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

The Dryden-Blagonravov Talks - 1964-1965


At the outset of 1964, a tangible result of the initial Dryden-Blagonravov discussions came when NASA launched the communications satellite Echo II. Two weeks before the launch, Blagonravov had notified Dryden that the Academy of Sciences would participate in the tracking and communications experiments with Echo II as agreed in the Geneva talks of May 1963. In the same message, he informed Dryden that information would be forthcoming shortly detailing their plan for cooperation in meteorological studies. The Americans were cautiously enthused by this step forward.76

From Vandenberg Air Force Base on 25 January, the balloon satellite Of laminated Mylar plastic and aluminum was placed in near-polar Orbit.* 77 Two days later, Academician Blagonravov announced that Soviet ground [57] stations were tracking Echo II. Some of these optical facilities had observed the inflation of the satellite, and three observatories had succeeded in photographing it.78 On that same date, NASA received raw tracking data, and later the Soviets forwarded photographic materials and a preliminary analysis of orbital data obtained when the satellite was not being observed by U.S. tracking facilities. The second phase of the experiments with the communications satellite, beginning 22 February and continuing into March, consisted of 34 communications exercises between the Manchester University radio telescope at Jodrell Bank in the U.K. and Zimenki Observatory at Gorki University in the Soviet Union.79


Dryden discussed with guarded enthusiasm the meaning of the joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. tests with Echo II in testimony before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences in March 1964. At first glance, Dryden thought that the real significance of the tests was that the two teams had taken "advantage of existing programs, approved and executed on their own merits, to provide an opportunity for scientists and engineers of both countries to gain experience in working together for their mutual benefit." This was "a pioneer venture . . . designed as a coordinated rather than joint effort." Dryden thought it interesting that the Soviets had re-christened Echo II the "Friendly Sputnik."80

A year later in March 1965, Dryden's remarks to the Senate were to be less effusive. He prefaced his comments on cooperation with the U.S.S.R. with the statement: "we engage in cooperative international activities for two reasons - to further the NASA mission and to advance the foreign policy objectives of the United States." He then bluntly presented a final assessment of the Echo II test project:

The Soviet side observed the critical inflation phase of the satellite optically and forwarded the data to us. They did not provide radar data, which would have been most desirable, but they had not committed themselves to do so. The Soviets provided recordings and other data of their reception of the transmissions via ECHO from Jodrell Bank. On the other hand, the communications were carried out in only one direction instead of two, at less...


 Echo II satellite

Echo II passive communications satellite undergoes pre-flight inflation tests.


[58]...interesting frequencies than we would have liked, and with some technical limitations at the ground terminals used. I do not want to over-emphasize any technical benefits from this project. It was, however, a useful exercise in organizing a joint undertaking with the Soviet Union.81

The intervening year had bred some caution and doubt at NASA as to the future of cooperation between the two space powers. At the end of May, Administrator Webb had commented on the twin goals of cooperation and competition. He did not see any inconsistency in pursuing both goals simultaneously:

I think it makes good sense. The greater our lead in space, the more willing the Soviet Union may become to give up its hopes for world domination and the victory of communism everywhere. The greater our lead in space the more ready the Soviet Union may become to cooperate with us in mutually beneficial ways that will lessen the dangers of nuclear war and advance the cause of freedom.

Webb also cautioned his audience not to expect cooperation overnight.82

Dryden and Blagonravov met twice in 1964, but their negotiations were short on concrete results. The first meeting, which coincided with the May COSPAR sessions in Florence, Italy, was limited to discussing an agenda for a second meeting to be held at Geneva during the convocation of a U.N. subcommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.83 During late May and early June, the two negotiators discussed the progress of implementing the details of the 1963 "First Memorandum of Understanding." One major new point centered on an accord to publish several joint volumes of material on space biology and medicine, a field that Dryden indicated "has a considerable bearing on the future of manned space flight, although there was no talk at Geneva of a joint manned flight."** 84

In reviewing the results of his 1964 meetings with Blagonravov, Dryden told the press that he had discussed cooperation with President Johnson prior to his departure for Geneva and that he had been instructed "to seek to widen the areas of cooperation with the Soviet Union" in space activities. In private conversations with Blagonravov, Dryden conveyed the President's willingness to go as far with cooperative efforts as the Soviet government wished to proceed. As Dryden summarized the American position, "We are always, always have been, prepared to go somewhat farther than they have been willing to do."85

Dryden also gave the press his perception of the Soviet attitudes toward [59] cooperation. He noted "evidence of a very great desire to have cooperative agreements" and an equally strong wish to begin cooperation in space biology and medicine. Counterbalancing this apparent willingness to cooperate was the Soviet concern for secrecy. The "secrecy with regard to engineering and rockets and instruments and spacecraft" had assured a very slow pace and meager results for the two years of negotiations. Dryden felt that as long as the Soviets pursued this course of keeping space data classified, the future of Soviet-American efforts to cooperate would be determined by the pace that the U.S.S.R. wished to follow. Thus, the Deputy Administrator concluded that much patience was called for on the American side, but he also believed that patience was justified since "the prospects are good for a very slow widening of the area of cooperation. . . ."*** 86

Dryden's cautious testimony during the March 1965 congressional hearings indicated that progress had been slow. Data from ground-based magnetic observatories had been exchanged, and the transmission of weather data on the "cold line," a special cable link between Moscow and Suitland, Maryland, had been started in October 1964.**** 87 Dryden summarized the status of the joint efforts; "I would describe the situation as a form of limited coordination of programs and exchange of information rather than true cooperation." He continued his report saying, "they have not responded to any proposals which would involve an intimate association and exposure of their hardware to our view." Nor had the Soviets demonstrated "anything in the nature of a joint group working together." When asked if the prospect for the future was one of continued competitiveness, Dryden answered in the affirmative, "As near as we can tell at the moment."88

But Dryden's work was coming to an end. Since late 1961, he had been waging a quiet personal battle with an incurable malignancy. He had not yielded to his illness but instead had doubled his work load, as he labored to see Project Apollo and other key NASA programs started toward successful conclusions. In the last four years of his life, he seemed always on his way to attend an in-house conference or to catch a plane for an international meeting. On 16 November 1965, after a series of transcontinental speaking engagements, he entered the National Institutes of Health. Sixteen days later, on 2 December, Dryden was dead at the age of 67.89

[60] The decade of the 1960s witnessed an increasing tempo of manned space flights; a central theme surrounding these flights was competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. From March 1962 to November 1964, Dryden and Blagonravov had met six times to formulate a basis for cooperation, but the element of competition had prevailed. With Dryden's death, a strong voice for cooperation with the Soviets disappeared. Administrator Webb's primary concern now was the goal of placing a man on the moon ahead of the Soviet Union. As the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. ventured forth on their separate routes to the conquest of space, the idea of cooperation remained, but only as a dream.90


* Echo II, placed into orbit by a Thor-Agena B launch vehicle, weighed 243 kilograms, but when inflated it had a diameter of 41 meters.

** As a result of these negotiations, which were formalized in Oct. 1965, NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences jointly published in 1975 and 1976 a three-volume work in four books called Foundations of Space Biology and Medicine.

*** Pravda carried a Tass communique from Geneva listing the points of the Dryden-Blagonravov talks and noting that the joint efforts in space biology and medicine would be "of great practical value for assuring the life, health, and safety of cosmonauts making orbital flights, as well as for future flights into deep space."

**** The "cold line" was so designated to differentiate it from the emergency "hot line," which had been agreed to in 1963 by the Soviets and Americans to reduce the risk of war by miscalculation or accident.

76. Blagonravov to Dryden, 14 Jan. 1964. "At present we are completing the preparation of the first stage of observations of the satellite during the period of its inflation. Our stations, which are located within the zone of visibility, will observe the moment of inflation by visual and photographic means only. . . . For the purpose of facilitating the successful conduct of this work we should like to ask you to issue instructions that we be informed of the moment of the launch."

77. NASA News Release, HQ, 64-11, "NASA to Launch Second Echo Communications Satellite," 21 Jan. 1964; Standard Packaging Corp., National Metallizing Division, news release, "Aluminum Coated Space package Launched Is Historic Feat," 9 Aug. 1960; Mission Operation Report No. S-622-64-03, "Echo C Project," 20 Jan. 1964; and Bill Becker, "Echo 2 Is Orbited; Soviets to Aid Tests," New York Times, 26 Jan. 1964.

78. NASA News Release, HQ, 64-21, "Echo II Monitored by USSR," 27 Jan. 1964; "Russians Are Tracking Echo 2 in Joint Experiment with U.S.," New York Times, 27 Jan. 1964; "Observations of the Echo-II," Krasnaya Zvezda, 28 Jan. 1964; and "Mirror in the Cosmos (Echo-2)," Izvestiya, 28 Jan. 1964.

79. Blagonravov outlined the program of radio communications experiments in a letter, Blagonravov to Dryden, 27 Jan. 1964; Homer Newell summarized the Echo II experiment results in U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Science and Astronautics, Subcommittee on Space Science and Applications, 1966 NASA Authorizations: Hearings on H.R. 3730, No. 2, Pt. 3, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, pp. 987-991 ; H. L. Baker, Project Manager, Echo II, to Harry J. Goett, memo, "A Quick Look Evaluation of USSR Optical Data as Submitted by Professor Massevich," 9 Apr. 1964; and Newell to Goett, memo, "Report on the Echo II Experiments with US-UK-USSR," 8 June 1964.

80. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1965: Hearings on S. 2446, Pt. 2, 88th Cong., 2nd sess., 1964, pp. 358-359.

81. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1966: Hearings on S. 927, Pt. 1, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, pp. 60-61.

82. Webb, "U.S.-Soviet Space Capabilities," speech, Missouri Cotton Producers Association, Sikeston, Mo., 30 May 1964; Mission Operation Report No. S-622-64-03, "Echo II-Post Launch Report No. 1," 27 Jan. 1964; and Mission Operation Report No. S-622-64-03, "Echo II- Post Launch Report No. 2," 31 Mar. 1964.

83. Dryden to Blagonravov, 26 Mar. 1964; Dryden to Blagonravov, 1 Apr. 1964; TWX, Blagonravov to Dryden, 6 May 1964; "Suggestion for Private Meeting (D/B)" [n.d.] ; TWX, Frutkin to State Department, 11 May 1964; and Leonard Jaffee to Dryden, memo, "Proposed Second Stage of US-USSR Echo II Experiments," 19 May 1964.

84. "Second Memorandum of Understanding to Implement the Bilateral Space Agreement of June 8, 1962, between the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the US," 6 June 1964; "protocol for the Establishment of a Direct Communications Link between the World Meteorological Center in Moscow and Washington in Accordance with the Bilateral Agreement on Outer Space Dated June 8, 1962, between the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA," 6 June 1964; and NASA News Release, HQ [unnumbered], "News Conference on Implementation of U.S.-U.S.S.R. Bilateral Space Agreement," 8 June 1964.

85. NASA News Release, "News Conference on Implementation," 8 June 1964.

86. Ibid.; "Mirnoe ispolzovanie kosmosa" [Peaceful use of space], Pravda, 10 June 1964; and Blagonravov, "Collaboration between the USSR and the United States in Space Research," Vestnik Akademii Nauk SSSR [Herald of the Academy of Sciences USSR], No. 10 (1964) (JPRS Translation No. 28,890), pp. 82-84. Blagonravov summarized the joint talks through the summer of 1964 and presented the Soviet view.

87. An official report on the status of the Soviet-American meteorological exchange was presented by the U.S. Weather Bureau, as cited in Subcommittee on Space Sciences and Applications, 1966 NASA Authorization, p. 900.

88. U.S., Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Independent Offices, Independent Offices Appropriations for 1966: Hearings, Pt. 2, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, p. 1007. For summary of Dryden's last meeting with Blagonravov, see "Memorandum of Conversation between Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, Deputy Administrator, NASA, and Academician A. A. Blagonravov, USSR Academy of Sciences, Held May 14, 1965, at Mar del Plata, Argentina, 2-3:15 PM"; and diary note, Frutkin, "Notes on US/USSR Bilateral and Soviet Participation in COSPAR Meeting, May 1965, Mar del Plata, Argentina," 15 May 1965.

89. Richard K. Smith, comp. and ed., The Hugh L. Dryden Papers, 1898-1965: A Preliminary Catalogue of the Basic Collection (Baltimore, 1974), p. 32.

90. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space-Sciences, NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1969, Hearings on S.2918, Pt. 1, 90th Cong., 2nd sess., 1969, p. 58; and A. J. Dessler, "Discontent of Space-Science Community," 30 Oct. 1969.