Circling 200 miles above the Earth, Russian cosmonauts on the Mir space station went on a holiday shopping spree - in Manhattan.
Flight commander Anatoly Solovyov and Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov used credit cards and an Internet service to buy gifts, including Barbie dolls, Chicago Bulls sportswear, computers and an exercise machine.
“The opportunity to personally select holiday gifts myself brings our loved ones closer and is especially meaningful to us,” Vinogradov said in a statement issued by Virtual Emporium, the company that arranged the online spree.
“And it is much better than shopping on a cold Moscow day.”
But the cosmonauts’ money was no good; most retailers are giving them the nearly $7,500 in loot, writing it off as a sales promotion.
The order from space was received Thursday at Virtual Emporium’s store in Manhattan. Visa credit card accounts were set up for them to place their orders.
RSC Energia, the Russian agency that operates Mir, was contacted by Cambridge, Mass.-based Virtual Emporium a few weeks ago and agreed to participate, said Jeff Manber, the agency’s managing director.
“This is not a trivial event to us,” Manber said Thursday. “As we as a society progress to living and working in space, the people there are going to need to shop, watch TV, eat and drink. … While some may think this is a cute event, it’s very real and important to us to bring society into outer space.”
Solovyov, 49, a native of Riga, Latvia, is married and has two sons, Gennady and Ilya. He ordered a Michael Jordan basketball, a Bulls jersey with Jordan’s No. 23, a Bulls hat and a Nordic Track exercise machine.
Vinogradov, 43, is married with a 4-year-old daughter, Katya. He ordered a Barbie doll for her, as well as a 1970s-era telephone.
Each cosmonaut also ordered a personal computer and printer from Gateway 2000, the mail-order computer seller.
Besides shopping, Solovyov and Vinogradov carried out a tricky, six-hour spacewalk Thursday to install a new solar panel on the Mir.
Virtual Emporium hopes to work out a similar shopping spree with American astronaut David Wolf, who last month joined the cosmonauts aboard Mir. Earlier this week, Wolf became the first astronaut to vote from space, casting a ballot via e-mail for mayor and other officials in his hometown of Houston.