Sea, air and space vehicles converge at this incredible museum

The Technik Museum Speyer in Germany has a rescue boat, a 747 an an actual Soviet space shuttle. Come along for the full tour.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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Technik Museum Speyer

There's a lot to see here. Some museums in their entirety have less than what you can see in just this photo... and this is just one of the Technik Museum Speyer's several buildings and outdoor displays. 

For more details about this museum and this visit, read more here: See an actual Soviet space shuttle at the Technik Museum Speyer

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German machines

A fitting place to start: two brilliant German machines. On the left, a 1964 Porsche 356C. On the right, a 1957 BMW 503. As you'd expect, elsewhere in the museum are other German classics like a Mercedes Gullwing, VW Bus and more.

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As you'd expect there's a German bias, at least in terms of number of German cars versus the rest of the world, but it's slight. Case in point, this perfect 1969 Aston DBS Vantage. Elsewhere there's an E-type Jag. For a general museum, its car collection is better than some car museums I've visited. 

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An uncommon aircraft to see in museums in the US or UK, whose air forces never flew them, this is the Dassault Mirage III. The Royal Australian Air Force flew this fast interceptor and a number are in museums there. Most have been retired, but they're still in service with the Pakistani Air Force.

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Soviet cargo

One of the great aspects to this museum is the large number of Soviet aircraft rarely seen in the west. Like this, an An-26 that was in service with the East German Air Force.

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For 5

The An-26 usually had a crew of five. 

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A limo in a plane

I certainly wasn't expecting to see a Soviet limo in the back of the An-26. This is the Gaz Tschaika or Chaika. As you can probably guess, it was only for government VIPs. Some were given as gifts to Soviet-friendly heads of state.

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Powerful Tornado

A Mach 2.2-capable Panavia Tornado, wings swept back and headed for the sky. 

That's a Dassault Mercure on the right.

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You don't know Jak

A Yakovlev Yak-27, or "Jakowlew Jak-27" as the Germans spell it. This specific plane could be configured as a bomber, but was used primarily as a reconnaissance aircraft (hence the clear nose). It was flown by the Soviets, but stationed in East Germany.

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While I'm a big fan of the looks of the F-104 Starfighter, it was a lethal aircraft... to its pilots. Especially in Germany. Over a third of the German 104s were lost in crashes, with more than 100 pilots killed.

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Sukhoi Su-17/22

A Sukhoi Su-22, the export version of the Su-17. This fighter-bomber was the first Soviet variable-sweep aircraft to enter production. 

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German Eagle

Still looking mean and modern, this is a early F-15, specifically an "A" variant. Not only are F-15s still in service all over the world, they're even still being made. 

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Yes, officer?

A 911 Turbo in ticket-me-please red.

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The German Corvette

An Opel GT, looking every bit the Corvette baby-brother it was. European baby cousin, maybe. With half the cylinders and way less than half the displacement, it was a fair bit slower. The headlights are manually operated and rotate longitudinally instead of popping up.

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Not sure I've seen one of these in person, and it certainly draws the eye in that color. This is an NSU Ro 80, one of the few cars ever that had a Wankel rotary engine. Mazda's RX-7 is the probably the best known car to use this engine type.

NSU would get merged with Auto Union to form Audi a few years after this car debuted.

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Better than a 900 convertible

Sure the cars are lovely, and that's a great Junkers Ju-52 looking amazingly good despite 46 years in a lake, but my eyes are on that beautiful Saab. No, the one hanging from the ceiling.

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What a thrill. An actual Buran! OK, this one never made it to orbit and was just used for atmospheric tests, but still! 

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Off-brand Shuttle

NASA's Shuttle plans were public, so it's not much of a surprise Soviet engineers took the path of least resistance and copied much of the design. Having been this close to Endeavour and Enterprise(the latter at the excellent Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum) I can tell you that while they're certainly related, it's not a precise copy.

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Cargo to orbit

The Buran lacked the Shuttle's main engines so it relied entirely on the Energia rocket to lift it to orbit. As a result it has room to carry about 10 percent more tonnage of cargo than the Shuttle.

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Unlike the Shuttle, the Buran had ejection seats for the entire crew.

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Turbofans... in... spaaaaace

This Buran is the OK-GLI, used for atmospheric testing. As such, it had four turbofans so it could take off and fly on its own, which it did 25 times. The Shuttle, by comparison, was lifted by a 747 and then released to study its glide characteristics.

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Only one orbital flight was made, and that Buran was destroyed when its hangar collapsed in 2002.

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'80s child

The OK-GLI was built in 1984 and first flew in 1985. With the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia couldn't afford the expensive program and it was cancelled in 1993. 

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In Soviet Russia, space plane lands you

As if a space plane wasn't complex enough, the Buran was capable of landing itself. In this aft compartment you can pop your head up into a Plexiglas box and see some of the many kilometers of wiring. 

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Unlike the Buran, the Soyuz has generally been a safe and reliable craft (OK, maybe not this week). This is the Descent Module from TM-19 that brought German astronaut Ulf Merbold back from Mir in 1993.

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It's actually incredible how tiny these are inside. 

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A few flights of stairs gets you on the roof of the hangar that houses the Buran for this view. Hmmm, I wonder where I'll go next...

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Is there a more iconic passenger aircraft? This -200 was in service with Lufthansa.

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Not a view you'd normally see. Hopefully. It's a lot of steps to get up here, since it's mounted quite high off the ground. Also note the angle. It makes for some interesting maneuvering while inside, as you'll see.

Below the landing gear you can see people lining up. There's a slide you can ride to get back down. You can see the tube in the last photo. Given my penchant for injury, I abstained. 

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I've been on a lot of 747s, but it's fascinating to see one without seats. Yes, it's really that angled. Hope you don't get vertigo. 

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Well, a few

A few sections have some seats, plus some mannequins in Lufthansa uniforms. 

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The cockpit is on the upper deck, so on the main deck you can sit almost in the nose, as seen here. I once sat in seat 1D, up on the right. This was after being stuck at Narita airport in Japan for 26 hours. At takeoff something behind the panels above me gave way, dumping a bunch of water on me. 

I don't miss Northwest Airlines.

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Upper deck

After climbing an awkwardly tilted spiral staircase, you reach the upper deck. Though cool, and perhaps space-saving, I imagine such a staircase was incredibly dangerous. It was a challenge going up and down, and this plane wasn't even moving. Later models had a traditional staircase, usually near one of the exit doors.

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Always easy to tell an older aircraft once you see there's three stations in the cockpit. That, and the total lack of LCD screens. 

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Clear at the other end of the aircraft, they've removed all the paneling. I'm standing with my back on the aft bulkhead, looking forward.

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Cargo hold

A ladder, still canted oddly mind you, gets you access to the cargo hold. I've certainly never been in one of these before.

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Wing walker

In what I believe is unique in the world, you can walk out onto the wing of the 747. 

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Sub hunter

Now for something a bit smaller: a Mil Mi-14. It's an amphibious sub hunter development of the similar-looking Mi-8. 

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Such style

I dig the green. Mi-14s typically had a crew of four. 

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Dangerous... but sometimes not

The Mi-14 could carry depth charges or a torpedo. Many carried towed sonar while others functioned as mine sweepers. There were even civilian variants that carried passengers.

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The always mean-looking Mi-24 Hind. I got a good up-close look at one of these at the Helicopter Museum

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Well that's bigger

I love big cargo planes, and this Antonov An-22 is certainly that. 

On the left is an Mi-8, the predecessor to the Mi-17 you saw a few pics ago.

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Big lifter

It's the biggest turboprop aircraft to enter production. The Russians sure love their contrarotating props. Their Tu-95 bomber uses them too, and the Kamov helicopter company uses a similar design, mounted vertically, called coaxial rotors.

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Big span and twin tail

The An-22's wingspan is actually 15.5 feet (4.8 meters) wider than the 747-200's.

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Entrance... passage?

You enter through the protrusions on the hull that house the landing gear. This makes for an entrance passage way. Not too common, that. 

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Cargo bay

You could fit pretty much anything you want in here. Trucks, tanks, most of the helicopters you just saw. 

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Something about random passages like this inside an aircraft just fascinate me. For those of you not fascinated by such things, this forward section of the An-22 was pressurized (my back is to the hatch leading to the cargo bay). The bay itself was only slightly pressurized. Low enough that you wouldn't want to be in there without oxygen during flight.

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Best view

In most production models this compartment is different, with the radar taking the space where here windows offer what I imagine was an incredible view in flight. 

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Upper deck

Not quite the same as the upper deck on the 747. Normally the An-22 had a crew of five.

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The An-22 was surprisingly fast for its role and size, with a top speed of 740 kph (460 mph). 

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It was a warm day, even warmer inside the aircraft, and warmer still on the cockpit deck. Inside this plastic bubble that gives a great view of the upper fuselage, the heat was brutal. Worth it for this shot though.

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A view from the cargo door looking forward into the bay. 

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Heavy lifting

The An-22 could lift around 100 metric tonnes.  

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Das boot

The U9 submarine served the German Navy from 1967 to 1993. 

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Single hull

Much smaller than other subs of the era, the U9 has a single hull, but still fit a crew of 22. Most military subs have a double hull, an outer hydrodynamically streamlined hull, and an inner pressure hull.

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Acht torpedos

I've been on subs with four and even six forward-facing torpedo tubes, but the tiny U9 crams in eight. 

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Not many walls

All subs maximize their limited interior space in whatever way they can. This one barely has any bulkheads at all separating the spaces. My back is to the torpedo tubes you saw in the last image. The red circles you see in the distance is the control room.

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Not surprisingly, the control room is also tightly packed. You could practically reach from one station to another while seated. 

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Surprisingly, some of the electronics on the sub still work. According to the museum, the German Amateur Radio Club does a broadcast every year using the U9's equipment.

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Well traveled

In its 26 years of service the U9 traveled 174,850 nautical miles, or about 323,822 kilometers.  

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M-B diesels

Two Mercedes-Benz V12 diesels run generators that charge the U9's batteries, which run a single electric motor. Submerged it could get up to about 32 kph (20 mph).

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Ugly beauty

Some consider the Fairey Gannet ugly. I like the chunky looks and contrarotating propellers. I got a closer look at one at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in the UK.

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Keeping with the sea theme, this is the rescue ship John T. Essberger of the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS).

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Little buddy

A boat carrying a boat. Boatcraft carrier? There's a helipad above it, offering lots of ways to rescue those in trouble. 

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As it looked

The whole ship is presented much as it looked in its service, with "crew" in uniform, along with the different cabins and compartments full of equipment and memorabilia. 

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Flying bridge

A commanding view of the ship and the rest of the museum. The Essberger's three engines could get it up to 26 knots, or around 42 kph (30mph). I imagine it would get pretty windy up here at that speed.

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One more of the 22

The flying bridge also offers a great last look at the An-22. Many of these are still in service. Landing this one at Speyer's short runway was apparently quite a challenge

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Tiny planet Speyer

I stayed until the museum closed, then hit the Autobahn to head back to my hotel in Frankfurt. An excellent day at an excellent museum. 

To read more about this tour, click here: See an actual Soviet space shuttle at the Technik Museum Speyer.

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