Postcard from... Brussels


At 1.9 tons and 2.2m tall, it is not the most practical addition to a shelf of collectables. But that did not seem to concern the mystery buyer of a Soviet-era space capsule, which was auctioned off in Brussels this week for a cool €1.26m (£1m).

It is the first time such a significant piece of spaceware has gone on open auction in Europe, and its history has an added resonance with tensions between Russia, the EU and the US rising over Ukraine.

The Vozvrashchayemi Apparat capsule was part of the state-of-the-art Soviet kit at the peak of the Cold War space race, and it’s unlikely diplomats in Brussels needed another reminder of how bad relations can get between East and West. For the Lempertz auction house, however, it simply proved a headline-grabbing sale for the opening of its new Belgian office.

Its website revealed that “an anonymous telephone bidder” was now the proud owner of the re-entry capsule, which circled the earth twice and could seat three cosmonauts (although the auction house made clear it is no longer spaceworthy).

Also on offer were two space suits – one worn by a British-American astronaut in 2003 and another by a Russian in 1996. The Americans had the edge, with the US suit going for €70,000, whereas the Russian version raised only €63,000.