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A newly “rolled out” Proton-M, carrying the Inmarsat-4F3 spacecraft.

There are, to be frank, not many spaceports on the planet as of 2011. Of the thirty or so only six of them have sent people in to space. Four of those are located in the US, another in China and the sixth and oldest is to be found in Kazakhstan…

It is known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome and as well as being the oldest it is also the largest spaceport in the world. It has quite a remarkable history. Still in operation, it has seen huge political change in its time and is set to function as a space port until at least 2050.

Yet Kazakhstan is not usually the country that springs immediately to mind when it comes to the space faring nations. It is the largest landlocked country on the planet, as well as being the ninth largest country in the world; its territory exceeds that of Western Europe. So why is the cosmodrome there at all? Until 1991 it was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) a single party socialist state which covered most of the territory of the old Russian Empire.

image credit

via The Presurfer