Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Simulated satellite image of Kazakhstan taken from low Earth orbit, showing the area down-range from the Russian space launch site at Baikonur. The area is shown as it would have appeared in 1961, at the time of Yuri Gagarin's first orbital spaceflight. The Aral Sea to the west is shown at its full extent, before the catastrophic shrinkage that started in the late 1960s. Other physical features include Lake Balkhash to the east, the Syr Darya River, and the Kyzyl Kum desert to the southwest. The dry grasslands of the Kazakh Steppe extend to the Ural Mountains on the northwestern horizon.
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