Looking at NASA’s space shuttle orbiter and the Soviet Buran orbiter side by side, it’s not hard to see the similarities. And the most common knee-jerk reaction, in light of the fact that NASA’s shuttle flew seven years before Buran, is that the Soviets copied the American design. There ‘s a fair bit of truth to this; the Soviets did borrow heavily from the American design. Suspecting that NASA’s shuttle was first and foremost a military vehicle – the agency announced that there would be a shuttle launch facility built at Vandenberg Air Force Base to facilitate Department of Defense launches and public documents said the orbiter would have a 1,242-mile cross-range landing capability – the Soviets decided that copying it to have the same capabilities as the Americans in space was the safest bet. The story of Buran is a fascinating one about how Cold War paranoia led the Soviet Union to abandon its own plans in space to match an unknown American threat, and it’s the subject of my latest feature article at Ars Technica.For more on Buran, check out buran-energia.com and Bart Hendrickx and Bert Vis’ Energiya-Buran.