Excitement continued to mount as only two months remained
until the historic July 1975 handshake in space. The three American astronauts,
P. Stafford, Command Module Pilot Vance
D. Brand and Docking Module Pilot Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, and the two
Soviet cosmonauts , Aleksei A. Leonov and Valeri N. Kubasov, for the Apollo-Soyuz Test
Project (ASTP), held their final joint training session in the Soviet
Union in April 1975. The next time they met, they were in orbit
They continued their separate training on spacecraft systems as
well as language skills, since the agreement called for all crew members to
speak the others’ language during joint operations. The crews participated in
joint simulations carried out between their two control centers. Managers from
both sides met in Moscow to sign a joint flight readiness assessment. The
Soviets added a bit of excitement when they launched a new crew to the Salyut-4
space station for a planned two-month mission.
Two views of ASTP
crewmembers (left to right) Deke Slayton, Vance Brand and Thomas Stafford
during a Johnson Space Center press conference. Image Credits: NASA
To prepare for the upcoming spaceflight operations, teams
in the mission control centers in Kaliningrad, outside Moscow, and in Houston
held a series of simulations of various phases of the joint mission with the
participation of the astronauts and cosmonauts. A 25-hour simulation on May 13
began one hour before the projected Soyuz launch; a 56-hour exercise beginning
May 15 that included rendezvous, docking, joint activities, undocking and
separation; and an eight-hour simulation on May 19 rehearsed the rendezvous
phase of the mission. Additional joint simulations took place in June.
The ASTP Apollo astronauts took a break from the simulation
activities on May 14 to hold a press conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
in Houston, discussing with reporters their recent joint training session at
the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside Moscow, and their
tour of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Soviet Kazakhstan, during which they
inspected the Soyuz spacecraft for the mission. Astronauts continued their
Russian language training as their Soviet counterparts continued English
Workers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center continued checkout
operations with the Saturn IB rocket and the Apollo Command and Service Modules
at Launch Pad 39B. They completed the Flight Readiness Test, a verification of
all launch vehicle and spacecraft preflight and in-flight systems, from May 27-28.
Left: George Low
(middle) and Konstantin Bushuyev inspect the ASTP Soyuz rocket at Baikonur. Right:
American and Soviet members of the joint working group for communications and
tracking pose in front of the booster for the Soyuz spacecraft at
Left: The prime
(left) and backup Soyuz spacecraft during preparations at Baikonur. Right:
Signing at the Flight Readiness Review in Moscow (seated, left to right)
Bushuyev, Vladimir Kotelnikov, Low and Glynn Lunney.
Top NASA managers and representatives of the five joint
ASTP working groups traveled to the Soviet Union for meetings with their
counterparts. NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low and Glynn
S. Lunney, U.S. technical director of ASTP, conferred with counterparts
Vladimir A. Kotelnikov, acting president of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and academician
Konstantin D. Bushuyev, Soviet technical ASTP director. Following visits to
Baikonur to inspect the booster and the spacecraft for the joint mission, Low
and Kotelnikov chaired the joint Flight Readiness Review at the Presidium of
Academy. After agreement from all the
working group chairmen, they signed the joint flight readiness agreement in a
ceremony on May 22, indicating that other than planned work until the launch,
both sides were prepared for the historic joint mission. Lunney summarized the
events at a press conference at Johnson on May 29, remarking that “all
preparation for the flight were in order,” and that all activities were “on
target for the July 15 launch.”
Left: Salyut-4 space
station undergoing final checkout at Baikonur in 1974. Middle: Soyuz-18 crew of
Vitali Sevastyanov (left) and Pyotr Klimuk during training. Right: Launch of
The Soviets had a surprise in store when they launched Soyuz-18
on May 24 with space veterans Pyotr I. Klimuk and Vitali I. Sevastyanov aboard.
The two cosmonauts docked with the orbiting space station Salyut-4 the next day
— the second crew to occupy the station for an expected two-month mission. On
the one hand, U.S. officials were pleased that the Soviets had recovered from the
5 launch abort that sent two cosmonauts destined for Salyut-4 on a
stressful suborbital ride instead. On the other hand, they expressed concerns
that with a two-month mission overlapping with ASTP, could the Soviets control
two crewed missions at the same time? The Soviets had inaugurated a new control
center in Kaliningrad in 1973, but still maintained the one in Yevpatoriya, in
the Crimea, which had been used for earlier crewed and other space missions. To
solve this problem, they planned to use the older facility for the
Soyuz-18/Salyut-4 mission and the newer center for ASTP.
To be continued …
News events from around the
world in May 1975:
- May 4 – Houston Astros’ Bob Watson scores baseball’s one-millionth run of all time.
- May 7 – U.S. President Gerald R. Ford
declares an end to the “Vietnam era.”
- May 12 – U.S.
merchant ship Mayaguez is seized by
- May 16 –
Junko Tabei from Japan becomes the first woman to reach the summit of Mt.
- May 26 – “Rhinestone Cowboy” single
released by Glen Campbell.
- May 27 – In
the Stanley Cup Final, the Philadelphia Flyers take back-to-back titles, beating
the Buffalo Sabres four games to two.
- May 30 – ESA
(European Space Agency) forms.
- May 30 – Wings
release "Venus & Mars" album.
- May 31 – "Fight the Power" single
released by The Isley Brothers.