Selling the family silver!

By Ken Perrott 15/04/2011 10


Vostok-1 recovery capsule

Bloody hell – this was a shock. Sotheby’s has auctioned  Vostok: Earth’s First Spaceship!

I got this in a tweet from fellow SciBlogger Aimee. But would the Russians be selling of Yuri Gagarin’s space capsule? And on the 50th anniversary of his historic flight?

Possibly. Anyone familiar with the Rogernomics period in New Zealand knows we have done such things. And the ACT Party would willingly do that again. But the Russians selling of such a historic trophy? Sure they have had their economic problems but even so.

These sort of treasures shoulkd not be in private hads. They should be available to the public.

I know that the capsule was still in Moscow in the 1980s – I saw it at the Cosmos Pavilion in the Economic Achievements Exhibition. (It was well-padded but very pokey. And burned on the outside).

After checking that it wasn’t April 1 I read some of the information supplied in the Sotheby’s catalogue. And information on the item itself  THE VOSTOK 3KA-2 SPACESHIP.

Well it did sell – for 2,882,500 USD. And the sales information had quite an interesting history of the spacecraft and Gagarin’s lauch. However, it was only after I had read through a bit before I got to the relevant information:

“The Vostok spaceship flown with the cosmonaut-mannequin Ivan Ivanovich, 25 March 1961, as the final fail-safe and test mission prior to Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight just eighteen days later.

Vostok 3KA-2 is not a prototype but an exact twin of Gagarin’s Vostok 3KA-3 capsule, which was later designated Vostok 1.

Vostok 3KA-2 was a critical linchpin of the world’s first manned space program, not only providing the “green light” for the first manned space flight, but afterwards serving for training at the Cosmonaut Training Center, Star City, and later providing the design model for Zenit and other spy satellites manufactured at the Central Specialized Design Bureau in Kuybyshev.

This is the only Vostok spaceship outside of Russia and the only one in private hands; all other surviving Vostok capsules are in permanent Russian museum collections.”

So – that’s a relief! It was Vostok 3KA-2 that was auctioned – not Gagarin’s Vostok 3KA-3 capsule – later renamed Vostok-1.

Yuri Gagarin with daughters

Vostok 3KA-2 was launched about 3 weeks before Gagarin’s flight as a test run. It carried a mannequin Ivan Ivanovich. And there is a bit of a story about the local peasants’ who came on the scene as it was being recovered.

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10 Responses to “Selling the family silver!”

  • “Bloody hell – this was a shock. Sotheby’s has auctioned Vostok: Earth’s First Spaceship! I got this in a tweet from fellow SciBlogger Aimee.”

    Well, at least this allows you to calibrate future tweets from the same unreliable source. Good for you for actually checking before freaking out.

  • Sorry, in clarification – my tweet at no point said it was Gagarin’s, and pointed to the Sotheby Auction, which was titled “Vostok: Earth’s First Spaceship’.

  • Jim – this article was in no way a criticism of Aimee’s tweet. I think you are being a little harsh.

    In fact, as I said, it was not until I had read through quite a bit of the Sotheby material that I found the relevant facts. But in the process I also discovered things I had not been aware of, like the actual flight of the test craft, the use of a manneqin, etc. So the tweet was useful. In fact just the sort of thing enabling me to hunt down a story.

    There is a lot of new information about the early period of soviet space research coming out around this anniversary and I have been interested to catch up on it.

    Yes, Aimee, I thought the Sotheby headline was misleading. But given the history of Russia selling the family silver during the 90s it could have happened.

    I hope the purchaser had enough sense to check out the details before coughing up 2,882,500 USD!

  • Ken said…
    Anyone familiar with the Rogernomics period in New Zealand knows we have done such things. And the ACT Party would willingly do that again. But the Russians selling of such a historic trophy?

    Why not sell those state assets to private organizations or individuals? The pros outweighs the cons in selling state assets. Anyway, there are lots of evidence to prove that point in the economics literature, but this blog is not an economic one. Roger Kerr’s blog is a good read (a few references in there) or otherwise I’ll point you out to them.

    May be you will enjoy the following.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704662604576256782014528702.html

  • Are you an ACT member/fan Falafulu?

    If so, I apologise that I may have shattered an illusion you had. But I, at least, am glad the Russians haven’t sunk as low as Hide and Douglas.

  • My oversensitivity can be traced to some Russian-language claims that it was Gagarin’s capsule, which only harmed the good feelings around this anniversary. You did right in the face of ambiguity, I meant to say. As for foreigners owning Russian space treasures, I helped out with some auctions in the 1990s and they actually preserved a lot of items that were seriously threatened with decay and loss. Once it was realized they had potential commercial value, Russians took measures to preserve and protect them instead of letting them rust and rot — which turned out to be a positive development.

  • I was in my last year at high school at the time and can relate to Holmes’ description. There was an incredible amount of interest. I remember that in the few years beforehand people from all around the world were volunteering for the job – many would go even if they died in the process. Gagarin did become and internationally recognised personality overnight (as did Valentina Tereshkova – the first woman in space to some extent). The US worked hard to counter their position – porobably why from early on they publicly covered their launches (even though they were sub-orbital). I can remember hearing these broadcasts just as if they were an important rugby match.

    I still get a kick out of following broadcasts of the Shuttle and Soyuz launches – but most members of the public don’t appear to notice.

    Very diufferent times.

  • GOVERNMENT TO SELL OFF LARGE TRACTS OF CROWN LAND
    At the post-Cabinet press conference yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that the government had decided to sell substantial Crown lands as part of the debt reduction programme.
    “We will put about 150,000 square kilometres up for sale” said Mr Key. “We expect there will be keen interest from overseas buyers. It is strategically situated, lies well to the sun, and is suitable for a mixture of uses. It is well watered for the most part. Some of the buildings are in a state of disrepair but that will no doubt be reflected in the price.”

    Mr Key emphasised the need to get New Zealand’s debt down to manageable levels. “If we don’t, we will be poorly placed to withstand any turbulence in the global economy. This is a prudent move”.

    Asked where the land was, Mr Key said it was all in the South Island.
    “In fact, it IS the South Island”, he added.

    He went on to talk about voter reaction to the move. “You might think it is a risky thing to do in an election year, but we have tested this idea on our regular focus groups. Auckland voters are very keen. South Island voters are less keen, but as they won’t have a vote in future, we don’t see that as a major issue.”

    Commenting from his holiday home in Honolulu, Ngai tahu leader Sir Tipene O’Regan expressed support for the proposal.
    “I’ve seen this coming for some time,” he said. “It’s an under-utilised asset and I think a Russian oligarch or a Chinese trading company could do exciting things with it.
    “Don’t forget there is precedent for this. The land was all bought from our Iwi in the first place. Let’s hope that this time it changes hands for more than some blankets and old muskets”.

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