jokes, that old Indian dude on the Hootie the Owl commercial wouldn't cry anymore. "Give a hoot, don't pollute!""

          The actor who posed as an Indian, and claimed to be of Cree/Cherokee descent, was in reality a Sicilian [snopes.com]. And the tears were fake.

          -cp-

  • Wow.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Renraku (518261) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:54PM (#12673124) Homepage
    These farmers, rather than demand restitution from the government got off their asses and turned lemons into lemonade.

    Of course, a certain government might turn their lemonade into military action when they decide they want a piece of the pie.

    If spent stages from a US rocket hit some home in the US, it would be removed overnight, the family would be given a check for 20% of the value of what they lost, forced to sign an NDA, and no one would ever hear about it again.
    • by loqi (754476)
      To be equally absurd, it would cause a media sensation, the public would freak out about the viability of space travel, and NASA would get axed.
      • Considering that each time a volunteer crew dies in the current prototype orbiters they halt the entire program, having civilian causalities would probably get the entire program scrapped. Or at least put on hold for a decade.

        --
        Evan

    • Re:Wow.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by iammaxus (683241) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:11PM (#12673216)
      That's ridiculous. A much more stereotypical response in the US would be for NASA to pay the family 200% of the value of what they lost, and the scrupulous family would still insist on suing for additional millions for the "emotional damage" resultant from the loss of their goldfish. The subsequent increase in insurance costs would push commercialization of space back a decade or two.
      • Re:Wow.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by learn fast (824724) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @10:21PM (#12673512)
        NASA also wouldn't dump boosters into populated areas in the first place.
      • A much more stereotypical response in the US would be for NASA to pay the family 200% of the value of what they lost, and the scrupulous family would still insist on suing for additional millions for the "emotional damage" resultant from the loss of their goldfish.

        Don't forget then selling the rights to their story to Fox in order to make it into a movie-of-the-week, where while the main stage falls in some cornfield in central Nebraska, killing three chickens in the process, some part inexplicably fal

      • Re:Wow.. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drsmithy (35869)
        A much more stereotypical response in the US would be for NASA to pay the family 200% of the value of what they lost, and the scrupulous family would still insist on suing for additional millions for the "emotional damage" resultant from the loss of their goldfish.

        And then somehow manage to be back in the poorhouse within two years...

        • This is so very very very true.

          Somewhere in my family, someone was awarded about $100,000 in medical damages for gross negligence when their doctor did some really stupid shit.

          And you know? They kept their job (they had been living about the middle-low range of middle class before) and after they spent the $100,000, they ended up in the middle range of poor.

          They still can't explain how it happened. Only thing they have to show for it is a cheap fishing boat tht cost all of 2% of their winnings.
          • Once, it somehow became knowledge within my extended family that someone had come by a lot of money (the story I heard was some antique that was sold for a lot of cash). Certain relatives that most of us hadn't heard from in years suddenly popped up and began spending a lot of time with the wealthy person. When the supposedly wealthy person died a few years later, the executor (not a member of the family) discovered that she was barely more than peniless and surviving only on Social Security. The only r
    • And if it killed someone, they could just sell the titanium, and it would be OK, right?
      • Re:Wow.. (Score:5, Funny)

        by myowntrueself (607117) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:20PM (#12673273)
        "And if it killed someone, they could just sell the titanium, and it would be OK, right?"

        I don't know... how much titanium is there in a human body?
        • Re:Wow.. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by idontgno (624372)
          I don't know... how much titanium is there in a human body?

          Hmmm...I dunno. In this situation, I'd guess several pounds, post mortem.

        • "And if it killed someone, they could just sell the titanium, and it would be OK, right?"

          I don't know... how much titanium is there in a human body?


          I suppose that depends on how hard of an impact it was...
    • Re:Wow.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dj245 (732906)
      So you're saying ex-soviet Russia is more capitolistic than the US, or they have more Freedom?

      And by Freedom I mean the common definition of freedom as applied to countries; a lack of government involvement in people's day-to-day affairs.

    • Yeah, we really are jackasses when it comes to things like this.

      I'm sure that next time we accidentally drop a rocket stage on another country, we'll nuke the shit out of them trying to get in on the action. I mean, the whole thing makes so much sense.

      That's just how we American's think, right?
      • That's it, NASA proposes a new flight path directly over Iraq. It would require a rocket booster drop (nuclear cough cough) somewhere over the middle east.

    • These farmers, rather than demand restitution from the government got off their asses and turned lemons into lemonade.
      I would call this Russian Roulette on a large scale. Intentionally crashing tons of scrap metal from high altitude onto neighborhoods is just plain bad policy. Anyone who tolerates this just to make a pittance in the scrap business is an utter fool (and no, I don't believe the claim this was making anybody "rich.")
    • And if one of these does kill someone? A whole family? A busload of children? Nuns?
    • These farmers, rather than demand restitution from the government got off their asses and turned lemons into lemonade.

      As if they had a choice. These farmers spent most of thier lives under a goverments that not only was not likely to pay restitution, it openly was contemptous of the 'rights' of it's population.

      If spent stages from a US rocket hit some home in the US, it would be removed overnight, the family would be given a check for 20% of the value of what they lost, forced to sign an NDA, and no

  • cow tipping (Score:2, Funny)

    by antiaktiv (848995)
    damn, those russians are hardcore cow tippers. who'd have thought?
  • In Soviet Russia, people don't seek rocket; Rocket seek people.

  • Sounds like... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:57PM (#12673140)
    The junkers from Asimov's stories =)
  • Slashdotted, already (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:58PM (#12673148) Journal
    4 comments as I view, and it's down.

    How's this for the ultimate conundrum: the combination of "Nobody RTFA here" and "the Slashdot Effect" taking down sites?

    Maybe some people actually DO RTFA besides myself?

    (sigh
  • by NRAdude (166969) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:59PM (#12673155) Homepage Journal
    Needs about 1,668 degrees Celsius to melt. That's all they can do with it...sell it. I can vouch for one thing, more jewelry is being made of titanium. Strange choice, but consider that 1,000 years ago aluminum was a hundred times more valuable than gold. I melt aluminum into ingots to save when I complete a mold for a tool I need to build. That's the only way to be certain somthing is made in America today, it seems. More power to Our Kazakhstan neighbors.
    • more jewelry is being made of titanium

      A couple friends recently got engaged, and they had an artisan who specialized in jewelry design and make her engagement ring.

      Of all the exotic materials they can make rings out of, one thing she would not do was make rings out of titanium. The reason? In case of certain medical emergencies (snagged in a machine, or crashed car, or whatever), they'd need to cut the ring off to free the finger (and ultimately the entire person). But no paramedic or even hospital wa

      • by keraneuology (760918) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @11:15PM (#12673763) Journal
        Of all the exotic materials they can make rings out of, one thing she would not do was make rings out of titanium. The reason? In case of certain medical emergencies (snagged in a machine, or crashed car, or whatever), they'd need to cut the ring off to free the finger (and ultimately the entire person). But no paramedic or even hospital ward is routinely equipped with tools to cut through titanium.

        Counter [e-weddingbands.com] we contacted our local hospital emergency room and asked if they were equipped to cut off a titanium ring in an emergency. Most hospital emergency rooms are prepared to handle almost anything, and ours assured us that it would be no problem for them. During our 30+ years of jewelry repair experience, we've only seen a dozen or so rings that have been cut off in hospital emergency rooms, and in most of those cases the rings had been bent out-of-round and were putting painful pressure on the finger. Titanium rings are less likely to crush or bend out-of-round, so if you shut your hand in a car door or drop a heavy object on it, it might be safer to be wearing a titanium ring than a precious metal band!

        Counter 2 [cascadiadesignstudio.com] In case of an emergency, such as an injured finger, Emergency Medical Technicians, Fire Departments, and Hospital Emergency Rooms can quickly remove titanium rings. Several non-destructive methods for ring removal are available before resorting to cutting a ring. In the rare event it becomes necessary to cut off a titanium ring, emergency medical professionals carry ring cutters or rotary cut-off tools that cut through metals, including our CP and Aerospace Grade Titanium. In our testing, we found that tools that will cut through steel will also cut through titanium rings.

        Counter 3 [titaniumconnection.com] Titanium rings are created with safety in mind, as there is always the possibility that a ring will need to be removed in an emergency. Tests by various manufacturers have shown that titanium rings can be manually cut with a ring cutter within a matter of minutes, and much faster using an electric ring cutting device, such as those that many paramedics use.

        Counter 4 [canadianbride.com] I had heard that there is a "medical emergency" issue (i.e. they can't cut the ring off of your finger with regular ring snippers) but my friend's hubby, who is an EMT, assured me that this isn't something to be concerned about, since they have different types of cutters they can use should the need arise.

    • by EtherAlchemist (789180) on Monday May 30, 2005 @01:31AM (#12674335)

      A couple of things came to mind reading the parent.

      I'd have to say welding titanium is no more difficult than welding aluminum or stainless steel. They're all tricky and it takes practice.

      Titanium can be difficult to work with (especially if you're not set up to do so) but you'll notice that most titanium jewelry is either formed (from wire, rod or sheet) or machined. Titanium rings/bands are machined- not cast.

      Because Ti rings are machined, your local jeweler is likely unable to resize your ring. You can't size it down the way you would common alloy rings (which are cut and soldered to make smaller, stretched to make bigger) so you've got to either go back to the retailer or in some cases the manufacturer.

      Aluminum was more expensive than gold, but its value is subjective, gold has been desired more than any other metal since its discovery. Side note- aluminum used to cost more because until relatively recently it was extremely expensive to extract from bauxite. (If you're interested, it's called the Bayer Process [wikipedia.org])

      Unlike gold and other precious metals and alloys, I don't think titanium and other industrial metals are sold on market exchanges. There's no spot or fix for the industrial metals (that I know of.)

      And lastly, my local scrap metal dealer buys Ti at $.18/pound and sells at $.24/pound. I think this is much lower than it's market value, but even o it's no wonder these farmer guys are making $$$- they have tonnage. Well, and, it's probably hard to find in that market.
    • by SEE (7681) on Monday May 30, 2005 @02:42AM (#12674570) Homepage
      but consider that 1,000 years ago aluminum was a hundred times more valuable than gold

      Aluminum was not known as a metal 1,000 years ago, having been discovered in 1825 and purified enough to really test its properties in 1827. But yes, until the electolytic process was developed in 1886, it was quite vaulable because it was so hard to purify.

      (There were, in fact, only seven pure metals known a thousand years ago -- iron, copper, tin, gold, silver, lead, and mercury. The isolation of zinc and its recognition as a metal dates to c.1200 AD in India, and arsenic was isolated around that time in Europe.)
    • if memory serves, aluminium was isolated in the 1850's only and not a thousand year ago. You are right however to point out that it was expensive at the time, since it was extracted by chemical means and not electrical as later on, from 1880. Napoleon III had aluminium "silverware" for instance.
  • by ElGanzoLoco (642888) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:00PM (#12673159) Homepage
    7 replies and photo essay is already slow as hell...

    Ex-Soviet Russia is famous for *not* managing its nuclear waste (hundreds of nuclear submarines slowly rotting away in Barents Sea, pissing off Finns and Swedes) ; nuclear weapons out of hand or simply "missing" ; some famous fuckups (Tchernobyl; that bio-warfare incident about 20 years ago, when a lab leaked a killer virus over a village) ; etc...

    So nobody should be surprised that they let booster rockets fall on populated areas...

  • Thank you! (Score:3, Funny)

    by firepacket (809106) <flameboy@firepacket.net> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:02PM (#12673179) Homepage
    So far the only casualties seem to have been a few dead cows

    Thank you SO MUCH. I have found my new background.
  • Priceless (Score:5, Funny)

    by ChePibe (882378) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:03PM (#12673182)
    Rocket hitting your barn full of cows, sheep, and Soviet Bloc farm equipment - 677912345234621 Rubles (roughly $20 US). Reselling the rocket to random scrap metal dealers - priceless, or at least 76790823485724429234 rubles (roughly $45 US).
  • Cache (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:06PM (#12673193)
  • by NanoGator (522640) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:12PM (#12673221) Homepage Journal
    I realize there are obvious answers (toxic fuel, fire, etc...) but I'm often surprised when asking these questions.
    • by jericho4.0 (565125) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:24PM (#12673295)
      The cows were killed by a booster falling into a river, damming the river and creating a lake. The lake provided habitat for fowl, which hosted a particularly insidious bird flu. This caused the Russian authorities to kill all birds, people and cows in a 10 mile radius.

      One cow was almost killed by a direct impact, but managed to pull through after weeks of intensive care.

  • I cringed (Score:2, Funny)

    by saskboy (600063)
    First I cringed about locals harvesting space junk. Then I cringed at the words, " this remarkable photo essay show," knowing that meant I wouldn't get to see the photos, and there will be some server junk for the locals to harvest next.
  • Reminds me of the scene in Farenheit 9/11 [rottentomatoes.com] where the kid, shot with Walmart bullets still lodged in his body, gets Walmart to refund their purchase price when he shows up to turn them in.
    • That was in Bowling for Columbine, and it was bullets from K-Mart. Wrong on 2 counts, bucko.
  • I liked Kazakhstan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by peter hoffman (2017) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:36PM (#12673342) Homepage

    I went to Almaty (aka "Alma Ata", the old capital of Kazakhstan) back in about 1994. I really enjoyed it and found the people to be very friendly and enthusiastic.

    I did find the food to be somewhat unique. Breakfast was usually a kind of roll filled with either finely chopped vegetables and/or finely ground meat. I don't know what sort of meat it was and it wasn't even always clear which buns had meat as everything was so finely ground up. It was all tasty though.

    Lunch was fairly straight forward but the dessert was a peculiar electric green sweet foam. I couldn't identify the flavor but it was also pretty good.

    Supper was quite interesting as, although the menu had a variety of items, it turned out what was actually available was either steak or spaghetti. No worry though, both were quite good as was the company!

    The architecture, furnishings, and decor of Almaty were very interesting. For me, it was like an instant trip to the 1950s but in a parallel universe where everything was slightly unfamiliar.

    The name of the hotel I stayed at escapes me right now but it was something like "The Cosmo". I think it has been renamed "Kazakhstan Hotel" based on the pictures I can find. There was a very impressive and very large tapestry commemorating the Soviet space program in the lobby.

    The main thing about my trip was my time in Kazakhstan was far too short. It took ~48 hours to get there, I had ~48 hours there, and then it was ~48 hours to come home. I wish I had time to visit Baikonur Cosmodrome (we were invited to visit by our hosts) but we didn't have time. I'll always regret that.

    Anyway, if you get a chance to go to Kazakhstan, you really should take it.

    • by natrius (642724) <niran@nir a n .org> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @10:24PM (#12673517) Homepage
      Lunch was fairly straight forward but the dessert was a peculiar electric green sweet foam.

      Falling space junk and electric green food don't sound like that great of a combination.

      Especially if it's during an air raid in 1941.

      Are you my mummy?
    • It's probably best that you don't know where the meat came from.
    • i have a friend from that part of the world and according to him they eat a lot of horse meat. if you were in almaty in a restaurant, chances are it was mutton or beef, but he said its not uncommon to find horse on the menu as well.
    • I never went as far as Almaty - I just stayed in the North, close to the safety of the Russian and Chineses borders. :) Ust-Kamenogorosk [calum.org].
  • Hmmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by jpellino (202698) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @10:14PM (#12673488)
    The object the woman's hiolding in photo essay pic #8 looks suspiciously like the things Arthur, Ford, & Zaphod were getting slapped in the face with enroute to rescue Trillian...
  • by 64nDh1 (872430)
    I can't get to the link for the Photo essay, but try the following URL to get to the jpegs directly instead of the Slide show page.

    http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/culture/imag [eurasianet.org] es/sj2.jpg [eurasianet.org]

    That's the second image, a smoking hunk of what must be a fallen rocket casing I guess.

    There's 12 images in all, I've only seen the first two, but they seem to follow simple numeric order, so the others would end

    .../sj3.jpg

    and so on.

    If anyone wants to send me a zip of the pictures if

  • Rehosted images. (Score:5, Informative)

    by 64nDh1 (872430) <my/.Username@gmail.com> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @10:50PM (#12673648)
    An open directory of jpegs 1, 2, 5, 6, 10, 11 and 12. If anyone wants to fill in the gaps, forward the files to my e-mail and I'll add them later.

    http://matrix.netsoc.tcd.ie/~64ndhi/SlashdotKazakh stan/ [netsoc.tcd.ie]

  • A slashdot article that includes a link labled "this remarkable photo essay [notreallyalink.com]."

    Ah, well.
  • I was just curious, I was only able to see a few of the photos before the server got too bogged down..., but from the looks of the one where the guy is standing on the "space junk", I was shocked by the shear size of that thing!

    Does anyone have a rough guess about how much metal is in one of those things? Also, what do you think THEY get in Kazakhstan for the Ti? compared to what we could get here in the US??? Last I checked, Ti was going for around $1 or $1.25 / lb and that is IF you can find a buyer
    • Titan was just another material.
      An airplane factory didn't have orders for planes. But the production must go on, and order sizes for materials should be preserved, otherwise the supply will be cut and renewing the supply channel for given material will be very hard. So they produced shovels. Of titan. For sale, for common people. Costing about as much as a common shovel (and being "common goods", not "luxury", pennies by American standards.) Lighter, a bit more durable, but just a normal shovel. A friend v
  • Yek She Mesh!
    I am Borat and I come from Kazshakstan. I have beeg hhhram, it is beeg like ze booster rockets. Do you want to touch my hhhram? It izsh naice.
    No? Can I touch youaz?
  • I am VERY impressed by the photos - certainly better, artistically, of what Reuters/ANSA or the like usually produces!

    As for the dead cows, I bet they ate grass contaminated with rocket fuel - it can be very poisonous. I am not sure what they use, but hydrazine, for instance, is very poisonous.

  • The photographer [jonasbendiksen.com] has a few more photos online as well as captions to all of them. The cows apparently die due to rocket fuel poisoned soil, not by being hit by the spent booster stages.
    • The cows apparently die due to rocket fuel poisoned soil, not by being hit by the spent booster stages.

      Am I the only one who is really very dissapointed by that? I was really looking forward to some pics of some very flat cows.

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