International Space Station Expedition Crew Launch
and Tour of the Baikonur Cosmodrome
Download the Astro Trails 2013/14 brochure.
Departs May 2014 - Price from £1,995
In May of 2014, Astro Trails will be navigating the ancient Silk Road in order to observe a manned Russian space launch. The crew for this flight will launch on-board the Soyuz spacecraft, a vessel that was designed and originally operated during the 1960s. Following the shut-down of the US space shuttle programme, this Soviet vehicle is now the only craft available to ferry people to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz spacecraft is actually based on an earlier development from the original R7 intercontinental ballistic missile programme in the 1950’s. The rocket turned out to not actually be a very effective missile rocket, but it did prove to be a very useful vehicle for the development of the Soviet Space programme. Unlike the US Space Shuttle, this is a very robust craft – the engineers at Baikonur claim they are able to launch the rocket in temperatures ranging from +40c down to -40c, and that’s certainly the temperature range experience in that part of the Kazakh Steppes.
The current target date for the launch is May 2014, although at this early stage the precise dates involved may well change. However, the track record of 'on-time' Soyuz manned launches is quite exceptional. We will, of course, change the date of our trip to match the vehicle launch.
As with any operational base, the visit will be dependent on the timing of the launch, and other any other activities that may be running concurrently. But from the experience of previous visits, we can expect to be given good access to the functioning areas of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The landscape here is open barren steppe country and you can expect an uninterrupted view of the launch, usually from a distance of around 1.5 - 2km. This is far closer than is possible for most other rocket launches. The Baikonur launch site has huge significance for the Russian Space Program, serving as the launch site for the original Sputnik and over 400 launches since.
Away from the launch itself, the tour will pass through some of the most evocative and celebrated sights along the Silk Road. This ancient trade route that criss-crossed Eurasia, as well as North and East Africa and operated for over two thousand years. Not only did the path provide exports for the finest goods available, but as a result of the inevitable cultural interaction, a symbiosis of the finest minds, art and philosophies in the world formed down the same paths. Many believe that due to the role that the route played in the development of the ancient civilizations, The Silk Road's contribution to shaping the modern world should not be underestimated.
Please click below to view the Baikonur itineraries we will be offering in 2014:
Soyuz Launch Updates
ISS Expedition 40
Proejct updates will appear here:
Proposed Tour Date
ISS Expedition 40 is scheduled for May 2014. We are now accepting reservations for this project, subject to final confirmation of the tour departure date - we will retain flexibility with the precise dates until about six weeks before the launch date.
Links for further information on Baikonur and all planned launches
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