For most of its existence, the Kazakhstan cosmodrome was a secret site whose location was unknown in the West. It was built at the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, when Russia was part of the Soviet Union and the Space Age was just starting with Soyuz capsule for astronauts.
The Soviets built a secret space facility that they called Baikonur, to make the West think the site was near a small mining town that shared that name. In reality, however, Baikonur was built near another town, called Tyuratam in what was then the ; the Soviets wanted to mask its true location for security reasons.
How did the astronauts get there so fast? There wasn’t any huge technological breakthrough, but rather a change in the procedures that already exist. In a typical flight, the Soyuz capsule will orbit the Earth about 35 times over the course of the two days, modifying its course slightly to get in “line” with the Space Station so that it can dock. During that time, the crew is busy making a lot of different preparations along the way.
“The space station basically had to be placed in a very specific position to set up for the single day docking,” Josh Byerly of NASA told me. “It amounts to having to control and steer the space station and hold its position much more closely than is typical.
They not only had to wait until the space station steered into the proper lane for the Soyuz, but they had to pick a time when the distance between the station and the Soyuz once the Soyuz reached orbit was at a minimum.”