When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia suddenly found that its main rocket launch facility was situated in newly independent Kazakhstan. Since then, the two countries have periodically squabbled over the strategic Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Tears welled up in Alexey Melnikov’s eyes as a spaceship carrying three astronauts lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome several hours before dawn. The Russian-born, London-based computer programmer had wanted to see the breathtaking spectacle since he was a boy.
A Russian rocket crashed just after taking off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur space center on July 2, causing no immediate injuries, but spreading a cloud of burning rocket fuel into the air. Residents of the district worry that they have yet to see the full environmental and health effects of the disaster. But regional officials have been slow to provide any information.
Russia and Kazakhstan seem headed for a showdown over rocket launches at the Baikonur cosmodrome. Although Moscow and Astana are trying to downplay their differences, both sides seem ready to play hardball in what could be complicated and protracted negotiations.