Oct 06, 2021 I Paul Seaburn

Owner of Old Russian Space Shuttle Wants to Trade It for a Mysterious Skull

In 1980, the Soviet Union began construction on the first Buran (Russian for "Snowstorm" or "Blizzard") space shuttle orbiter. In 1988, the first and only Buran flew an uncrewed mission and returned safely after two orbits. No other Burans went to space -- the original was destroyed in a 2002 hangar fire, five unfinished ships were dismantled for parts, one was sent to a museum and the last one named Burya mysteriously disappeared.

From 1837 to 1847, a reactionary feudal-monarchical movement to separate Kazakhstan from Russia was led by Kenesary Kasymov, a descendent of a founder of the Kazakh state. Unable to unite the factions against the Russian empire, he was eventually killed and his preserved (smoked) head was sent to Russia. Why are these to seemingly unrelated events mentioned in the same article? A man claiming to own the last missing Russian space shuttle wants to trade it for the missing head of the last Kazakh khan and return it to Kazakhstan. Does that sound like a fair trade?

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Soviet space shuttle in a museum

“I decided to invest in the rescue of these machines after the history of 2002 with the collapse of the hangar roof of the assembly and test building (MIC) and the destruction of the first flight Buran (product 1.01) along with the finished copy of the Energia launch vehicle”

Kazakh businessman Dauren Musa told Caravan.kz he did not want the iconic ships to be sold by the Russian space agency for scrap, especially since Kazakhstan, when it was part of the Soviet Union, played a major part in their history – the shuttles were built there and the only launch took place from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He claims he bought the hangar and the ship from a Russian space program contractor in 2011, but the ownership is being disputed in court. Meanwhile, 2021 is 60th anniversary of the first human in space -- Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – and Russia wants the shuttle for the celebration.

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Yuri Gagarin

If it’s tough figuring out who owns the shuttle, finding poor Kenesary Kasymov’s head is even worse. While it was thought to be in St. Petersburg, former Russian prime minister and president Dmitry Medvedev says the country never had it. Musa says the Soviet shuttle is too valuable to turn over to Russia for nothing, and since it smells like Kazakhstan wormwood, it belongs to the Kazakhs and should only be exchanged for another Kazakh relic – the head of Kenesary Kasymov. Meanwhile, 2021 is almost over. Who will win?

This makes U.S. fights over moon rocks kind of silly, doesn’t it?

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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