Saturday, May 26, 2012

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project press kit items from NASA JSC

In July 1975, an American Apollo spacecraft docked with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft for two days of joint scientific experiments. Before and after the docking, the two spacecraft manœuvered around each other and made additional dockings and undockings to give their crews and ground controllers experience with joint operation of these two very different craft. The Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP; in Russian, Экспериментальный полёт «Аполлон» — «Союз», or ЭПАС) stands out as a triumph of international scientific co-operation and goodwill against the backdrop of the Cold War. A few items from the press kit issued by NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) provide an introduction to this landmark mission:

This first item is a small slip of paper, 6 cm × 15 cm (4½” × 6”) with the background and objectives of the mission explained on both sides. It’s printed on a lightweight beige stock with a linen face. I particularly like the 1970s typography in the title.

It begins:
“Three years of combined effort by the world’s leading space powers will culminate with dual launches for the first international manned space flight, the result of a May 1972 US–USSR agreement to design and test a compatible docking system for future spacecraft and space stations.

A milestone in international space cooperation, the Apollo Soyuz Test Project calls for the docking of a US Apollo and a USSR Soyuz in Earth orbit to test jointly designed rendezvous and docking equipment and procedures. The test lays the groundwork for future activities involving manned spacecraft of the two nations, and may help to make space rescues possible in years to come.”

It would take twenty years, but the hopes expressed in these paragraphs would prove fruitful. The Androgynous Peripheral Attach System (APAS) docking mechanism designed for this mission would provide the basis for the American Space Shuttle to dock with the Russian Mir space station and later with the International Space Station.1

The second item is a card, 18 cm × 13 cm (7” × 5”) that contains the schedule for the mission, as at 23 May 1975. It includes four alternate date ranges for successive days in July in case the launch did not occur as planned on 15 July (as it happened, the mission ran to schedule).

The third item is a card, 26.5 cm × 20 cm (10½” × 8”) that presents the mission profile in graphical form, beginning with the launch of the Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan, and finishing with the splashdown of the Apollo spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean. The text throughout is in both English and Russian.

The back of the card presents an information summary of all2 American human spaceflights up to that time, covering the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs: thirty missions with a total cumulative time in space of 21,851 person hours!

1The docking mechanism of the Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft is designed to be compatible with APAS too, making dockings of Shenzhou and the International Space Station technically feasible.
2The summary is not quite complete. It includes the two sub-orbital flights carried out as part of the Mercury Program (Mercury-Redstone 3 and Mercury-Redstone 4) but excludes thirteen sub-orbital flights of the X-15 rocket plane that, between 1962 and 1968, met the American definition for a spaceflight that was then in use. As defined in the US at the time, a spaceflight was any flight that reached an altitude of 50 miles (80 km). Furthermore, two of these flights—flight 90 and 91, both made by Joe Walker—also met the international definition for a spaceflight (a flight reaching an altitude of 100 km—62 miles). If the Mercury-Redstone flights were spaceflights, the X-15 flights were too. The incredible X-15 is sadly a too-often overlooked chapter of spaceflight history.

Copyright information: These three items come from a NASA press kit. The schedule and the profile are clearly NASA publications and, as works of the US federal government, are in the public domain. The mission schedule card is US Government Printing Office publication 1975—671-549/13 and the mission profile card carries the NASA image number S-74-3297. The small overview sheet does not provide any publication details, so at the very least, as a publication in the United States before 1989 without a copyright notice, it would be in the public domain anyway, even if it were not a federal government publication.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a ton for this post! I actually found a copy of the green 7 x 5 card in a used cookbook that I bought. I can't believe I was able to track down its origin. Thanks!!