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Star City and the Baikonur Cosmodrome

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Earlier today, a Soyuz-FG rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying an International Space Station (ISS) crew into orbit. Baikonur, Russia's primary space launch facility since the 1950s, is the largest in the world, and supports multiple launches of both manned and unmanned rockets every year. With the U.S. manned space program currently on hold, Baikonur is now the sole launching point for trips to the ISS. Gathered here is a look at the facility, some of the cosmonaut training programs in Star City outside of Moscow, and a few recent launches and landings -- plus a bonus: 3 spectacular long-exposure images of Earth from the ISS. [41 photos (plus 3)]

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The Russian Soyuz TMA-19 spaceship that will carry a crew to the International Space Station sits on the launch pad at the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on June 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)
The Russian Soyuz TMA-19 spaceship that will carry a crew to the International Space Station sits on the launch pad at the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on June 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)
International Space Station (ISS) crew members U.S. astronaut Joseph Acaba (left) and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka (center) and Sergei Revin demonstrate their space suits at the Baikonur cosmodrome, on May 3, 2012. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
The centrifuge used for training cosmonauts at the Star City space center outside Moscow, on February 21, 2011. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
ISS crew member Russian cosmonaut Sergei Revin inside the Soyuz spacecraft as he goes through training and acquaintance procedures inside the Soyuz spacecraft at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, on May 3, 2012. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
A Soyuz space capsule in a forest during a complex training on emergency landing at a marshy wooded site in winter, with members of an expedition to the ISS, on January 31, 2012. It is a part of their training program preparing for a space flight to the International Space Station scheduled for April 2013. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) #
Members of an expedition to the ISS, Russian Cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov, left, and Alexander Misurkin, right, and US astronaut Christopher Cassidy, center, prepare a fire near their tent in a forest during emergency landing training at a marshy wooded site at Star City, outside Moscow, Russia, on January 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) #
At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft is shown before the its encapsulation into its payload fairing, on December 9, 2010. (NASA/Victor Zelentsov) #
The Progress cargo vessel, surrounded by service towers, in its assembling hangar at Baikonur cosmodrome, on December 20, 2011. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov) #
The Russian Soyuz TMA-01M spaceship that will carry new crew to the international space station is transported from hangar to the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on October 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky) #
Security guards and photographers gather near the Russian Soyuz TMA-19 spaceship as it is transported from a hangar to the launch pad at the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on June 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
Spectators try to grab the highest viewing point to watch the launch of the Soyuz with Expedition 13 crew members, on March 30, 2006. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #
The Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft arrives at the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on October 10, 2008, tilting into place for launch. (NASA/Bill Ingalls) #
A Russian Orthodox priest blesses the Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft at Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 14, 2010. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images) #
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-21 space ship carrying a new crew to the ISS, lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on April 5, 2011. Circular star tracks and the trail of the rocket are the result of the long time exposure. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky) #
A Russian Soyuz TMA-19 rocket blasts off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 16, 2010 on its way to the ISS. The mission was the last launch by a Soyuz rocket to the ISS before the US space shuttle program was mothballed. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images) #
U.S. astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson takes part in an examination at the Star City space center outside Moscow, on March 12, 2010. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
A mockup of the International Space Station in the pool at the Russian Cosmonauts Training Center at the Star City outside Moscow, on February 18, 2011. The center is Russia's main facility for training of space crews. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka listens to a specialist before plunging into a swimming pool as part of a training session at the Star City space center outside Moscow, on July 29, 2011. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi dives in a space suit during a refresher training excercise at the Cosmonaut training center at Star City, Russia, on January 23, 2012. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
U.S. astronaut Michael E. Fossum (right) and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov take part in an emergency situation exercise at the Russian cosmonaut training center in Star City, on May 6, 2011. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
Entrepreneur Charles Simonyi of the U.S. (right) sits in a chair during vestibular training at the Space Training Center in Star City, on February 4, 2009, as he prepares for a trip to the International Space Station. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
Members of an expedition to the International Space Station, US astronaut Karen Nyberg, left, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, right, and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev train in Noginsk, outside Moscow, on August 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze) #
A Proton-M rocket, carrying a Nimiq 6 communication satellite is transported to the launch pad at Russian leased Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome, on May 14, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images) #
Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov sits under observation in a pressure chamber at the Russian space training camp in Star City, Russia, on April 6, 2011. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
Winners of the annual Red Bull Flugtag competition pose for a photo in zero gravity conditions during a flight in a cosmonaut training plane above the Moscow region, on March 1, 2012. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, a member of an ISS crew, signs the door of his room before leaving the hotel for a final pre-launch preparation at Baikonur Cosmodrome, on May 15, 2012. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
Russian police officers guard the Soyuz TMA-22 spaceship which will carry a new crew to the ISS, during its transportation from a hangar to the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, on November 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) #
In a long-exposure image, service towers move away from the Russian Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft carrying an ISS crew of U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, a few minutes before blast off at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, on October 8, 2010. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov) #
The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 15, 2012, carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls) #
Cameramen film as the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft carrying an ISS crew of three, blasts off from its launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome, on May 15, 2012. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov) #
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-02M space ship carrying a new crew to the ISS, flies above the Baikonur Cosmodrome, on June 8, 2011. The Russian rocket carried U.S. astronaut Michael Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky) #
The Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft approaches the ISS on October 2, 2009, carrying NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and Canadian spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte. (AP Photo/NASA) #
During ISS Expedition 20, on June 16, 2009, a photograph taken from orbit of the Baikonur area in Kazakhstan, and the Syrdar'ya River. (NASA) #
A helicopter crew gets ready at Arkalyk airfield in preparation for the recovery mission of the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft with ISS crew of U.S. astronaut Michael Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, near the town of Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan, on November 22, 2011. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov) #
A Russian Soyuz TMA-21 space capsule descends about 150 km south-east of the Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on September 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky) #
A group of Russian rescue service helicopters flies over Kazakh steppe on the way from Kostanai to Arkalyk on October 23, 2008. US space tourist Richard Garriott returned from the ISS in a Soyuz capsule landing in Arkalyk, on October 24 with Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, who had been in orbit since April. (AP Photo/Dmitry Kostyukov) #
The Soyuz TMA-22 capsule carrying International Space Station (ISS) crew members U.S. astronaut Daniel Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, lands in Kazakhstan, some 88km (55 miles) north-east of Arkalyk, on April 27, 2012. (Reuters/Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool) #
ISS crew members, U.S. astronaut Daniel Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, crowded inside their Soyuz capsule shortly after landing in Kazakhstan, on April 27, 2012. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov) #
Russian support personnel arrive to help meet the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft shortly after the capsule landed with Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum, and Flight Engineers Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukawa in a remote area outside of the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on November 22, 2011. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls) #
Russian support personnel work to help get Expedition 29 crew members out of the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft shortly after the capsule landed on November 22, 2011. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls) #
European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Frank De Winne of Belgium eats an apple in a vehicle after he returned to earth in the Russian Soyuz TMA-15 capsule in the steppe near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on December 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Sergey Remezov) #



(Bonus: 1 of 3) This is a composite of a series of images photographed from a mounted camera on the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, from approximately 240 miles above Earth, released on March 22, 2012. Expedition 31 Flight Engineer (and photographer) Don Pettit: "My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then 'stack' them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure." A total of 46 images photographed by the astronaut-monitored stationary camera in the Cupola were combined to create this composite. (NASA/Don Pettit) #
(2 of 3) A composite of a series of images photographed from the ISS, released on March 17, 2012. Space station hardware in the foreground includes the Mini-Research Module (MRM1, center) and a Russian Progress vehicle docked to the Pirs Docking Compartment (right). A total of 47 images photographed by the astronaut-monitored stationary camera were combined to create this composite. (NASA/Don Pettit) #
(3 of 3) A composite of a series of images photographed from the ISS, released on March 16, 2012. A total of 18 images photographed by the astronaut-monitored stationary camera were combined to create this composite. (NASA/Don Pettit) #

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