Wikipedia writes to say
Buran was the first space shuttle to perform an unmanned flight, including landing in fully automatic mode. ...
The same article writes further
The automated landing took place on a runway at Baikonur Cosmodrome where, despite a lateral wind speed of 61.2 kilometres per hour (38.0 mph), it landed only 3 metres (9.8 ft) laterally and 10 metres (33 ft) longitudinally from the target mark. Specifically, as Buran approached Baikonur Cosmodrome and started landing, spacecraft sensors detected the strong crosswind and "the robotic system sent the huge machine for another rectangular traffic pattern approach, successfully landing the spacecraft on a second try."
The NASA Space Shuttle (I use the term to refer to the assembly family rather than a tail) headed either to the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center (TTS), or multiple runways at Edwards Air Force Base (EDW). In the event it undershot it could splash into the Atlantic. If it overshot, it could splash into the Pacific. A similar argument may be applied to the Buran landing at Baikonur - except that Baikonur is land-locked first...
Apparently the Shuttle landing strip at both places was specially
reinforced designed for a high-speed landing. The wikipedia article on the Shuttle Landing Facility (TTS) writes to say
The runway surface consists of an extremely high-friction concrete strip designed to maximize the braking ability of the Space Shuttle at its high landing speed, with a paving thickness of 40.6 cm (16.0 in) at the center. It uses a grooved design to provide drainage, and further increase the coefficient of friction.
I'm unsure about a similar provision being made for the Buran.
Despite all the high-technology precision involved - having an extremely limited set of runways to head for seems contrary.
- Could the Space Shuttle have landed on any long runway other than those specially prepared at TTS, and EDW?
- Was/Were any such long runways along it's flight-path similarly prepared for that purpose, and/or designated port-of-refuge for the Space Shuttle?