Russian spacecraft docks in Speyer

In an event that turned into something of a public festival, the retired Soviet Buran space shuttle inched its way onto a flat-bed truck in Speyer before being delivered to the private museum, where it will be restored and put on display.

Russian spacecraft docks in Speyer
Photo: DPA

On Saturday, the shuttle provided an unusual sight for some 15,000 onlookers as it glided along the Rhine. The shuttle, which was once the pride and joy of the Soviet space fleet, started its long journey in Rotterdam last weekend.

“Transporting the space shuttle on the Rhine was something that was really special,” said the Dutch captain of the transport ship, Ben Kik. “That’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Once in Speyer, a giant crane lifted the shuttle from the ship in a painstaking transfer that lasted a full hour. “Calm, calm and even more calm – that’s the most important thing,” crane driver Jörg Plätzer told DPA. “And a steady hand.”

The Buran was designed during the Soviets’ space race with the United States, but it never went into space. It entered the Earth’s atmosphere 25 times between 1984 and 1988, when escalating costs forced President Mikhail Gorbachev to cancel the program.