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The Baikonur Cosmodrome

Baikonur Cosmodrome in the remote desert steppes of Kazakhstan is one of the most important sites in the history of space travel. During the Soviet era, the first man-made satellite, "Sputnik 1," took off from there in 1957, and it was also the place where the first man in space, Yury Gagarin, blasted into orbit in 1961. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Baikonur has been used to launch missions to the International Space Station. Russia has also continued to operate space missions from Baikonur under the terms of an agreement with Astana, even though this cooperation is now under threat due to a dispute between Kazakhstan and Russia over the rent paid for the use of the facility. (12 PHOTOS)

The "Vostok-1" spacehip, carrying Yury Gagarin on his historic first manned flight into space, blasts off on top of an R-7 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 12, 1961.
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The "Vostok-1" spacehip, carrying Yury Gagarin on his historic first manned flight into space, blasts off on top of an R-7 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 12, 1961.

Cosmonaut Yury Gagarin just before blasting into orbit in the "Vostok-1" at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 12, 1961.
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Cosmonaut Yury Gagarin just before blasting into orbit in the "Vostok-1" at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 12, 1961.

The launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in June 1970.
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The launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in June 1970.

A Russian-made space rocket is transported by rail to the Baikonur launch site in October 1994.
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A Russian-made space rocket is transported by rail to the Baikonur launch site in October 1994.

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