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

Rivals And Friends


[251] In the dozen years that had followed Yuri Gagarin's flight, the astronauts and cosmonauts had met a number of times. But these first meetings had been shadowed by the cold war. John Glenn and Gherman Titov had been the first rival spacemen to meet and exchange views, at the May 1962 COSPAR gathering in Washington. After the two men and their wives toured the capital and made a social call on President Kennedy at the White House, the space travelers held a news conference. Titov was circumspect in answering questions about his Vostok craft and would discuss space cooperation only in the context of disarmament.13

Three years passed before the next meeting. In June 1965, a very cool handshake was exchanged by three Americans - Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, astronauts James A. McDivitt, and Edward H. White - and Yuri Gagarin. This encounter at a Paris Air Show luncheon took place after a formal meeting between these men had failed to materialize.14 In September of the same year, Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad had a much warmer conversation with Leonov and Belyayev at an international meeting in Athens. As they exchanged lapel pins, the men agreed that they would have to meet again and compare notes about space flight.15

As the years passed, the cosmonauts and astronauts began to socialize more freely. At the 1967 Paris Air Show, Mike Collins and Dave Scott drank a vodka toast with cosmonauts Belyayev and Feoktistov, and Scott called for "greater cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union." To which, Belyayev replied, "Yes, in space."16 In 1969, McDivitt, Scott, and Schweickart gave a tour of the Apollo 8 command module to cosmonauts Shatalov and Yeliseyev, who in turn treated the Americans to vodka and caviar served aboard a Yak-40 airliner being displayed at the Soviets' Paris Air Show pavilion.17

A month later, in July 1969, Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman and his family were given an extensive sightseeing trip in the Soviet Union. Titov, Feoktistov, and Beregovoy escorted the Bormans around Star City and other space facilities. During their visit, Borman renewed the subject of cooperation, mentioning the possibility of joint missions in very general terms.18 American astronauts hosted a reciprocal goodwill trip for Beregovoy and Feoktistov at the end of October. During their two weeks of crisscrossing the United States, they visited an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference at Anaheim, California, had a brief chat with President Nixon, and were guests of honor at a dinner in Houston thrown by 30 astronauts.19

By the time NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences began talking about a rendezvous and docking mission, meetings between astronauts and [252] cosmonauts were almost commonplace. During 1970-1971, a half dozen meetings took place, in addition to Stafford's trip to Moscow for the funeral of the Soyuz 11 crew and his subsequent visit to Star City in October. The atmosphere was considerably more friendly than in the Mercury-Vostok days. For example, when V. A. Shatalov was in Houston in 1972, he visited with Dave Scott and his family in their home, where they compared notes on such topics as child rearing and education. And when Scott led a delegation to Moscow in June 1973 as Lunney's Technical Assistant, Shatalov and seven other cosmonauts gave the astronaut and two members of his team a complete tour of the facilities at Star City, including an opportunity to examine the Salyut trainer.20 Though from different social, economic, and political worlds, the astronauts and cosmonauts had much in common, both as professionals and human beings.

13. "Glenn, Titov Get Together," Washington Star, 3 May 1962; and "Transcript of News Conference of Titov and Glenn," New York Times, 4 May 1962.

14. "Astronauts Take Paris Spotlight," New York Times, 20 June 1965; and "Space Twins Steal Some Red Thunder," Washington Daily News, 19 June 1965.

15. "Russian Cosmonaut Greets Cooper and Conrad in Athens," Washington Post, 18 Sept. 1965.

16. "Space Rivals Drink Toast," Baltimore Sun, 27 May 1967.

17. Wade St. Clair to Julian F. Scheer, memo, "Report on NASA Participation at 1969 Paris Air Show," 12 June 1969. The USIA press attaché attended the meetings between the astronauts and cosmonauts and briefed the press on these sessions. For press reactions, see "U.S. and Russian Spacemen Meet," Baltimore Sun, 3 June 1969; and Clyde H. Farnsworth, "Astronauts Hold Paris Rendezvous," New York Times, 3 June 1969.

18. Frank Borman to Ezell, 20 Aug. 1975; "Borman Hopes for Joint Mission in Space with Soviets during 70s," Washington Post, 4 July 1969; and Bernard Gwertzman, "Podgorny Meets Borman, Voices Hope for Successful Moon Trip," New York Times, 10 July 1969.

19. "Cordial Cosmonauts Field Questions of U.S. Press," Christian Science Monitor, 28 Oct. 1969; and Donnie Radcliffe, "Cosmonauts Are Lionized," Washington Evening Star, 1 Nov. 1969.

20. Interview, David R. Scott-Ezell, 21 Aug. 1974; and Scott to Lunney, memo, "ASTP Mission to Moscow, June-July, 1973," 31 July 1973. For press reports on meetings between astronauts and cosmonauts, see "Admirers Mob Armstrong in Leningrad," Baltimore Sun, 26 May 1970; "Moscow Chill Mars Visit by Armstrong," Chicago Tribune, 2 June 1970; "Soviet Spacecraft Studies Earth Resources," New York Times, 6 Oct. 1970; James Stanton, "Astronaut Calls Space Flights Key to Amity," Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 5 Oct. 1970; "2 Cosmonauts Arrive Here on Goodwill Trip," Washington Post, 19 Oct.1970; Paul W. Valentine, "2 Soviet Cosmonauts Orbit City on Goodwill Tour of U.S.," Washington Post, 20 Oct. 1970; "Astronauts All," i, 3 June 1971; and Walter Sullivan, "58 Layers Found in Lunar Sample," New York Times, 21 Sept. 1971.