Soviet-era space capsule fetches $1.7m at auction

BRUSSELS (AFP) - A Soviet-era space capsule that carried three cosmonauts into space in the 1970s fetched a million euros (S$1.7 million) at auction on Wednesday.

The capsule went to an unidentified European buyer after bidding by telephone, Christine de Schaetzen, who heads German auction house Lempertz, told AFP after what it said was the first such auction in Europe.

The historic piece dating back to the Soviet-US space race during the Cold War had been estimated at between one and two million US dollars.

A British company first bought the 2.2-metre-high capsule, which was also used for a short unmanned mission in 1978 and then for training.

It was extensively restored with all trace removed of the searing burn marks it picked up on re-entry to the earth's atmosphere and re-painted to a pristine white.

Lempertz said it organised the sale to mark the opening of new offices in Brussels, aiming to attract attention with the highly unusual lot, known as Vozvrashchayemi Apparast (VA), or "re-entry capsule" in Russian.

Two more recent space suits also went under the hammer. One worn by anglo-American astronaut Michael Foale to reach the ISS international space station aboard a Soyuz in 2003 sold for 70,000 euros.

The other, used by cosmonaut Alexander Kalery for a flight to the MIR station in 1996, fetched 63,000 euros.