SP-4209 The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

16 July - Chase


While the Apollo crew slept, Leonov and Kubasov were awakened in the early morning hours of the 16th and were advised by Moscow control of the Apollo probe difficulty. The American ground team was still refining its solution to the problem. Besides exchanging greetings with the Soviet crew aboard Salyut 4 through the Moscow center, the ASTP cosmonauts continued to attempt repairs on their troublesome black and white television system. Following instructions from the ground, the Soyuz crew went as far as to attempt a repair involving cutting away some of the lining of the spacecraft so they could gain access to a television wiring junction box. This unorthodox in-flight repair procedure failed, and the black and white system never did work. This failure upset some Americans, notably Bob Shafer, because this system's absence meant that there would be no pictures of Apollo during the flight. While some of the NASA team groused about this turn of events, the Soyuz crewmembers prepared for the circularization maneuver that would bring their spacecraft into a 225- by 225-kilometer orbit.17 As they were executing that maneuver, the Apollo crew was awakened to the rock sounds of Chicago's "Good Morning Sunshine."

Medical reports and breakfast filled the first minutes of the Apollo crew's morning activities. With the exception of some minor frustrations like the slow functioning urine dump system and some spilled strawberry juice, everything was proceeding satisfactorily. CapCom Crippen advised the crew [326] that Soyuz had completed its circularization maneuver and was "in orbit waiting for you." Truly replaced Crippen and gave Brand the latest information on how to remove the probe. As they were disassembling the back end of the probe, Stafford commented, "Dick, it wouldn't be a normal flight if we didn't have our little probe problems."18

Stafford came back on the air-to-ground communications loop at 9:55 a.m. to tell Houston that the probe was out. With that "glitch" solved, the crewmembers could return their attention to the flight plan. Preparation for televising pictures from the cabin and checking out the docking module were the next activities on the list. As they worked through their schedule, the Soviet crewmembers were transmitting their first television pictures with their color camera. Talking to the Soviet flight director, V. A. Dzanibekov, Leonov gave the folks at home a commentary on their first 28 hours in space and then conversed with Klimuk and Sevastyanov, who had been aboard the space station Salyut since 24 May. Sevastyanov commented that the ASTP crews had a very responsible task and that a large portion of the world's population was watching and listening to their progress. Referring to the seven men now in space, two aboard Salyut and the five involved in ASTP, Klimuk said, "these are the magnificent seven." With pleasantries concluded, the Soviet crews returned to their respective duties. Leonov and Kubasov began lowering the pressure of their ship to 500 mm of Hg in preparation for the docking.19

Aboard Apollo, Stafford, Slayton, and Brand were settling into the routine of flight. Their day was filled with independent experiments (electrophoresis, helium glow, and earth observation)* and collecting biomedical data. During the earth observation pass, Stafford told Bobko to inform Farouk El-Baz, the principal investigator for that experiment, that at ASTP altitude one could see far more detail than in Project Gemini, where Stafford and Cernan had flown at a higher altitude (+60 kilometers). The ground reported to the crew that the medical information received from the exercise period was very good. To round out its other activities, the crew made another course change at 3:18 p.m. In anticipation of their big day on the 17th, the Apollo team bedded down a few minutes after eight, and the Soviet crew had been resting since about 2:50 that afternoon. Throughout their "night," the spacecraft were coming closer together as Apollo closed the gap between them by about 255 kilometers per revolution.20

* Details concerning the experiments are summarized in appendix E.

17. Interview, John P. Donnelly and Robert J. Shafer-Ezell, 26 and 28 Jan. 1976; and ASTP mission commentary transcript, SR 13/l and 13/2, 15 July 1975.

18. Program Operations Office, "ASTP Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription," pp. 69-84; and Crew Training and Procedures Division Training Office, "ASTP Technical Crew Debriefing," p. 4-4. See also interview, Robert D. White-Ezell, 19 Aug. 1975:

The technicians who had installed the pyros for the gas bottles which actuate the structural latches had misaligned one of the pyro caps so it blocked the hole into which the release handle shaft was to be inserted. That release handle and shaft had been redesigned after Apollo 14. Formerly the release handle was attached at all times, after Apollo 14 it was stowed away from the shaft. This change was made to permit the discharge of the gas bottles when the capture latches had failed to engage. When the handle was in place, the gas bottles could not be fired, because the release shaft would bend upon retraction. The handle would jam against the hatch and bend the shaft. This alteration opened the way for the type of pyro misalignment which occurred in the ASTP mission. That misalignment showed up in the premission buy-off photographs. Both the NASA and Rockwell inspectors missed this misalignment. . . . The crew had to remove the pyro cover and realign the pyro (which incidentally was the one fired for the structural latching) so the handle and shaft could be installed.

19. Program Operations Office, "ASTP Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription," p. 85; and ASTP mission commentary transcript, MC 121/l, SR 31/1-3 and SR 32/1-3, 16 July 1975.

20. Program Operations Office, "ASTP Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription," pp. 138-148; and ASTP mission commentary transcript, MC 158/1 and SR 38/1-2, 16 July 1975.