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Soviet space programme artifacts on auction

OTTAWA (AFP): A spacesuit worn by cosmonaut Anatoli Artsebarsky, pieces of Soyuz shuttles that rocketed into space and a Mir Space Station control panel are among dozens of Soviet space programme items for sale this month in Canada.

"The quantity of items associated with the Soviet space program, items that were used for research and ground testing and some that actually went into space that are to be sold at this auction is significant," said Sean Quinn of Canadian auction house Waddington's.

"You get a sense of the magnitude of the Soviet space programme handling all of these items. It's a very interesting history. They had so many firsts," he told AFP.

"It's strange to look back to this Cold War era, given the current spirit of cooperation between Russia and (the West). It all seemed like ages ago, but it ended only 20 years ago."

The Soviets began working on rockets in the 1930s and are credited with breakthroughs such as the first satellite to orbit the Earth, the first ballistic missile launch, the first human in space, and the first probes of Venus and Mars.

Throughout its history, the programme remained secretive as it competed with US space missions.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian space memorabilia has popped up at auctions around the world, including 40 lots at this Toronto auction to be held on March 30.

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