Very few people live in this area which is not accessible by highways. During the winter, the region is full of Siberian ibex goats, musk deer and brown bears. The tranquility of these beautiful mountains breaks because the area is located to the east of the world’s busiest space launch. The rocket launches from the Bikanur Cosmodrome Center into Earth’s orbit, the Altai Mountains.
Built in the middle of the grasslands of Kazakhstan in 1955, the Bikanur Cosmodrome Center was the starting point for the travels of Sputnik 1, Laika, and Yuri Gagarin. In the US and Europe, rocket launchers are located near the sea, but Russia’s east-facing rockets are used by Kazakhstan’s Bikanur Center. According to Russian media, since the launch of the 50s, over 2500 tonnes of rockets have fallen to Earth, some as large as 10 meters in length. During the Soviet era, Westerners worked hard to retrieve these elements to prevent information about their space program. However, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, these rocket debris remains in Kazakhstan’s grasslands and in the Altai Mountains.
This is common for people living under the rocket’s path. Residents in the region where the rockets are likely to fall have been notified by the Russian Space Agency that they will be provided with protection 24 hours before the rocket launches. If a part of a rocket falls out of the notification zone and is damaged, you can seek compensation. However, part of a rocket seldom falls out of this zone. However, when a rocket fails, it crashes into unexpected places. In 2011, a rocket crashed due to an error while launching a Soyuz-U rocket. A large amount of fuel was left in the rocket, which crashed into an unmanned area in the Altai Mountains. But even the houses, which were about 100 kilometers away, had shattered windows.
LocationAltai Mountains in Central Asia
Altai Mountains in Central Asia
Some residents who live on rocket trails fear that their homes will be destroyed by the rocket’s fall, but others have turned it to their advantage. They wait for the rocket launch announcement and then look up at the sky with telescopes. They observe the paths of the rockets and move them in jeeps and horses. They then remove the precious metal, titanium and aluminum alloys and other useful materials such as copper wire. These can make a lot of money by selling. The first stage of proton rockets has toxic fuels, and the separation of such rocket stages is risky. But depending on the economic level of the people living in the region, they will not hesitate to take this risk. In 2008, a farmer in Altai claimed compensation for the death of four of his horses when a rocket wreck caused toxic substances leaking into the soil.
The people of Altai rely heavily on land. Crop cultivation and livestock are their main livelihoods, and doctors in the region allege that health problems are compounded by the contamination of their food and water by parts of rockets. A 2005 study found that children in those areas double the risk of endocrine and blood disorders. Almost every child in some villages is reported to have jaundice. A Siberian deer blinded by poisonous chemicals has reportedly been found roaming in the snow. But the Russian government denies that there is a link between rocket debris and existing health problems.
However, the launch of the rocket from Baikonur will soon be over. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Baikunur belonged to Kazakhstan. Russia uses this to pay for Kazakhstan. As a result, Russia is building a Vostochny Cosmodrome launch center near the east coast, and it will start using it by 2021.