From Russia With Love - Via Space -- Men Of The Sea, On Solid Ground, Open Capsule From Air

It was much better than any after-Thanksgiving shopping spree - an 8-foot-wide space capsule loaded with goodies from the former Soviet Union.

The capsule - which had the appearance of a giant scorched bowling ball - has already had quite a trip to Seattle.

The Russians launched the capsule a week ago from Plesetsk Space Center near the port of Archangel.

The 3,300-pound Resurs 500 satellite took 10 spins around Earth before splashing in the Pacific Ocean about 120 miles off Washington's coast Sunday.

A Russian navy ship, Marshal Krylov, plucked the capsule from the waters and sailed to shore with the payload.

The capsule made its debut Friday as part of the Bon Marche holiday parade.

Yesterday, it sat atop a Russian amphibious vehicle in the Museum of Flight's parking lot, where visitors peered into its storage space, which was still stuffed with pink cushioning that looked and felt as soft as cotton candy.

With a mixture of showmanship and entrepreneurism, Russian dignitaries greeted investors and sponsors next to a display of a mock Apollo and the Blue Angels.

Eager to attract American investors, the Russians are hoping this space project can drum up U.S. investment for their businesses and demonstrate they can convert their defense technology for commercial use.

The goodwill mission has been dubbed Space Flight Europe-America 500, marking the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's trip to the New World.

As the United States and Russian anthems blared over the loudspeakers, the sailors from the Marshal Krylov marched the 19 neon-orange containers from the capsule to long, white, covered tables.

Then, as dignities and officials pried open the 19 containers, the sailors posed with visitors eager to take photos of them.

"This is real history. It was beautiful," said retired Boeing engineer Dens Nielse, 87, who retired in 1970. "I made sure I sat real close to take a good look at everything."

Capt. Viktor Novikow stopped several times to take photos of his own crew and peer into the boxes.

He also wanted to see one of the stored items: a crystal sculpture of the Statue of Liberty. He knows it symbolizes freedom.

"I am curious about it," Capt. Novikow said.

When the boxes were opened, there were sugar bowls, engraved stone boxes, candy dishes and a stuffed toy dog named Digswell.

There were messages, including one from Russian President Boris Yeltsin. And there were flags - from both the United States and Russia.