If you know just where to look, you can find two pieces of the Soviet space shuttle on the campus of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
They’re ceramic heat-shield tiles from the Buran shuttle, glued to the bases of plastic models of a Soviet rocket and sold two decades ago as souvenirs by a space program hard up for cash. They now sit in the offices of Fred Hutch basic scientists Drs. Barry Stoddard and Roland Strong, amidst the piles of scientific papers, potted houseplants and other detritus of a researcher’s office, where they serve as mementos of the time the two of them were part of a team that made space history.
Twenty-five years ago this month, Stoddard, Strong and their team members working with the U.S. company Payload Systems, Inc. launched the first-ever commercial American cargo up to the Soviet space station Mir, an event that gained global attention and helped to open up international collaboration with the transforming Soviet space program.