The Handshake in Space, 40 Years Later

40 years ago today, Apollo and Soyuz docked above the Earth.  Tom Stafford, Vance Brand, and Deke Slayton shook hands with Alexei Leonov and Valery Kubasov, the culmination of several years of preparation as the Soviet and American teams trained both separately and together, to understand one another’s systems, while the engineers designed and built an androgynous docking system and a transfer tunnel to allow the meeting of crews in spacecraft with different atmospheric pressures.  The whole thing was a valuable exercise in international collaboration, and the teams came away with grand visions of future US-Soviet cooperation in spaceflight.  Sadly, it would take twenty years for those visions to bear any further fruit, with the Shuttle-Mir program, followed by the International Space Station.  But for one shining moment in 1975, we were all on the same page.  Today, the politicians hem and haw and jerk the two space programs in all sorts of different directions, but the ultimate vision of ASTP has now been realized: a collaborative space station where research can be conducted for the betterment of mankind.  Now if only we can keep this momentum going, maybe we’ll have a shot at Mars.  😉



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