Stranger than fiction: In 1967 the CIA kidnapped a Soviet spacecraft for 24 hours during a global international exhibition tour.
Because the Lunik was guarded 24/7 by Soviets during the second exhibition, the intelligence agents had to wait until the show was over and the Lunik crated for shipment. Then the CIA agents “arranged to make the Lunik the last truckload of the day to leave the grounds,” Finer says. When the Americans made sure no Soviets were on the road watching the truck with the precious cargo as it made its way to the railroad station, “the truck was stopped at the last possible turn-off, a canvas was thrown over the crate and a new driver took over,” Finer says. “The original driver was escorted to a hotel room and kept there for the night.” In a salvage yard, the American experts poked, prodded and photographed the Lunik. Meanwhile, at the railroad yard where the shipment was expected, the Americans got lucky. The Russian waiting to check in the truckloads evidently grew tired, bored, hungry or all three: He left his post to eat dinner and then headed to his hotel to sleep. By 7 a.m., the Russian was back at his post at the rail yard, none the wiser. There he “found the truck with the Lunik awaiting him.”