April 13, 2011

Soviet Space Capsule Sells For $2.9 Million At Auction

A spokesman for a New York City auction house said that a 1961 Soviet space capsule that carried a cosmonaut mannequin and a live dog into space was sold at Sotheby's on Tuesday for $2.9 million.

David Redden of Sotheby's auction house said that the buyer of the Vostok 3KA-2 was Russian businessman Evgeny Yurchenko.  He said the total price included the buyer's premium.

Redden said that Yurchenko planned to take the capsule back to his home country.

"I hope that Vostok will take its rightful place in one of the nation's museums devoted to the history of the formation of the Russian space program," Yurchenko said in a statement issued by Sotheby's.

The capsule was used on a test run for the spacecraft that carried the first man into outer space.  Its pre-sale estimate was $2 million to $10 million and was offered on the 50th anniversary of the manned mission. 

"The Vostok 3KA-2 space capsule is a historic artifact of the Soviet space program," Yurchenko said in a statement. "Until now, the Vostok 3KA-2 space capsule was the only one of its kind outside of Russia, and with the support and participation of Sotheby's I will be able to bring it home."

The capsule brought a dog named Zvezdochka safely back from space, along with a life-sized space-suited mannequin nicknamed Ivan Ivanovich.

Sotheby's said the anonymous seller bought it privately from the Russians a few years ago.

The capsule went into space weeks before the Vostok 3KA-3 flight, which carried cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Redden said that getting the Vostok 3KA-2 back to Russia might be complicated because it is classified by the U.S. State Department as a space object.

"Interestingly enough, it requires some special licenses," he said.

Yurchenko said he hoped the Vostok would "take its rightful place in one of the national museums devoted to the history of the formation of the Russian space program."


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