Monday, July 17, 2017

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project - linking American and Russian spacecraft 1975

In the early 1970's while tensions between Washington, DC  and the Kremlin ran high, a small group of scientists from both country worked toward a, a collaboration....perhaps a joint space mission(?) for the space programs of both countries could meet in space.

A cooperative mission was first proposed by NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine and the Soviet Academy of Sciences president Mstislav Keldysh accepted.  The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) was not universally considered a good idea, with many Americans feeling the ASTP would give the USSR to much access and help them get a step up.

The crew of the Apollo spacecraft was Commander Thomas P. Stafford (from Oklahoma!), Command Module Pilot Vance D. Brand (Colorado) and Docking Module Pilot Donald K. (Deke) Slayton (Wisconsin).  The Soyuz 19 crew consisted of Commander Alexey Leonov and Flight Engineer Valeri Kubasov.

Both spacecraft launched July 15, 1975 within hours of each other and docked on July 17.  The historic handshake between American and Soviet crews too place over Metz, France.  The astronauts and cosmonauts spoke in each other's languages, but because Stafford had a pronounced drawl when speaking Russian, Leonov joed that the languages spoken during the mission were Russian, English and "Oklahomski."

The ships separated after 44 hours and went their separate ways. The Soviets stayed in space for five days while the Americans remained for nine.  Soyuz 19 returned to Earth on July 21.  Apollo returned on July 24, an error occured and the crew was exposed to toxic nitrogen tetroxide fumes.  Brand lost consciousness but Stafford managed to get emergency oxygen masks on him and Brand and gave one to Slayton.  They were hospitalized for two weeks in Oahu (!) but made full recoveries.

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