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The Apollo-Soyuz Mission

Apollo-Soyuz artwork

Soyuz

Launch: July 15, 1975, at 8:20 a.m. EDT
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Flight Crew: Alexey A. Leonov, Valery N. Kubasov
Landing: July 21, 1975

A Soyuz spacecraft and launch vehicle on the launch pad in Baikonur, Kazakhstan
S75-32339 (28 Jan. 1974) — A low-angle view of a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan showing the installation of a Soyuz spacecraft and its launch vehicle. The 49.3-meter-high (162 feet) space vehicle is composed of the three-stage booster, a three-module, two-man Soyuz spacecraft and a launch escape system. The weight of the space vehicle at launch is approximately 300,000 kilograms. The first stage vacuum thrust is about 1,000,400 newtons, the second stage is 956,500 newtons, and the third stage is 299,000 newtons. This earlier Soyuz mission illustrates the approximate launch configuration of the Soviet Union’s Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) Soyuz space vehicle. PHOTO COURTESY: USSR ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

Apollo

Launch: July 15, 1975, at 3:50 p.m. EDT
Launch Site: Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Flight Crew: Thomas P. Stafford, Vance D. Brand, Donald K. Slayton
Landing: July 24, 1975

The Saturn IB rocket lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 15, 1975, carrying Stafford, Brand and Slayton in an Apollo capsule.
NASA

Mission

Docking Time: July 17, 1975, at 12:12 p.m. EDT
Undocking Time: July 19, 1975, at 11:26 a.m. EDT
Total Duration of Joint Activities: 19 hours, 55 minutes
Orbital Inclination: 51.8 degrees

The Apollo-Soyuz mission began at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Soyuz 19 launched July 15, 1975, at 8:20 a.m. EDT, carrying cosmonauts Alexey Leonov and Valery Kubasov. Hours later, Apollo followed, lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 3:50 p.m. On board were astronauts Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand and Donald Slayton.

Both the Soyuz and Apollo vehicles made orbital adjustments during the following two days, bringing both into a circular, 229-kilometer orbit. Hard-dock was achieved July 17 at 12:12 p.m. as the two craft soared above the Atlantic Ocean. A global audience watched on television as the historic event unfolded.

Hatches between the vehicles were opened at 3:17 p.m. and the two space crews warmly greeted each other, officially beginning joint activities. The astronauts and cosmonauts took congratulatory calls from Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and U.S. President Gerald Ford, exchanged commemorative gifts and shared a meal before closing the hatch for the day.

Tom Stafford and Aleksei Leonov shake hands in space
S75-29432 (17 July 1975) — Astronaut Thomas P. Stafford (in foreground) and cosmonaut Aleksei A. Leonov make their historic handshake in space on July 17, 1975 during the joint U.S.-USSR Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) docking mission in Earth orbit. This picture was reproduced from a frame of 16mm motion picture film. The American and Soviet spacecraft were joined together in space for approximately 47 hours on July 17th, 18th, 19th, 1975. The Apollo crew consisted of astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, commander; Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, docking module pilot; Vance D. Brand, command module pilot. The Soyuz 19 crew consisted of cosmonauts Aleksey A. Leonov, command pilot; and Valery N. Kubasov, flight engineer.
NASA

The next day was a busy one for the combined crews. Brand joined Kubasov in the Soyuz, while Leonov joined Stafford and Slayton in the Apollo. After giving TV viewers a tour of each vehicle, the crew members conducted science experiments and had lunch. Later, Kubasov and Brand left the Soyuz to join Slayton in the Apollo, leaving room for Leonov and Stafford to spend time in the Soyuz.

Valery Kubasov signs a certificate on the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission
AST-03-171 (17 July 1975) — The hands of cosmonaut Valery N. Kubasov are seen as the ASTP engineer adds his name to the signature on the Soviet side of the official joint certificate marking an historical moment during the rendezvous day of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The left hand of astronaut Donald K. Slayton, NASA’s docking module pilot, is seen at left. The certificate had earlier been signed by astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, American crew commander; Slayton and cosmonaut Aleksey A. Leonov, Soviet crew commander, and it awaits the signature of astronaut Vance D. Brand, NASA’s command module pilot who remained in the CM while the others signed in the Soviet Orbital Module of the Soyuz.

By mid-afternoon, the final speeches and gift exchanges were complete, and it was time for the astronauts and cosmonauts to say goodbye. After the last handshake, the crews retreated to their spacecraft and the hatches between the two vehicles were closed.

The two spacecraft undocked July 19 at 8:02 a.m. As the Apollo capsule backed away, it blocked the sun from the Soyuz vehicle, creating the first human-made eclipse and enabling the cosmonauts to photograph the sun’s corona. The two spacecraft then docked once more, with final undocking at 11:26 a.m.

Soyuz 19 stayed in orbit an additional day to carry out life-science experiments. Its mission ended July 21 at 6:51 a.m. with a successful landing less than seven miles from its target near Baikonur Cosmodrome. Soyuz 19 marked the first Soviet mission with a televised launch and landing.

While Soyuz touched down, Apollo still was in orbit. The astronauts spent the extra time in space by performing space-science and Earth-observing experiments. Apollo splashed down in the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii at 5:18 p.m. EDT on July 24. It was the last planned ocean landing for U.S. human spaceflight.