It's no coincidence that the design of these decaying Soviet space shuttles looks familiar — the KGB successfully stole the U.S. shuttle plans in the 1970s and 80s. Except for one unmanned test flight, the Soviet shuttles never made it into space. The program was officially canceled in 1993, a victim of budget cutbacks in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse.
Perhaps it is the shuttles' resemblance to their stateside cousins that makes these pictures of them slowly disintegrating so poignant. But it is also the prick of unfulfilled potential. Building the shuttles and their gargantuan support buildings was an enormous undertaking — and they barely made it off the ground.
Above: A shuttle test vehicle, front, and "Ptichka," or "Little Bird," the second space shuttle orbiter built for the Soviet Buran space program, sit in a hangar at the Russian-leased cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in 2016.
The Ptichka was 95 percent complete and was scheduled for flight when the program was canceled.
Photos by Dietmar Eckell