The pace was truly cosmic: just a few weeks after a decision was made on February 12 1955, construction crews arrived into the desolate Kazakhstan steppe, only inhabited by snakes, scorpions and ground squirrels. While absolutely uninhabitable, the location was perfectly fit for its purpose. In two years, after excavating almost 1.5 million cubic meters of soil and building numerous structures, the facility was commissioned for the launch of the Sputnik, the first manmade Earth orbiter in history. This was followed up by the Vostok with Yuri Gagarin onboard, and other spaceships: Vostok, Voskhod, Soyuz, to name just a few. In the early 1990s, the launch site ended up on Kazakhstan soil as the Soviet Union was dissolved, so Russia the space power had to lease the launch site from Kazakhstan which would otherwise be lost at what to do with launch facilities. On April 28, 2001, the launch site was the location of another memorable event. This time it inaugurated the era of space tourism as the Russian spaceship SoyuzTM-32 took off to the International Space Station. Accompanying an international cosmonaut crew aboard with Yuri Baturin from Russia and Talgat Musabayev from Kazakhstan was the first space passenger in the world, Dennis Tito, an American businessman of Italian descent.
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