Buying The First Cosmonaut’s Suit: A New Space Race
According to news sources, most of the items from the Soviet era of space exploration that are due to go on sale in December have been owned by American billionaire, Ross Perot since the 1990s. Some of them are truly unique including the space suit worn by the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, a suit for moonwalks and a Soviet toilet designed specifically for spacecrafts. Even more coveted by collectors are the diaries and manuals used by original Soviet cosmonauts that were previously owned by NASA and international museums.
Mikhail Kamensky, Sotheby's CIS General Director said:
“As well as the space race itself, it was a competition between the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the USA. They are really expensive as the interest in space is always high. The most expensive exhibit, a report on Gagarin's flight, is estimated at more than a half million dollars.”
There is no question that Ross Perot understood the historical importance of the documents, for both countries, but he could never have anticipated fifteen years ago the kind of prices these items are expected to fetch.
Journalist and space specialist, Igor Lisov, claims that the documents themselves are hardly top secret as they had been made public long before the U.S. got them. Still he told the press:
“As for Gagarin’s post-flight report, it was indeed classified. But by 1991, it was declassified and published. 1993 was a difficult time, especially for engineers and the intelligentsia, so we can hardly blame people who decided to sell the documents that they owned or had access to through Sotheby’s for sums measured in thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars.”
Before going on sale again, the Soviet space relics were put on public show at a space-race exhibition at Washington's national space museum. The coming auction will decide whether they will take flight once again.
M Dee Dubroff