Saturday, 28 June 2008

Soviet manned spaceflight artifacts

This intriguing half scale Sokol KV-2 pressure suit is one of a very small number manufactured by Zvezda: the official pressure suit manufacturer.

Made of the same materials as their larger counterparts many of the components are functional: the visor opens and closes, the pressure valve operates and the gloves can be removed. The suit is supported by an articulated armature that allows the piece to displayed in different positions. While full scale Sokol KV-2 suits are relatively commonplace the half scale replicas are few and far between.

In the last decade, three have appeared at auction. At least two auction houses suggested that these were given to cosmonauts in lieu of their flown suits. In reality, the "mini Sokols" (made in 1988/9) were gifted to senior Zvezda employees .... though one was allegedly made as a special order for a western collector and sold for $12,000. Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka confirmed that they have been
used at Soviet space expositions as photo opportunity props for children.

But as the image taken in 1988 of the very first "mini Sokol" shows the exquisite detail even included the black mesh communications headset and grey leather over boots.

A pair of full sized Sokol KV-2 pressure gloves worn by cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin. It is quite possible that these gloves may have been worn in space, but with the redacted serial numbers it is impossible to know for certain.

 A classic Sokol communications carrier or headset used in training.

A pair of Soviet "Orlan" EVA gloves of the type currently used aboard the International Space Station.

When I met cosmonaut Alexei Leonov in 2010 I thought it only right and fitting that he - the first man to walk in space -should sign the gloves.

This signed beta cloth patch, from the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975, was not flown in space but does has the distinction of coming from the personal collection of participant cosmonaut Valery Kubasov.

I bought it from Valery when he attended an Autographica event in October 2005.

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