Home shoppers can get piece of Mir

NEW YORK (AP) — For the ailing Russian space program, it has come to this: Cosmonauts aboard Mir will appear on a home shopping channel to sell a meteorite, a spacesuit and other out-of-this-world items.
The cosmonauts will be seen early Saturday on QVC, the channel that sold Muhammad Ali’s Michigan farm and nearly clinched a deal for the Brooklyn Bridge.
Two cosmonauts will appear live by satellite from the orbiting Russian space station, while former flight engineer Alexander Lazutkin delivers zingers at a comedy club in New York.
Just what the Russians get is unclear. On Thursday, Fred Siegel, QVC’s senior vice president and executive producer, said some proceeds would be donated to the country’s space program, which has been squeezed financially since the downfall of the Soviet Union.
It’s just the latest commercial venture for the Russian space program and cosmonauts who grew up under Soviet communism. In July, a month after Mir collided with a cargo ship, commander Vasily Tsibliyev swallowed a floating blob of milk for an Israeli dairy commercial.
Two days ago, Russian space chief Yuri Koptev told the ITAR-Tass news agency that Mir would be used regularly as an advertising prop.
“It doesn’t make any difference for us what to advertise — cars or foodstuff. The only condition is that advertising doesn’t contradict legal and ethical norms,” Koptev said.
Mir mission control spokesman Vsevolod Latyshev declined comment Thursday.
QVC’s legion of insomniacs and shopaholics will be offered a crack at items like tiny Mars rocks, encased in plastic cubes. QVC claims they are “among 12 known to exist” on Earth.
There are 15 meteorites at prices ranging from $850 to $2,500. And buyers can plunk down $25,000 for each of three Russian-made Sokol KV-2 spacesuits — the type worn by cosmonauts and American astronauts during spacewalks outside Mir. Each weighs 22 pounds and comes with boots, gloves, pressurized hood and “all the fittings,” QVC said.