As objets d'art go, it's a doozy: a seven-foot hollow sphere weighing 5,060 pounds. It's in good shape, having orbited the earth for only two weeks in 1990. And if this Soviet satellite won't fit on your coffee table, you could use it as a bed. "It'd be like sleeping in your mother's womb," says Paris auctioneer Herve Poulain. He'll put it on the block on Apr. 23, in the world's first public sale of a space vehicle.
The satellite's builder, Russia's KB Photon space company, is selling it to scare up hard currency and to publicize its planned entry into the business of launching Western satellites. Poulain expects bids from museums, American collectors, maybe even decorators with wealthy clients. With its burns and pockmarks from reentry, the satellite "is very pretty as sculpture," he says. The price? Bidding will start at $90,000. Poulain hopes the sky's the limit.