Spacecraft floats along the Rhine
Astronomers and space enthusiasts relish those heavenly once-in-a-lifetime events, be it a passing comet or some odd celestial alignment.
Well, in Germany this week a most unusual sight is drawing a lot of attention, though you won’t find admirers looking skyward.
Moving south down the Rhine River atop a set of barges is a Soviet-made space shuttle, one of several test models built for a program that never really got off the ground.
The shuttle, which is remarkably similar in appearance to the U.S. version, is heading to the Technik Museum in Speyer.
“A space shuttle is not transported every day down a river,” said Corinna Handrich, a museum spokeswoman.
“It’s a very special moment for the museum.”
Police in Cologne, where the shuttle rested the night before last, told Handrich on Wednesday that interest in the object was so high it snarled traffic near the waterfront for hours.
Since it left Rotterdam on April 5, the reaction has been much the same up and down the Rhine.
On Wednesday, the barge and its payload floated past the city of Bonn and the remains of the bridge at Remagen before an overnight at Koblenz.
This particular shuttle, one of the Buran series, did not fly in space, though it did make about 25 suborbital test flights, Handrich said.
It lingered in a scrapyard in Bahrain for five years before the museum stepped in.
The museum is spending 10 million euros on the project, an amount that includes the craft itself, transport costs and a newly built exhibition hall.
The shuttle is expected to reach the hall late Saturday afternoon.
Officials will need to cart the shuttle overland for a couple of miles.
For more information on the shuttle and its journey, visit the museum Web site at: www.technik-museum.de.