One of the strengths–or weaknesses–of the free enterprise system is that anything can end up on the market.
For instance, a space helmet, advertised as having been worn by astronaut Gordon Cooper on his Mercury space flight in May 1963. It’s wound up on eBay. Opening bid: $300,000. Look HERE.
Cooper flew his Faith 7 spacecraft on a 22-orbit flight, the last of the Mercury program. He was only the sixth American to travel in space. He died in 2004.
The seller of the helmet, who calls himself Gikev and says he’s from Brooklyn, N.Y., writes, "I purchased this in 1995 from a reputable dealer. It was bought with the understanding that it was used by Cooper as his training helmet. I later came to realize that it was his flight helmet." He adds, "A full refund will be given if the buyer can show proof that the claims I am making in this auction are false."
Space stuff winds up at auctions all the time, but usually the legal consensus is that it’s not Gikev’s, it’s yours. If you’re a taxpayer, you helped pay for Cooper’s flight. The Smithsonian, apparently, was under the impression that it had Cooper’s helmet and pressure suit, and that they were on loan to the Eisenhower Museum in Abeline, Kans.
Gikev has raised this question at a forum on CollectSpace.com, a site devoted to just such issues.
A hat tip to Keith Cowing’s NASA Watch, where Keith writes, "Things like this (if it is what the seller claims it is) belong in the Smithsonian."
If you disagreee, the auction ends Thursday. There have been no bids so far.
(A picture note: this is a NASA picture of Gordon Cooper, though he’s probably not in the suit he actually wore in flight.)