Drawing circles on the earth

One reason the mapfetish and I get along so well together is that it suits my tangential nature. I've been poking around on the net for info about compass roses and I came across the most amazing WIkipedia image. On the north end of the lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base is the world's largest compass rose.

I haven't been able to find anything on its origins - when, why, etc. NASA says the image is "painted"(1)(1) on the lake bed. Today it's used as a reference point for aviators and Shuttle pilots to check their compasses. The buildings on the left make up the Dryden Flight Research Center, where the X planes were flown. (dropped?) The current Google Earth image shows the modified Boeing 747 STA (parked by the 0 in 270) that flies the Shuttle back to Florida when it can't land at Kennedy Space Center.

A few weeks ago I was playing with Google Earth and another perfect circle grabbed my attention, this time in Kazakstan. Google Earth shows provincial borders in grey and, obviously, you can't see them from above. So, I imagine that, when some Soviet administrator decided to keep it simple and used a protractor to draw a security cordon around a secret facility, he had no idea that it would make the place stick out like a sore thumb. The perfectly circular border lays out the district of Baikonur (a.k.a. Tyuratam) - home of the former Soviet Union's 'Cape Kennedy.' It's from there that the U.S.S.R. launched Soyuz, MIR, and earlier missions. Today, Russia launches the flights that keep the International Space Station alive through an agreement with Kazakstan. Gary Powers was following rail lines as part of a systematic C.I.A. / Air Force search for Baikonur when he was shot down.2 Launch sites old and new dot the northern half of the province. Anyone care to venture a guess as to why the ground is orange in so many spots?


1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Jfader_dryden.jpg     2http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyuratam 

Dryden Flight Centre http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/news/FactSheets/FS-001-DFRC.html

Zoomable Baikonur map http://www.russianspaceweb.com/baikonur.html

Baikonur history http://www.russianspaceweb.com/baikonur_origin.html