COSMODROME

On the border with the Arctic Circle.
Far North of Russia. 300 km from Arkhangelsk.
Restricted military area of Mezen.

Inhabitants of this area – who base their own survival on hunting and fishing activities – are used to build sledges and boats with fragments of space rockets, and also sell the other internal metal components. The recovery operations take place during the win- ter, in which the river beds freeze and become roads more easily passable with sleds and cars.

In this hostile territory, where environmental and climatic factors make everyday life hard and strenu- ous, computing errors in the trajectories of satellites from Plesetsk’s Cosmodrome become an unexpect- ed resource. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union the most important space base was Bajkonour, now belonging to the independent Kazakhstan. After the second half of the 90’s Russia has increased the launches from the Presetsk base to avoid paying the rent to Kazakhstan, and is actually planning to aug- ment the launches to the 44% of the totality of annual launches by 2020. For many years the spaceport and the city were kept secret. Only in 1983 the Cosmodrome was of cially mentioned for the rst time in the national press of the USSR.

From Presetsk many of the navigation satellites, the weather satellites, and the majority of the military sat- ellites are launched for a wide range of purposes. Since 1997, more than 1,500 launches to space have been made from this site, more than for any other launch base. At launch, each satellite is supported by four propulsion rockets that, disengaging when it reaches orbit, finally fall on earth: according to the official trajectories, any fragments should land in the Arctic regions because poorly populated. In many cases, however, they affect the most populated areas in the South. About 2000 km North of the launch base, there is the area where rockets are recovered by the inhabitants. It is a quite large area where, between forests and tundra, there are about ten villages.

Life for the inhabitants of the area is easier in the win- ter because the rivers freeze and are used as roads. In fact, summers and springs are the most compli- cated time of the year. In April, ice and show melt completely, the rivers’s level rise (even 10 meters), the roads are covered with mud, so most of the time impracticable. In order to go from one village to an- other it is necessary to cross up to 5 rivers. From the most distant village to the town Mezen, the only one in the area with a hospital and other major facilities, it could take even more than 8 hours, depending on the weather conditions. The villagers hop on a van that takes them to a rst river, then a boat to cross the river, than again a van and so on.