09ASTANA560, KAZAKHSTAN: AMBASSADOR ACCOMPANIES NASA DELEGATION TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA560 2009-03-31 12:18 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO5069
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK
RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0560/01 0901218
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 311218Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5063
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1430
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0808
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1511
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0495
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0993
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0906
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEANAT/NASA WASHDC
RUCHNVM/NASA JOHNSON SPACE CEN HOUSTON TX
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1366

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 000560 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, OES/PCI (PHUDAK, NFITE) 
MOSCOW FOR NASA (DMCSWEENEY) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL TSPA SENV RS KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  AMBASSADOR ACCOMPANIES NASA DELEGATION TO 
BAIKONUR FOR SOYUZ LAUNCH 
 
ASTANA 00000560  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (SBU) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2. (SBU) SUMMARY:  During March 25-27, the Ambassador accompanied a 
NASA delegation to the Baikonur cosmodrome in south-central 
Kazakhstan to observe the launch of a Russian Soyuz space capsule 
destined for the International Space Station.  All Soviet and 
Russian human spaceflight missions have originated from Baikonur. 
Kazakhstan currently leases Baikonur to Russia for $115 million per 
year through 2050.  On launch day, May 26, the Ambassador and the 
NASA Delegation headed for Site 254 where the group witnessed the 
crew suit up and then toured the Baikonur Space Museum.  Finally, 
after arriving at the launch site's viewing stands, the delegation 
observed the successful launch of the Soyuz TMA-14 space capsule. 
U.S-Russian cooperation and partnership in space exploration has 
endured in spite of political ups and downs in the overall bilateral 
relationship and may become even more fruitful and productive in the 
future.  END SUMMARY. 
 
AMBASSADOR ACCOMPANIES NASA DELEGATION 
 
3. (SBU) The Ambassador, together with the Regional Environmental 
Officer (REO), accompanied a NASA delegation to the Baikonur 
cosmodrome in south-central Kazakhstan to observe the May 26 launch 
of a Russian Soyuz TMA-14 space capsule destined for the 
International Space Station (ISS Flight 18S).  The Soyuz crew 
members were Commander Gennady Padalka (Russia), Flight Engineer 
Michael Barrett (U.S.), and Space Flight Participant Charles 
Simonyi, a former Microsoft executive from the United States who was 
making his second trip into space.  Senior NASA delegation members 
who attended the launch included Associate Administrator for Program 
Analysis and Evaluation Michael Hawes, Associate Administrator for 
Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier, Kennedy Space Center Director 
Bob Cabana, and Johnson Space Center Deputy Director Ellen Ochoa. 
Anatoliy Perminov, head of Roskosmos, Russia's federal space agency, 
also attended the event, as did Russian Ambassador to Kazakhstan 
Mikhail Bocharnikov and representatives of the Japan Aerospace 
Exploration Agency. 
 
BAIKONUR BACKGROUND 
 
4. (SBU) The Soviet Union originally constructed the Baikonur 
cosmodrome as a site for the testing and development of its first 
ICBM and later expanded the site in the late 1950s to accommodate 
space flight activities.  All Soviet and Russian human spaceflight 
missions have originated from Baikonur.  After the collapse of the 
Soviet Union, Baikonur fell under Kazakhstan's control, and Russia 
and Kazakhstan now have an agreement under which Kazakhstan leases 
Baikonur to Russia for $115 million per year through 2050.  Located 
in semi-arid south-central Kazakhstan, the Baikonur cosmodrome 
covers approximately 4000 square miles of territory (80 by 50 miles) 
and contains 52 launch pads.  The nearby city of Baikonur, built to 
support the cosmodrome, had been a secret town with various names 
over the years in an attempt to hide the cosmodrome's actual 
location.  Down from a high of 100,000, the city's population now 
numbers approximately 60,000.  It sits on the north bank of the 
Syr-Darya river, one of the two major rivers in Central Asia that 
flow into the Aral Sea.  In addition, the Moscow-Tashkent railroad 
runs through Baikonur. 
 
VISIT TO BURAN AND SOYUZ LAUNCH SITES 
 
5. (SBU) After their arrival at Baikonur, the NASA delegation drove 
from the cosmodrome's Yubileyniy airport -- where the Buran Space 
Shuttle landed after its one and only orbital flight -- across bleak 
empty steppes to visit the Energia launch site, where the heavy-lift 
Energia rocket was launched for the first time.  Since 1993, this 
launch site has not been used, and signs of its sad decay led one 
observer to comment that it resembled a "Mad Max" movie set.   The 
delegation then traveled to the Soyuz launch site to see the rocket 
that would be launched the next day.  The Soyuz launch site contains 
 
ASTANA 00000560  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
a moving memorial to the historic first Sputnik satellite launched 
into space in 1957 from this site -- an event which profoundly shook 
the U.S. scientific establishment and helped spur the establishment 
of NASA.  The monument'
s inscription says simply: "It is here that 
the genius of the Soviet people began their audacious assault on 
space." 
 
6. (SBU) One could feel the imprint of history and the ebb and flow 
of Soviet and Russian endeavors over time.  Observing the rocket 
that would be launched the next day, one NASA scientist commented 
admiringly that this Russian rocket's design is basic and simple but 
durable, robust, and reliable, and it can be launched in any 
weather.   He noted that U.S. rockets are high-tech, sophisticated, 
and very capable, but they are more dependent on the weather 
conditions being optimal before they can be launched. 
 
BAIKONUR THE CITY 
 
7. (SBU) After visiting the launch sites, the delegation arrived for 
its stay at the Sputnik Hotel.  The Sputnik is a reasonably good 
quality hotel, but it is far from being a luxury establishment.  The 
hotel restaurant, enjoying a de facto monopoly because of its 
somewhat isolated location on the outskirts of Baikonur city, 
required delegation members to order meals off a special menu that 
cost 35 euros per person, even though the menu also had cheaper 
alternatives, which the delegation was told were "unavailable."  REO 
learned from a NASA official that this had not been the case the day 
before, but the hotel would not budge, because it claimed that it 
always moves to a fixed-price meal the day immediately prior to a 
launch.  A number of delegation members (REO included) walked 40 
minutes into town to a pizzeria, crowded with young Kazakhstani 
enjoying the evening out.  The prices were all in Russian rubles 
(reflecting the "leased" nature of the city), but one could also pay 
in tenge, the Kazakhstani currency -- unlike at the Sputnik Hotel, 
which refused tenge and would only accept dollars, euros, or rubles. 
 A NASA photographer, who had been to Baikonur some fifteen times 
since 1993, said when the pizzeria first opened, it was the first 
western-style restaurant in Baikonur, and competitors started a 
smear campaign, pasting leaflets on trees all over town warning 
citizens that they would become deathly sick if they went to eat 
there.  Judging from the crowded tables at the pizzeria the night we 
visited, it appears the campaign has failed to dissuade Baikonur's 
youth from frequenting the establishment. 
 
SUIT UP AND SPACE MUSEUM 
 
8. (SBU) On March 26, Launch Day, the NASA delegation departed the 
Sputnik Hotel in a heavy rain and headed for Site 254, where the 
group witnessed the crew suit up and report to the Roskosmos State 
Commission on its readiness for launch.  While the crew went to the 
capsule, the group toured the Baikonur Space Museum, which is filled 
with historical memorabilia of the Soviet and Russian space programs 
and their achievements, saw one of the Buran Space Shuttle orbiter 
test models up close, and visited the cottages of cosmonaut Yuriy 
Gagarin (the first man launched into space on April 12, 1961), where 
he spent the night prior to launch, and Sergey Korolev, who is 
considered the founder of the Soviet space program. 
 
SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH 
 
9. (SBU) The delegation then arrived at the viewing site, an 
open-air covered viewing stand one mile from the actual launch site. 
  Shivering and cold, the group watched the rocket carrying the 
Soyuz space capsule successfully lift off the pad and disappear into 
the clouds, leaving behind a fiery tail in its wake.  We could not 
help but feel, at that moment, that we had witnessed something 
special that few people actually have a chance to see.  We also saw 
a clear instance of the continuing close U.S-Russian cooperation and 
partnership in space exploration that has endured in spite of 
political ups and downs in our overall bilateral relationship and 
 
ASTANA 00000560  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
may become even more fruitful and productive in the future. 
 
HOAGLAND

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