The current chaos in Kazakhstan is not having a serious impact on the country’s famous spaceport, according to Russian officials.
Soaring fuel prices recently sparked protests across Kazakhstan, an autocratic Central Asian nation that was once part of the Soviet Union. Some of these protests turned violent, leading to the deaths of dozens of anti-government protesters, according to the New York Times.
Corn Baikonur Cosmodrome – the spaceport which was established in southern Kazakhstan by the Soviet Union in 1955 and remains the starting point for all Russian manned space missions – has remained largely untouched by unrest, according to Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency.
Related: Russia’s space centers and launch sites in pictures
“The situation in Baikonur is normal; all law enforcement agencies are working regularly,” the Roscosmos news service told Space.com by email. “The head of the administration of Baikonur, Konstantin Busygin, regularly reports on the situation around Baikonur to the director general of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin.
NASA astronauts are fairly regular visitors to Baikonur; they launched for the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Russian Soyuz spaceship of the site several times over the years.
Indeed, the Soyuz was the only orbit ride available to astronauts for nearly a decade after NASA withdrew its space shuttle fleet in 2011. That changed in 2020, when SpaceX Crew dragon capsule began flight missions to the ISS from Florida. (Aerospace giant Boeing is also working on the upcoming commissioning of its own astronaut taxi, the CST-100 Starliner.)
But no NASA personnel or assets are currently in Baikonur, so the agency is not directly affected by the current situation in Kazakhstan, agency spokesperson Dan Huot told Space.com. by email.
What is happening in Kazakhstan matters of course as a whole, and at several levels, from humanitarian to political.
“The latest protests matter because the country has until now been seen as a pillar of political and economic stability in an unstable region, even though this stability has come at the cost of a repressive government that stifles dissent,” he added. The New York Times wrote. “The protests are also important because Kazakhstan has aligned itself with Russia, whose president, Vladimir V. Putin, sees the country – a kind of double body for Russia in terms of economic and political systems – as part of Russia’s sphere of influence. “
Mike Wall is the author of “The low“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about finding alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Or on Facebook.