Russian shuttle sails down the Rhine


Creative Writer
Now, I didn't even know the russians had a shuttle. But It only saw one launch and two orbits, 4 hours in orbit, so maybe it wasn't justified a note in the history books in the West?

Russian shuttle with space mines retires

By Harry de Quetteville in Berlin
Last Updated: 2:10am BST 09/04/2008

It was built to take on America in Cold War star wars, but now a Russian version of the US Space Shuttle has come to earth with a bump to end in a German museum.
The Buran makes its way down the Rhine The Buran * or Blizzard * orbiter, was designed to be equipped with high-technology lasers or missiles and space mines, as Soviet war planners assumed America has weaponised the Space Shuttle.
But 15 years after the project was finally shut down in 1993, marking the end of the Cold War's most ambitious and expensive confrontations, Buran is making a much more peaceful journey into retirement.
Once able to orbit the earth every 100 minutes, it is now chugging down the Rhine on the back of a barge at roughly five miles per hour.
It is headed to the town of Speyer, in South Western Germany, where it is due to arrive on Friday in order to be unloaded and installed as the prize exhibit at the town's Technical Museum.

There museum director Hermann Layher insists it will become “Europe's most spectacular exhibit”.
“This is a dream for out museum,” said spokeswoman Corinna Handrich, “it will be our highlight.”
The museum has fitted the now slow-moving space orbiter with a tracking device, so that enthusiasts can follow its progress down the Rhine.
“Crowds are following it on the river bank,” she said. Buran, considered by the Soviets to have improved on many design flaws in the Shuttle, now appears somewhat less cutting edge than it once did.
Its white heat-resistant tiles have become a little grubby with time, and it has been temporarily shorn of its tail for its journey downriver.
The Speyer Technical Museum reportedly paid up to 7 million pounds to acquire Buran from Bahrain, where is was gathering dust in a warehouse after making a rare public appearance in the 2000 Sidney Olympic Games.
After the Games the spaceship was moved to an exhibition in the Gulf where the museum said it become entangled in a protracted legal battle to secure ownership of the craft.
After a four and half year court battle, Buran was finally dismantled and shipped to Rotterdam earlier this year.
When it arrives in Speyer it will be housed in a specially built hangar, where it is due to be put on display later this summer.
The cost to the museum is just a fraction of the billions of roubles and millions of man hours that the Soviet Union invested from Buran's inception in the 1970s.
But by the time that it took it first flight in orbit, in 1988 after more than a decade in development, the Soviet Union was nearing collapse.
Unmanned, it twice orbited earth in under four hours, before coming back to land on automatic pilot.
Like the Space Shuttle, it was transported on the back of a conventional airplane, but it never flew into space again.
Stepan Mikoyan, the son of famous USSR Politburo leader Anastas Mikoyan, was an accomplished test pilot, and one of his last duties was in mission control for the Buran orbital flights. He wrote about this in Stepan Anastasovich Mikoyan: An Autobiography. The Buran test pilot team used unpowered MIG-25 Foxbat interceptor jets and TU-22M Backfire bombers for dead-stick landings, to simulate how the Russian shuttle would descend to Earth. But they never got the chance to implement their training, because Buran never made manned flights.

Because the Soviet Union was a closed society, along with the tendency of the Western media to minimize the technical achievements of the USSR, we didn't hear much about Buran or many of the other impressive Soviet achievements in aviation and space. Soviet SST: The Techno-Politics Of The Tupolev-144 by Howard Moon is another fascinating book that reveals many amazing secrets of the USSR's aerospace technology, lots of it way, way ahead of its time.

I remember when an Australian navy jet daringly flew through a ring of Russian helicopters when a scale model of Buran made a splash-down in the Indian Ocean, getting the first photos of the Soviet shuttle ever seen in the West. The US Air Force reports described Buran as a "pick-up truck", and then boasted that "our shuttle will be a semi-trailer truck", literally "mine is bigger than yours, Ivan, so too bad for you!" Such was the Cold War.

P.S. Here's another aviation secret from the East: Aeroflot, yes, Russia's Aeroflot, serves the best food you will ever be served on any airline. I know it's true from personal experience. The seats in their few remaining Tupolev airliners are cramped, and Aeroflot flies mostly Airbus and Boeings now, but the food is absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport still can only be described as a gruesome upside-down ash tray!
Tim: I did not know of a Russian shuttle either! :eek: Somewhere in the far corners of my mind I have a hazy memory of coming across a bit of information that Russia was planning on their own version of the US shuttle but did not know that they actually built one.

Viktor: Thanks for the additional information! :cool: The book you linked to, Soviet SST, looks like it make for some fascinating reading.