A member today posted this photo showing a complete instrument panel from a Soyuz TM capsule, and a globus instrument from a Voskhod capsule:

enter image description here

Both items are in their private collection. Only 5 Voskhod vessels ever flew, in 1964 and 1965. 34 Soyuz TM capsules were launched between 1986 and 2002.

So, the Voskhod spacecraft, in particular, were of great historical significance. And, like all crew capsules, these things were property of their governments, in this case the Soviet government. (Perhaps the Russian government in the case of the Soyuz panel, although it certainly doesn't look recent.) When I see such an item in a private collection, I must admit my reaction is '...What?...'.

How do such items end up on the market and get acquired? Is that still happening?

For context, the Voskhod flew during the Gemini Program. The capsules for Gemini flights are all in museums, and the Wikipedia entry for the program even has a section listing where each one is.

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    $\begingroup$ Not making this an answer because I have no citations, but I believe the upheaval during the breakup of the USSR is the source of it. Governmental agencies and national economies were in a very unstable state, so it would be unsurprising for an individual with access to steal pieces like this in order to sell on the black market. While the pieces certainly legally belong to Russia, Ukraine, or another FSR, private collectors might well take better care of them for posterity -- the Buran shuttle was abandoned in a hangar that was eventually collapsed by snow, and lost. $\endgroup$ May 4, 2017 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ Now that I think about it, it wouldn't surprise me if space agencies sold the stuff aboveboard as well, if they didn't have the budget to preserve it, so forgive my leaping to the cynical conclusion. $\endgroup$ May 4, 2017 at 22:53
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    $\begingroup$ No idea about Russia, but a lot of Shuttle stuff was scrapped/excessed and sold at auction. Not much flown stuff, but GSE, consoles, spare parts, lab equipment, tools, you name it. space1.com/Artifacts/Artifacts_FOR_SALE/… I had to laugh that the "flown urine collection device" is SOLD! $\endgroup$ May 4, 2017 at 23:00
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    $\begingroup$ Hah, there are Apollo 11/12 "waste water samples" on eBay. $\endgroup$ May 4, 2017 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ Lunokhod 2 was sold at Sotheby's for $68,500 in 1993. Its owner seems to be the only private individual who legally owns property at the surface of another celestial body. $\endgroup$
    – Litho
    May 5, 2017 at 9:53

2 Answers 2


There are several paths by which both US and Russian artifacts from the space program make their way into private ownership. These include deassession from the Government via authorized surplus sales, disposal of materials by the contractors who produce the technology at the conclusion of a program; retention of gifted or salvaged items by individuals and their family members who worked on or were affiliated in some way with the program and then subsequently release the artifacts for sale.

Keep in mind that in addition to flight vehicle components that actually flew on mission, multiple examples of each artifact were typically produced for developmental testing, spares ect.

Within the U.S., the National Air and Space Museum has first right of refusal to decline the transfer of government owned artifacts that NASA no longer has an interest in retaining, After that offers may be extended to other museums and institutions. Ultimately if no formal interest expressed, items can be sold via authorized property disposal channels (GSA auctions for example) to private citizens.

In addition, as a result of HR 4158, astronauts who crewed the early US Space missions (Projects Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab) and who were in possession of certain artifacts from those flights as of the law's enactment, were recognized as legal owners and authorized to subsequently determine those items disposition (to include selling them to other individuals).

I have obtained many artifacts through a varienty of paths to include flown and unflown materials from both the US and Russian programs. There is a robust collector market that is sustained by heavy global interest in these items, and major auction houses offer annual (in many cases multiple yearly sales) of Space artifacts and memorabilia.


Sometimes "adopting" historical space items is the best way to rescue them from the scrap-heap of history and ensure their long-term survival.


Buran completed one unmanned orbital spaceflight in 1988 before its cancellation in 1993. Orbiter K1, which flew the test flight in 1988 was crushed in a hangar collapse on 12 May 2002 in Kazakhstan.

Before: (from here)

One of those is the ~95% complete second orbiter, the other is a static test model, not meant for flight. Unfortunately, the only one that flew was destroyed in 2002 by a building collapse.

Burans, from trekbbs.com

After: (from Technik Museum Speyer)

I'm not sure if the museum is considered private or public, it's hard to tell from the website.

The BURAN prototype OK-GLI shown in the museum was built in 1984 and was used for testing glidingflight and landing after reentry into the atmosphere. During this part of the project the OK-GLI completed 25 atmospheric flights between 1984 and 1989 and significantly contributed to the successful orbital flight of a BURAN shuttle in 1988.

BURAN prototype OK-GLI at Technik Museum Speyer

BURAN prototype OK-GLI at Technik Museum Speyer

BURAN prototype OK-GLI at Technik Museum Speyer

below: from here

BURAN prototype OK-GLI going to Technik Museum Speyer

  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe do you know if the museum would be considered a public, or a private collection? Also, does one have to pay to enter, or is admission free? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 19, 2018 at 6:57
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    $\begingroup$ I visited this museum some years ago and I had to pay for admission. If you like, you may become a member of the supporters club: info. Admission is free for club members. The museum is neither public nor private, it is organized as a GmbH (limited liability company). $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Sep 19, 2018 at 18:59

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