Loo leak

It’s bad enough having plumbing problems here on earth, but just imagine if you get a burst pipe in space. Well, that’s what has happened on the International Space Station. There’s been no official confirmation from NASA, but the Russian Space Agency… er… leaked information that a loo in the American bit of the spacecraft had malfunctioned:

“Our colleagues at the Tranquillity module had an incident on Friday. Astronauts separated the water supply line and the liquid leaked. Over 10 liters of water leaked before the problem was fixed. The crew had to collect the water using towels.”

I think that it’s cool that they used towels to collect the water. That’s exactly what I would have used down here on earth, and basically means that I have space age equipment in my bathroom. Amazing.

Relations between the US and Russia aren’t all that great on earth at the moment, and there are issues 420km up as well: remember the hole in the ISS window? Well, as was pointed out in the comments on that post, there’s a suspicion that it might have been sabotage, and Russia aren’t happy about it.

But Rusky or Yank: if your toilet leaks in a confined space all that way up, you know urine trouble. A genuine case of “Houston, wee have a problem”. It must be driving them potty, but I’m sure they’ll soon get to the bottom of it.

I wonder what Vladimir Poo-tin will have to say about all this?

Inflatable Jets and Maskirovka

A great piece in the New York Times describes the ongoing Russian psychological warfare practice of Maskirovka (literally “Disguise”), and how it has been used for hundreds of years, merely being updated to provide a bespoke approach to each individual conflict in which they have been involved.

As Andrew E Kramer tells us, this strategy is merely an larger-scale, upgrade of the traditional camouflage:

The idea behind maskirovka is to keep the enemy guessing, never admitting your true intentions, always denying your activities and using all means political and military to maintain an edge of surprise for your soldiers. The doctrine, military analysts say, is in this sense “multilevel.” It draws no distinction between disguising a soldier as a bush or a tree with green and patterned clothing, a lie of a sort, and high-level political disinformation and cunning evasions.

That’s gone from taking Prague Airport in 1968 via soldiers arriving on a scheduled Aeroflot flight from Moscow, through to alleged humanitarian convoys heading into Crimea and Syria more recently.

And now: inflatable jet planes:

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Yep – that’s not a real MiG-31. It’s simply a MiG-31-shaped bouncy castle. But from space or from reconnaissance aircraft, it looks pretty much exactly the same as the real thing. In fact, here in the middle of this Russian field, it looks pretty convincing too. The idea being, of course, that enemy intelligence is fooled either by the positions or number of aircraft on the ground, prompting strategy based on incorrect information, prompting almost certain defeat (or something).

“If you study the major battles of history, you see that trickery wins every time,” Aleksei A. Komarov, the military engineer in charge of this sleight of hand, said with a sly smile. “Nobody ever wins honestly.”

And, ahead of the upcoming World War recently hinted at by crazy conspiracy sites and taken in, taken up and regurgitated by churnalists at even crazier tabloid newspapers, the Russian fake inflatable military equipment market is booming:

The company would not disclose how many inflatable tanks it made, because the numbers are classified, but Ms. Oparina said output had shot up over the past year. The contract forms one small part of Russia’s 10-year, $660 billion rearmament program that began in 2010. The factory now employs 80 people full time, most on the military side sewing inflatable weapons.

It’s a reminder that while we have the technology to spy on each other from hundreds of kilometres up, to guide bombs and missiles to targets with near pinpoint precision, there’s still a place in modern warfare for simple, basic tactics.

And they still work.

UPDATE: There’s actually a page on the Rusbal website where you can order these things.
“Price: negotiable”

So. Tempted…

North Cape

At the other end of the world from us, but sharing some of our nomenclature, is North Cape – right at the top of Russia, deep within the Arctic Circle and not far from the big red and white striped pillar known as the North Pole. Photographer Andrei Shapran has been there taking photos since 2005.

It looks a bit chilly.

The page is in Russian, and it’s been years since I did my GCSE in Russian, so please forgive my attempts at translation (if only there was some sort of online tool for this kind of thing):

“North Cape” – part of the project “Extreme Earth”. Andrei Shapran working on it since 2005 year – a year in the South Kuril Islands (2005-06, 2010, 2013), in Yakutia, on the Yamal Peninsula in the Krasnoyarsk region (Norilsk and Dudinka), twice in expeditions in Chukotka (2008 and 2015.) three months in the north of Kamchatka (2007).

Like I said, my Russian is a bit patchy. Fortunately, the photos speak for themselves.

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The photos are mainly of small settlements, some still in use, some long since abandoned. Some were cold war military outposts, some mining towns. All of them look soulless, barren and grey. The images aren’t in black and white, but you have to look closely to see that. They’re some of the most interesting, depressing and atmospheric photographs I’ve ever seen.

Here’s the link to Andrei’s work.
A quick Google search of his name will take you to many more of his amazing images – especially here.

And while we’re doing Siberia, don’t forget this post, from warmer times back in 2009.

Sweaty Palms II

Twenty months have passed since I gave you this video of some young gentlemen doing some pull ups. From a crane. Several million metres above Paris.

Now, it appears that the Russian youth are at it as well.

According to PetaPixel:

If you’re afraid of heights you may want to look away, and you should certainly never make friends with these daredevil photographers from Russia. We here in the U.S. have memes, young Russian photographers, it seems, have “skywalking”: the newest extremely dangerous photography fad to hit the Internet.

Skywalking basically involves a photographer making his way up to a death-defying height, and snapping a photo that’s meant to give you both a perspective you’ve never seen before, and that feeling like your stomach just made its way into your throat.

And that post links through to Russian photographer Vadim Mahorov’s photoblog, which has an awesome mix of “skywalking” pictures for you to Luke at (geddit?!?) and some great Urbex stuff as well, à la Silent UK.

Prepare to lose PLENTY of time having a look at the rest of the site – it really is full of amazing examples of urban photography.

Abandoned Russian Polar Nuclear Lighthouses

More lighthouse stuff, via @ChrisRoperZA.

Does exactly what it says in the title.

lh2Dmitriy Vyacheslavovich lighthouse, Taymyroslavich Peninsula*

Some explanation:

…the Communist Party of the Soviet Union decided to build a chain of lighthouses to guide ships finding their way in the dark polar night across uninhabited shores of the Soviet Russian Empire. So it has been done and a series of such lighthouses has been erected. They had to be fully autonomous, because they were situated hundreds and hundreds miles aways from any populated areas. After reviewing different ideas on how to make them work for a years without service and any external power supply, Soviet engineers decided to implement atomic energy to power up those structures. So, special lightweight small atomic reactors were produced in limited series to be delivered to the Polar Circle lands and to be installed on the lighthouses.

Some great photos and handy hints for rogue states and terrorist groups on where to find unguarded plutonium.

Everybody wins. Happy days.

* completely made up.