Baikonur Travel Guide, Kazakhstan
The first and the largest space center in the world
Jules Verne and Herbert Wells had highlighted the issue of space flights long before the first rocket was launched, but the trigger for space travel was a war, the Cold War between USSR and USA. A nuclear weapon had to be delivered to the enemy at the rocket speed; thus they started tests that demanded testing areas. This is how the history of Baikonur started.
In 1954 authorities of the USSR put a task for scientists and military officers to find a convenient place for testing area construction. Few conditions applied: large underpopulated and non-agricultural region, availability of railway station for delivering cargo and rocket blocks, accessibility of drinking and technical waters, and some others. There were only 3 suitable places found on the territory of the vast country. The steppe region of Kazahstan at the shores of Syr-Darya, close to the small village Tyuratam, with a railroad Moscow-Tashkent nearby, suited the best for the construction of the cosmodrome.
Baikonur is located on the territory of Kazakhstan, but until 2050, it is rented by Russia. That is why Russian legislation applies on the territory of the city and the cosmodrome. Russian rouble is used as the currency.
Despite the fact that Baikonur is not a secret military object anymore, it is still necessary to obtain a permission from Roscosmos (Russian organization responsible for the space exploration) for getting in to the city and the space center. You will be asked to provide the permission at all checkpoints upon entry and exit. Moreover, it is required to apply for this paper 2 months before the trip to Baikonur. There are 40 travel agencies around the world eligible to apply.
Baikonur travel guide won’t be full without the details of sights. The city is related exceptionally with the space, and thus all sights of the city and the cosmodrome are tied with the history of rocket construction and the space. There are few exceptions though: old locomotive, an Orthodox Church and a rather new Muslim mosque.
Main sights of Baikonur include two museums (one in the city and one at the cosmodrome), and numerous monuments scattered around the city. The city has many busts of famous rocket designers and astronauts; however, the brightest monument of all is the model of the rocket Soyuz.