ASTP Crew and Training
(Top Row, L to R: American Thomas P. Stafford, Russian Alexei Leonov. Bottom Row, L to R: Americans Deke Slayton and Vance Brand, Russian Valeri Kubasov). Prior to the conduct of ASTP, the astronauts and cosmonauts visited each other's space centers and became familiar with the spacecraft of the other country. The first visit was by the Russians to Johnson Space Center in July 1973, followed by a U.S. visit to Moscow in November 1973. In late April and early May 1974, the Russian flight crews returned to Johnson Space Center, and the U.S. crews went to Moscow in June and July 1974. The Russian crew made a third trip to the United States in September 1973 and came for the fourth and last time in February 1975. The U.S. crew visited the Soviet Union in late April and early May 1975 and became the first Americans to see the Russian launch facilities at Tyuratam on April 28, 1975. One of the most difficult problems to overcome was that of language differences. To alleviate this problem as much as possible, the Americans learned Russian and the Russians learned English. It was found that the best scenario was for the Russians to speak English and for the Americans to speak Russian.
Docking Dissimilar Spacecraft
A Docking Module was designed jointly by the United States and Soviet Union, and built in the United States. Its purpose was to enable a docking between the dissimilar Soyuz spacecraft and the U.S. Apollo. It was a three meter long cylinder 1.5 meters in diameter, and in addition to serving as a docking device, also served as an airlock module between the different atmospheres of the two ships (the U.S. ship with 100% oxygen at 260 millimeters of mercury; the Soyuz with a mixed oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere at 520 mm HG--lowered from its usual 760 mm Hg for this mission). (Credit: history.nasa.gov)
The Soyuz spacecraft was successfully launched from the Soviet Space Complex in Baikonur on July 15, 1975. The Apollo was launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida approximately seven-and-a-half hours after the Soyuz launch, After a series of extensive maneuvers, both Apollo and Soyuz entered similar orbits and began tracking each other. Three hours after docking, astronauts Stafford and Slayton opened their Apollo hatch in the Docking Module. Soon after, Leonov opened his hatch into the module and greeted Stafford.
"Handshake in Space"
American Commander Thomas P. Stafford and Russian Commander Alexei Leonov conducted the famous "handshake in space" after successfully docking their Apollo and Soyuz Spacecraft on July 17, 1975. The historic greeting was televised live to the world. During four hours of joint activities, the crews received congratulations from Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and U.S. President Gerald Ford. The crews signed international certificates and exchanged commemorative items such as flags and plaques.
LIFE Photo Collection
Stafford and Slayton toast their space meals, jokingly covered with Russian vodka labels.
LIFE Photo Collection
Leonov shows off his artistic ability by sketching his friend, Apollo Commander Thomas P. Stafford.
Joint Activities Continue
A second period of joint activities followed when astronaut Brand entered the Soyuz and Leonov joined Stafford and Slayton in Apollo. The crews provided televised tours of each other's spacecraft and ate lunch together. After a third transfer between spacecrafts, and a joint press conference, the crews returned to their respective spacecraft.
"Primary ASTP mission objectives were to evaluate the docking and undocking of an Apollo spacecraft with a Soyuz, and determine the adequacy of the onboard orientation lights and docking target; evaluate the ability of astronauts and cosmonauts to make inter-vehicular crew transfers and the ability of spacecraft systems to support the transfers: evaluate the Apollo's capability of maintaining attitude-hold control of the docked vehicles and performing attitude maneuvers; measure quantitatively the effect of weightlessness on the crews' height and lower limb volume, according to length of exposure to zero-g; and obtain relay and direct synchronous-satellite navigation tracking data to determine their accuracy for application to Space Shuttle navigation-system design. The objectives were successfully completed, and the mission was adjudged successful on August 15, 1975." (history.nasa.gov)
Amidst the iciness of the Cold War, an unlikely friendship began to thaw the tension between the U.S and Soviet Union. Alexei Leonov (left) and Thomas Stafford (right) formed a strong bond during their Apollo-Soyuz training, and the two have remained close friends through the years following their historic joint mission.