Buran, Russian for "snowstorm", was the Soviet response to the US space shuttle program. The Buran program was short-lived, but it produced one of the more remarkable space-based achievements of the 20th century. Launched on November 15, 1988, it was the first successful launch and reenry of an autonomous space plan.
Buran entered the Earth's orbit, assisted by an Energia rocket, which so far is the largest floating electric rocket ever built, circled the planet twice and returned to Earth with a successful landing flight without the intervention of a single cosmonaut (since there was someone on board). The landing was remarkably accurate and although it was high on reentry, Buran came to rest only 9.8 meters laterally and 33 meters longitudinally from its projected landing point.
Because of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Buran program was moth-balled and, in an unfortunate accident in 2002, Buran itself was destroyed when a poorly maintained hangar held it together. Buran is still the largest autonomous space plane ever evolved (weighing in at 231,000 pounds with full payload) and for almost 22 years, the only autonomous space plan launched – in April 2010, the Boeing X-37 became the second spacecraft successfully complementing a whole autonomous track and reentry.