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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shuttle Put on Virtual Auction Block




For parents of children who can't be satisfied with backyard swing sets and sandboxes, the creators of the Internetauction site molotok.ru have a suggestion.


The Buran.


A version of the Soviet space shuttle that never saw flight, now gutted of top secret equipment and serving as an attraction on the banks of the Moscow River by Gorky Park, is seeking a new patron, and the surrounding complex has been put up for sale on molotok.ru with an asking price of $3 million.


Hurry - bidding closes Wednesday. There are eight bids in already.


Its old operators, Kosmopark, a company founded by shuttle developer NPO Molniya, the Tushino Machine-Building Factory and a Cyprus-based holding, can't afford to maintain it anymore, so they have put the craft - and the surrounding complex, which includes a mock UFO and a MiG 27 flight simulator - on the block.


Employees say they can no longer afford the space food that once served as refreshment on the main attraction, a mock takeoff and landing in the converted Buran, in between which passengers are jiggled in mechanical seats designed to imitate zero gravity.


The last straw was a fire that gutted a museum of space artifacts, turning former cosmonauts' space suits, gloves and underwear to ash.


But there is a caveat for potential buyers: You can't take it with you. The "sellers" do not actually own the Buran - they rent it, for free, from NPO Molniya, which won't let it go anywhere.


Aramais Martirosyan, director of Kosmopark, the company that operates the attraction, said the buyer can close off the complex for his kids, tear down or build whatever he likes on the 5,000 meters of prime real estate where the Buran resides rent-free, which will be transferred to the new owner. He suggested the shuttle could be used as a super modern space theme restaurant.


"A strip joint or bar probably isn't worth building here," Martirosyan said doubtfully, "although nothing will be forbidden."


But the Buran stays. What he would really like to find is an investor, he said. Martirosyan "doubts" he'll find a real buyer on molotok.ru, but he said interest in the Buran has, er, skyrocketed since the lot went up on the block and he hopes the free advertising brings an investor to him.


The minimum he needs, he says, is $1,500 to get the place in order. What he would like is to build a planetarium-like theater to give visitors the impression they have been lifted into space. That will cost between $5 million and $6 million, he said.


"Just one chair will cost $1,500," Martirosyan said.


The auction is Dutch-style, meaning potential buyers can try to bargain with the owners, who operate the complex as an "educational" attraction, down to a set minimum price, which remains unknown to the public.


Space memorabilia items have received a high profile on molotok.ru, an Internet auction along the lines of the U.S.-based eBay.com.


Cosmonaut Georgy Grechko recently sold the ballpoint pen he took with him into space, promising he would begin selling real estate on a planet in outer space that astronomers named after him, and a St. Petersburg company has sold claims on the bright side of the moon.


One molotok.ru user posted a message to the auction forum suggesting the buyer could fly the Buran to the moon to visit real estate purchased over the site.


In response, Kosmopark representatives, under the pseudonym "Joker," wrote: "Sure, I guess, but you won't fly very far on it."