Space: Sunny Debut for Snowstorm

The Soviets' own version of the shuttle blasts off

It was not a perfect launch day at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Soviet Central Asia. Winds were gusting; a cyclone was reportedly moving in from the Aral Sea. The temperature was near freezing. Flight officials held an urgent meeting, then made their decision: it was a go. Minutes later the Soviet Union's first space shuttle rose, unmanned, out of a giant fireball that spread over the steppe. Looking much like its U.S. counterpart, the white- tiled, double-delta-winged vehicle, called Buran (Snowstorm), made two orbits around the earth, then executed a perfect automated landing a few miles from where it had blasted...

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