Image: The Apollo-Soyuz test project: An orbital partnership is born

July 18, 2012, NASA
Credit: NASA

(Phys.org) -- On July 17, 1975, something momentous happened: two Cold War-rivals met in space. When their respective spacecraft rendezvoused and docked, a new era of cooperative ventures in space began.

For more than a decade, American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts have been regularly living and working together in , first in the Shuttle-Mir program, and now on the . But, before the two Cold War-rivals first met in orbit in 1975, such a partnership seemed unlikely. Since Sputnik bleeped into orbit in 1957, there had been a Space Race, with the U.S. and then-Soviet Union driven more by competition than cooperation. When President Kennedy called for a manned in 1961, he spoke of "battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny" and referred to the "head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines."

But by the mid-70s things had changed. The U.S. had "won" the race to the moon, with six Apollo landings between 1969 and 1972. Both nations had launched space stations, the Russian Salyut and American Skylab. With the still a few years off and the diplomatic chill thawing, the time was right for a joint mission.

The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project would send NASA astronauts Tom Stafford, Donald K. "Deke" Slayton and Vance Brand in an Apollo Command and Service Module to meet Russian cosmonauts Aleksey Leonov and Valeriy Kubasov in a . A jointly designed, U.S.-built docking module fulfilled the main technical goal of the mission, demonstrating that two dissimilar craft could dock in orbit. But the human side of the mission went far beyond that.

Explore further: Soviet, US astronauts mark 35 years since space handshake

Related Stories

Russia declares 'era of Soyuz' after shuttle

July 21, 2011

Moscow on Thursday declared it was now "the era of the Soyuz" after the US shuttle's last flight left the Russian system as the sole means for delivering astronauts to the International Space Station.

Russia's Soyuz: historic symbol of space reliability

August 25, 2011

Russia's Soyuz rocket, which failed to put a Russian supply ship into orbit, is descended from launch vehicles of the early days of the space race but until now has been a byword for reliability.

Gagarin's widow fetes space flight with US astronauts

April 12, 2011

Legendary astronauts, including a veteran of the US Apollo programme and the first man to walk in space Tuesday joined the widow of Yuri Gagarin in the Kremlin to remember his space flight 50 years ago.

Happy 40th anniversary, Apollo 15!

July 27, 2011

This month is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 15 launch. This mission was the eighth manned mission in the Apollo program and the fourth to the Moon. The Apollo 15 mission is important because it was another step in manned ...

Recommended for you

Powerful flare detected on an M-dwarf star

April 25, 2018

An international team of astronomers reports the finding of ASASSN-18di—a powerful white-light superflare on a previously undetected, mid-type M-dwarf star. The discovery is detailed in a paper published April 12 on the ...

Studying dwarf galaxies to get the big picture

April 23, 2018

EPFL scientists have completed the fastidious task of analyzing 27 dwarf galaxies in detail, identifying the conditions under which they were formed and how they've since evolved. These small-scale galaxies are perfect for ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.