Don Pettit's space suit from 'ballistic re-entry' makes $62,500

The space suit US astronaut Don Pettit wore during his terrifying "ballistic re-entry" has sold for $62,500.

That is double its estimate, and testament to collectors' fascination with Pettit's dramatic story.

space suit Soyuz
Pettit experienced enormous gravitational pressure while re-entering in this suit

Pettit was five months into his stay on the International Space Station (ISS) when Space Shuttle Columbia exploded upon re-entry in February 2003.

It forced NASA to temporarily halt its space shuttle flights, which meant Pettit had to hitch a ride with a Russian Soyuz space craft instead, along with two colleagues from the ISS.

The return to Earth was a frightening experience for Pettit. Due to a malfunction, the space craft was forced into ballistic mode, involving a steeper descent and far greater gravitational pressure on the astronauts than is customary. It also meant landing 300 miles of course, in a remote region of Kazakhstan.  

The Sokol KV-2 space suit - designed to keep the wearer alive in unpressurised conditions for two hours - is a rarity on the auction scene. That too is a key factor in its strong showing.

As is the growing demand for top grade space memorabilia. The Sokol KV-2 suit Pettit's commander Kenneth Bowersox wore during the re-entry sold for $43,750 last year.

Elsewhere in the Bonhams space sale in New York yesterday, a vintage full scale test model of Sputnik-1 - the first artificial Earth satellite - sold for $269,000.

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