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A journey into the unknown

A watch made from a space rocket… For two years, this idea gnawed away at me at all hours of the day and night – yet when I raised the subject afresh, my wife simply rolled her eyes.
Admittedly, it was absurd. But at some point, I’d come to be in possession of the knowledge about how one might go about acquiring rocket material for themselves.

In Kasachstan: Mitten in der kasachischen Steppe liegt der Weltraumbahnhof Baikonur. Dort starten die Raketen und fliegen in drei Stufen ins All. Die erste Stufe wird kurz nach dem Start gezündete. Normalerweise starten Raketen an den Ostküsten der Kontinente Richtung Osten, so stürzen die Raketenstufen gefahrlos ins Meer. Nicht so in Kasachstan: Dort fallen die abgesprengten Booster in die Steppe – allerdings in streng bewachtes, militärisches Sperrgebiet!

After lengthy investigations, I succeeded in locating a contact. What he told me sounded promising, so in April 2012, I set off to Kazakhstan with two friends. It was a journey into the unknown – and every day there brought new surprises.

Thomas, Marco and Patrick on their way through the Kazakhstan steppe
Though it wasn’t possible to gain access to the exclusion zone, the Steppe was still a magnificent sight.
Just as many people in Switzerland looked at me – still look at me – with incredulous expressions when I tell them of my idea, so the Kazakhs were perplexed to learn of our intentions. The idea that anyone would want to produce luxury Swiss watches from rocket material was one they simply could not wrap their heads around. No-one believed us. And since we weren’t quite sure of the legality of our endeavours to bring samples of recovered material back to Switzerland, it was difficult not to be wrong-footed by their mistrust.
I’ll never forget how one particular red-hoodied young man attached himself to us and refused to leave us alone. Even more remarkable was the fact that he spoke perfect German. He wanted to know everything about us, and peppered us with questions. My friends and I were overcome with a feeling of unease. He had to be a spy. Paranoia set in. That was it; we’d fallen into the clutches of the Russian secret service. When the boy walked away from us, we laughed out loud with the sheer sense of relief.
The supposed “agent”.
Despite the small amount of materials brought back, the trip was a real success!

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