Technology & Science

Russian space gear hits auction block

Forty artifacts from the Soviet/Russian space program — including several spacesuits, a scorched heat shield, and a "human waste disposal unit" — hit the auction block Wednesday.

Forty artifacts from the Soviet/Russian space program — including several spacesuits, a scorched heat shield, and a "human waste disposal unit" — hit the auction block Wednesday.

The unusual pieces are already drawing interest from collectors around the world, says Sean Quinn, an evaluator at the Toronto-based Waddington's auction house, where bids will be accepted online and by phone as well as in person.

"We've had an amazing response, we're very excited about the potential for the auction," Quinn said Tuesday as curious history buffs stopped by an advance viewing.

"A lot of space auctions tend to have a lot of autographs and stamps and that sort of thing but we have a lot of actual artifacts from the Soyuz spaceships and many of those have actually flown, which is important, too."

A dingy white space suit worn by cosmonaut Anatoli Pavlovich Artsebarsky is expected to draw between $25,000 and $35,000. It features an attached pressurized hood with hinged visor, detachable gloves, a Russian flag patch on the left shoulder and an MIR insignia patch on the chest. Artsebarsky wore the suit during his 145-day stint as commander of the Soyuz TM-12/MIR-9 mission in 1991, during which he logged 33 hours of space walking.

"A similar spacesuit sold in France last year for $87,000 euros and another sold in Texas last year for about US$31,000," Quinn notes.

Other items for sale, part of a larger auction of 20th century design, include a commemorative rocket launch start key (pegged at $100 to $200), an autographed colour photo of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin ($350 to $450) and the anti-gravity toilet, configured for the male cosmonaut ($6,000 to $8,000).

"The collector assured me it was not used," Quinn says while chuckling over the device, which includes an enamelled metal canister and suction pump attached to a flexible tube with a funnel-like device on the end. "And I haven't tested it."

The items date from 1945 to 2005 and came from a private collector in Toronto.

"He purchased them over the course of 25 years from other private collectors and at auctions in Europe and in the United States. Originally, they were probably sold by the Russian government after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the financial crisis they had in the early '90s," says Quinn.