Soviet Shuttle Makes River Voyage

APThe Buran space shuttle floating down the Rhine on a barge headed for a museum in the town of Speyer.
COLOGNE, Germany -- The erstwhile pride of the Soviet space program is making a decidedly sedate journey to its new home, chugging up the Rhine River aboard a pontoon boat.

The Buran 002 space shuttle is headed for the Technik-Museum Speyer in southwestern Germany, which says it has long had its eye on the spacecraft.

The shuttle has been in storage in Bahrain since 2002. Last month, the museum's new acquisition -- with its wings removed for transport -- was loaded onto a ship in Manama for its journey to the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

It was then loaded onto a barge for its stately trip up the Rhine. The shuttle sailed out of Cologne on Wednesday after floating past the city's landmark cathedral on Tuesday.

The Buran -- the Soviet space program's answer to NASA's space shuttle, to which it bears a strong resemblance -- made its maiden flight in 1988.

Soviet space officials claimed at the time that the Buran was superior to its American rival because of its ability to fly on autopilot and its bigger capacity, but the program was mothballed amid chaos and fund shortages in the run-up to the 1991 Soviet collapse. Several Buran shuttles were left rusting in hangars.

The shuttle is due to arrive at its new home on Saturday.