New York: A Soviet space capsule has gone under hammer for nearly USD 3 million at an auction to a Russian businessman in New York. The spherical Vostok 3KA-2 Space Capsule was sold on Tuesday at Sotheby's for USD 2.88 million.

The auction was held on the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight, which marked the first time a human being travelled into outer space.

The buyer, Evgeny Yurchenko, who is the chairman of the AS Popov investment fund said he was buying the scorched machine to return it to its homeland.

"The Vostok 3KA-2 space capsule is a historic artifact of the Soviet space program," Yurchenko said in a statement. "Until now, the Vostok 3KA-2 space capsule was the only one of its kind outside of Russia, and with the support and participation of Sotheby's I will be able to bring it home."

The battered craft has serious historical credentials as the model used for the final dummy run before Gagarin left on his mission. It was used to carry a small dog, Zvezdochka, and a life-sized human dummy into orbit and back.

Yurchenko said he hoped the Vostok would "take its rightful place in one of the national museums devoted to the history of the formation of the Russian space program."