A vintage Vostok 3KA-2 Space Capsule is headed back to its homeland with its new Russian owner, who bought the relic of the early days of human spaceflight for nearly $2.9 million during Sotheby’s auction Tuesday (April 12). Evgeny Yurchenko, chairman of the investment fund AS Popov, bid $2,882,500 (included the Buyer’s Premium) at Sotheby’s for the capsule, still scorched from re-entry, on the 50th anniversary of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s historic 1961 flight.
The Vostok 3KA-2 space capsule is a historic artifact of the Soviet space program, said Mr. Yurchenko in a statement. Its successful return to Earth from space gave the green light for Gagarin’s spectacular achievement. 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. It was especially meaningful to do so on April 12, 2011, the 50th anniversary of the first manned flight into space. I hope that Vostok will take its rightful place in one of the national museums devoted to the history of the formation of the Russian space program.
The Vostok 3KA-2 space capsule launched into space 20 days before Gagarin’s historic first human spaceflight aboard the Vostok 3KA-3, later renamed Vostok 1 spacecraft. The unmanned Vostok 3KA-2 capsule carried a life-size mannequin nicknamed Ivan Ivanovich and a dog called Zvezdochka, Little Star in Russian. The Vostok 3KA-2′s spherical cabin is about 8 feet in diameter and made of aluminum alloy. The capsule once contained about 1,800 pounds of equipment, but the interior has been stripped for security reasons.
Based on sale results for the past two decades, Vostok 3KA-2 is believed to have set the record for the most ever paid at a public sale for a single space artifact, said space history expert Robert Pearlman, editor of the space history and memorabilia website collectSPACE.com. It surpasses Sotheby’s own sale in 1996 of a more modern Russian Soyuz capsule for $1.6 million, Pearlman added.
The Vostok 1 model that carried Gagarin is on permanent display in Russian rocket maker Rkk Energia’s Museum near Moscow. The Ivanovich mannequin has been on exhibition at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum since 1997 after being purchased at Sotheby’s at a Russian space history auction.