A Soviet space capsule sold for nearly $3 million at auction to a Russian businessman in New York, the 50th anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yury Gagarin's historic conquest of space. The spherical Vostok 3KA-2 Space Capsule went under the hammer at Sotheby's for $2.88 million, the lower end of the $2-10 million range expected by the auction house. Winning bidder Evgeny Yurchenko, chairman of the AS Popov investment fund, said he was buying the scorched machine to return it to its homeland. 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. Their successful journey meant Gagarin's first human space flight could go ahead. "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." 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."