A man in Kazakhstan is apparently attempting to sell a mostly intact Soviet space shuttle to the Russian government in exchange for a single skull which that government may or may not have filed away in storage somewhere. The bizarre negotiation attempt seems to have a questionable chance of success given the fact that no one seems to be completely aware of what has happened to either of these two objects over the course of their somewhat murky histories.
An abandoned Russian space shuttle for sale
The Soviet Union launched the Buran program as a response to the American space shuttle program, intending to construct a number of similar space shuttle type vehicles which could be reused repeatedly.
Unfortunately for the Soviets, the program proved to be ruinously expensive for a government which was already nearing collapse. Only the eponymous Buran was completed before the cancellation of the program, which left the others in various states of completion.
The completed Buran was destroyed in a hangar collapse in 2002. The subject of the current story is a nearly complete second shuttle which has lingered in an obscure state of limbo in Kazakhstan since the fall of the USSR.
Apparently, this 95% complete space shuttle is owned by Kazakh businessman Dauren Musa, though this is all somewhat murky.
A group of men supposedly broke into the abandoned hangar where it resides and posted the resultant footage on YouTube in 2017. The video shows the shuttle in a somewhat eerie state of neglect.
The Russian space agency would very much like to have its space shuttle back and Musa has reportedly told them that he is willing to part with it for a very specific price.
Who has the last Khan’s skull?
Kenesary Kasymov is a somewhat obscure figure outside of Kazakhstan, where he has come to be seen as a national hero in the years since the country gained its independence.
The self-proclaimed last Khan of Kazakhstan led a doomed rebellion against the Russian Empire in the 1840s, attempting to rally the disparate tribes of the region to preserve their old nomadic way of life.
He was apparently a rather brutal despot during his short reign but all is forgiven with time and now Kenesary Kasymov serves as an inspirational figure for Kazakh nationalists.
He apparently met his end when a rival tribesman cut off his head and delivered it to the Russians in a show of loyalty. Kazakhs like Dauren Musa believe that the Russians still have that head.
Multiple museums in Russia have denied any knowledge of its whereabouts but given the number of tumultuous regime changes the country has experienced since the 1840s it is perfectly possible that the head of the last Kazakh khan remains forgotten in storage somewhere in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
In theory each country would get something it wants out of the proposed trade. The problem for everyone involved lies in figuring out who actually has the ability to carry out such an exchange.