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. 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 Vostok space program, conceived by the architect of the Soviet space program Sergei Korolev, first made history by blasting two dogs, Belka and Strelka, into space — the first animals to survive the voyage in 1960.
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.
Just weeks before Gagarin’s mission, in a final test flight the capsule carried a life-size cosmonaut mannequin and a dog named Zvezdochka.
The capsule completed one orbit, re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and landed in a snow-filled gully near the Soviet town of Izhvesk, paving the way for Gagarin historic mission in an exact copy of the capsule.