Russian space shuttle Buran inches towards new German home

Other News Materials 12 April 2008 23:19 (UTC +04:00)

A veteran Buran space shuttle from Russia inched its way on a low-loader truck to a private museum in Germany Saturday after gliding up the Rhine river this week on a barge. ( dpa )

The spacecraft was built for the Soviet Union's 1980s Buran space programme, which had to be cancelled because of the huge costs.

Police said 15,000 onlookers as well as media people observed the unusual sight Saturday.

The shuttle was dismantled into four parts for the 3-kilometre journey by truck.

It is to be restored at the museum in Speyer and put on display in September.

Museum chief Hermann Layher said it cost 10 million euros (16 million dollars) to acquire and transport the shuttle.

It was on display in Sydney during the 2000 Olympic Games, has more recently been seen in Bahrain and has been bought by the Speyer Museum of Technology, one of Germany's premier collectors of vehicles and aircraft.

The Buran was lashed to an extra-wide barge for its 650-kilometre journey at 12 to 16 kilometres per hour from the Dutch port of Rotterdam up the Rhine valley.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Dutch skipper Ben Kik on the barge.

The barge needed a special permit because the shuttle, which bears more than a passing resemblance to US space shuttles, is 25 metres wide.

Another Buran made it into space, but this one only flew in the atmosphere, 25 times in all from 1984 to 1988.

The museum says it won a legal battle in the Bahrain courts against a Singapore businessman who claimed he was the craft's rightful owner.

Layher said souvenir hunters stole cockpit equipment from the Buran in Bahrain, but replacements had been obtained in Russia.