Sputnik-1 model at Bonhams
The full-scale Sputnik-1 model that was used for testing electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference. It sold for $220,000 (£167,012) at Bonhams New York. Photo courtesy of Bonhams.

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Sputnik-1 was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957 and was the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. Causing shock in US, it led the Americans to launch their Advanced Research Projects Agency and is often remembered as the precipitant event in the Space Race.

The model at Bonhams was one of only a small number of examples made for testing electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference. It featured a still-operational transmitter and four antennae.

Although four vintage models of the Soviet satellite are known (two in private hands and two in museum collections), none of them are test models like this example.

The polished metal sphere mounted on a manganese brass stand was 6ft 6in (1.98m) high in total and weighed 100 lbs. It was produced at Russia’s S. P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia sometime prior to the launch of the actual Sputnik-1 satellite in October 1957.

Bonhams’ catalogue stated that it had previously been in the collection of the rocket scientist Alexander Roudakov.

Offered as first lot of Bonham’s annual Space History sale, it drew fervent bidding and was knocked down to a phone buyer well over predicted levels.

Hands of Space History

Another strong competition came for an object from the American camp. A group of 15 plaster casts of the hands of US astronauts including Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin sold for $125,000 (£94,895), well over a top estimate of $9000.

The casts were made from moulds used to make astronaut space suit gloves.

NASA astronauts hand casts at Bonhams

The 15 life-size plaster casts of 15 NASA astronauts that sold for $125,000 (£94,895) at Bonhams New York. Photo courtesy of Bonhams.