eBay shuts down Mir auctions

The leading auction site halts some 15 to 20 auctions listing pieces of Mir--including one in which bidding had reached more than $15,000.

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Shortly after the Russian space station Mir crashed to Earth on Friday, eBay got to work clearing the rubble off its auction site.

eBay shut down some 15 to 20 auctions listing pieces of Mir, company spokesman Kevin Pursglove said. Bidding on one of the auctions reached more than $15,000 before San Jose-based eBay shut it down.

"We're trying to remove them as fast as we can," Pursglove said. "They're pretty easy to remove because we can make a pretty good guess that they are a prank or the sellers are not the rightful owners."

Most of the 143-ton Mir station disintegrated when it hit the atmosphere, but up to 28 tons of debris was expected to survive the flames. That debris, some of it expected to be in 1,800-pound chunks, splashed down in the South Pacific waters between New Zealand and Chile. The debris hit the Earth's surface at 650 to 1,000 feet per second--fast enough to smash through a block of concrete six feet thick.

Trying to auction pieces of Mir is only the latest prank pulled by eBay sellers. Last year, in the midst of the confusion over who won the election, one eBay seller put the U.S. presidency up for sale. In 1999, a rash of pranks plagued eBay, as sellers listed 500 pounds of marijuana, a human kidney and an unborn baby.

More seriously, federal authorities in Sacramento indicted three eBay sellers earlier this month in relation to the sale of a fake Richard Diebenkorn painting on the leading auction site.