Robbery at Romanian "Space Animal" Museum
A robbery at the International Space Animal Museum in Bucharest has left police and museum officials baffled. Museum curators have no idea what thieves intend to do with the body of "Sasha," a chimpanzee sent into space in 1968 and later recovered by the space station "Mir."

"Sasha wasn't the first chimpanzee that was sent into space by the Soviets, and she wasn't the last," said Bella Vladicescu, a curator at the International Space Animal Museum. "She is very special to us and we want her back as soon as possible."

Police say that the robbery of Sasha was a particularly bold smash-and-grab in broad daylight. Surveillance footage shows two Caucasian men in black spectacles walking right up to the glass case where Sasha was displayed and kicking in the display with steel-toed boots.

Before they could be subdued by museum security, the men in black spectacles grabbed Sasha and ran out of the museum, carrying the stiff body of the chimp between them like a stretcher.

Witnesses claim that the men spoke with German accents.

"We figure this is some kind of hoax," said Vladicescu.

Police say that the thieves might be able to sell Sasha to a private collector, but that it is highly unlikely that anybody would want to buy the famous chimpanzee on the open market.

"Sasha was a hero for science and her body belongs in a science museum," said Vladicescu. "It makes me sick to think of someone defiling her or treating her with anything less than complete respect."

Bucharest's International Space Animal Museum is the home to many of the animals that the Soviet Union sent into orbit during the "space race," in addition to being the resting place for many of the animals launched into orbit under France and Argentina's space programs.

In addition to several chimpanzees, the museum is also home to the body of Arkady, the first tortoise in space, and Laika, the first dog. Belka and Strelka, other famous Soviet space dogs, were recovered for the museum last year but are not yet on display.

The International Space Animal Museum was started in Bucharest in 1998, after the space station "Mir" began recovering capsules launched into orbit decades earlier, sending them back to Earth to be re-opened and re-discovered by a whole new generation.

Many of the animals recovered from the capsules were in perfect condition, mummified by the cold, dry environment of low Earth orbit.

"We are confident that Sasha will be returned to us soon," said Vladicescu. "We just hope she will be returned in good condition."

Posted by miracle on Tue, 19 Oct 2010 11:59:43 -0500 -- permanent link

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