Unsuspecting anglers and riverside ramblers were startled by the sight of the space-age vessel making its stately progress through the city on Wednesday.
Buran was loaded onto a barge and two tugs towed it from Khimki reservoir, near its Skhodnenskaya resting place, and left it moored near Zhukovsky, the home of the MAKS airshow.
The shuttle will now be hastily renovated and put on display at this August’s aviation event.
The journey, which was eagerly snapped up by Moscow’s bloggers, had echoes of a funeral procession of ancient times.
And a night-time image of the wing-less craft with the floodlit Kremlin behind it, taken by Vasily Maximov of Kommersant and shared on a citizen journalism blog, is a striking riverside image.
Meanwhile, it’s not the first time a Buran craft has made a river voyage. In 2008 the solitary space-going shuttle was ferried up the Rhine to the German city of Speyer, where it was put on display in the technology museum.
The Buran project was designed to provide the USSR with a reusable manned space-craft similar to the US Space Shuttle program.
In 1988 the completed spaceship made its only orbital flight – unmanned – before funding ran out.
At the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union this third shuttle was still under construction in Tushino, where it remained in a warehouse until 2004.
Then it was moved to outdoor storage and steadily decayed in a dockside junkyard, where it was apparently owned by a pharmaceutical company, Newsmsk reported.
The most famous Buran in Moscow, which stands on the riverbank in Gorky Park, was a training model never intended for spaceflight.
Ironically, at the same time as the unfinished Buran is in line for a refit, no space power is able to operate reusable craft.
Just weeks before Buran goes on display at MAKS, Atlantis is scheduled to fly the last ever shuttle mission in late July.
As yet there is no successor in place, and US astronauts travelling to and from the International Space Station will use Russian Soyuz rockets.