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The Hunt for Rocket Boosters in Russia's Far North

One of the differences between the American and Soviet space programs was that the US launched rockets over water and landed capsules into the ocean, while the Soviets did so over land. The result was a widely-spread junkyard of rocket boosters and fuel tanks in Russian forests. All that tempting scrap metal among poor country folk, and the eyes of the Communist Party everywhere.

They never dared scavenge the junk for scrap until the late 1980s, when the Soviet Union began to fall. At first, they told Tereshin, they hacked the metal with axes. Then someone got the bright idea to use a circular saw. Still, it could take more than a week to dismantle a single booster, sometimes sleeping inside for warmth. They sold the metal—aluminum, gold, silver, copper, and titanium—for cash in the capital Arkhangelsk and also hammered it into whatever they happened to need: flat-bottomed boats (dubbed "ракетаs" or rockets), hunting sleds, fencing, gutters, and even saunas—infusing a region otherwise known for its traditional Russian culture and folklore with a touch of space punk.

The 1990s were the heyday of scrap metal for a wide area of Russia. Read about those metal recovery efforts at Wired. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Flickr user Clare Wilkinson)


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