Before blasting the first human into space in 1961, the Soviet Union fired off one last test flight of the tiny capsule that would carry Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on his historic mission. The test capsule, Vostok 3KA-2, still scorched from re-entry, will be sold at Sotheby’s in New York on April 12, the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight.
On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin rocketed out of the Earth’s atmosphere aboard the small, spherical Vostok 3KA-3 Space Capsule, later renamed Vostok 1. Two weeks before that, this capsule, the Vostok 3KA-2 carrying a life-sized mannequin and a dog, Zvezdochka, was sent into low Earth orbit, and reentered on its first pass over the Russia 115 minutes later paving the way for Gagarin’s historic mission.
Sotheby’s, which is displaying the capsule at its New York headquarters ahead of the sale, estimates it will fetch between $2 million to $10 million. The capsule’s spherical cabin, no more than 2.5 meters (8 feet) in diameter and made of aluminum alloy, was then adapted to carry humans. The interior of the space ship, which contained 815 kg of instruments classed as secret until 1986, has been stripped for security reasons. The owner of the capsule, who wished to remain anonymous, bought it privately from the Russians years ago and felt the 50th anniversary was an appropriate time to sell.
The Vostok 1 (Vostok 3KA-3) model that carried Gagarin is on permanent display in Russian rocket maker Rkk Energia’s Museum near Moscow. [Sotheby’s]