NEW YORK, NY.-
Today at Sothebys
, 50 years after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel into outer space, the Vostok 3KA-2 Space Capsule that paved the way for his historic mission sold for $2,882,500 to Evgeny Yurchenko, chairman of the investment fund AS Popov. Mr. Yurchenko purchased the
icon of space history with the intention of returning it to his homeland, Russia.
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 Gagarins 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 Sothebys 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.
Three weeks prior to Gagarins historic flight, the Soviet space program launched the final test flight of the Vostok spacecraft in preparation for this momentous event. The Vostok 3KA-2 carried a life-size cosmonaut mannequin, Ivan Ivanovich, and a dog, Zvezdochka, into low Earth orbit, and reentered on its first pass over Russia 115 minutes later. Vostok was the Soviet Unions first program to put a man in space, and was conceived and overseen by the architect of the Soviet Space Program, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. Five Vostok-type capsules were launched in 1960-61. While two were destroyed, the spacecraft that launched on 19 August, carrying the dogs Belka and Strelka, demonstrated that living creatures could be returned safely to earth from orbit.
In 1961, Korolev focused his attention on adapting the Vostok model to carry a human passenger. Even after a successful test of the new design on 9 March 1961, Korolev insisted on a final dress rehearsal before putting a cosmonauts life in jeopardy. Vostok 3KA-2 blasted into space on 25 March, carrying the mannequin Ivan Ivanovich and the dog Zvezdochka (Russian for Little Star). After completing one orbit, the capsule safely reentered the earths atmosphere and landed near the city of Izhevsk, with the mannequin ejecting prior to landing as planned and the dog returning safely. With Korolevs reservations now assuaged, twenty days later Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth in an exact twin of this capsule, the Vostok 3KA-3, later renamed Vostok 1. Notably, the Ivanovich mannequin has been on exhibition at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum since 1997, after being purchased at Sothebys New York in the 1993 auction of Russian Space History.
Todays sale of Vostok 3KA-2 followed Sothebys biannual auction of Russian Art in New York which brought a total of $16,089,390, above the pre-sale high estimate and the highest total for an auction of Russian Art in New York since April 2008. The sale was highlighted by Henryk Siemiradzkis The Sword Dance, which achieved $2,098,500 and set a new record for the artist at auction, and An Important and Rare Micromosaic Table by Gioacchino Barberi, Made for the Russian Court, 1830-33, which more than tripled its high estimate in bringing $1,986,500 (separate release available).
*Estimate does not include buyers premium