Fifteen years ago, Russia conducted the first and only launch of a space transport shuttle "Energia-Buran." After making two orbital circuits in an autopilot regime, the Russian "space plane" smoothly landed on the Yubileiny airstrip at the Baikonur space center.
"It was a tremendous event. Everybody was laughing and crying with happiness," recalls a witness of the event, head of the Mission Control's press centre Valery Lyndin.
"Bad weather spoiled the overall impression a bit - due to low cloud cover we were not able to see the approach and landing in all their beauty," he added.
Mr. Lyndin believes that "the Americans would never have launched their first shuttle in such a bad weather - there was a strong side wind, with gusts of up to 17 meters per second." According to Valery Lyndin, "pilot Magomed Tolboyev, who monitored the Buran landing from the cockpit of his escort fighter, said that he had an impression that the shuttle was piloted by an "ace" - such accurate were the on-board automatic controls of approach and landing." To our great disappointment, this system is still not used in the civil aviation despite the fact that it allows landing a plane in the worst weather conditions with almost zero visibility," Mr. Lyndin pointed out.
The plan of the second experimental flight of the "Energia-Buran" space shuttle included its docking with space station "Mir." However, due to various political and economic reasons, the launch never happened.
"Until today, like many other fans of space exploration, I feel sad about it," admitted Mr. Lyndin.