|Image credit: NASA.|
A joint U.S./Soviet space mission served the political aims of both countries, however, so the concept of a near-term docking mission rapidly gained momentum. In May 1972, at the superpower summit meeting held in Moscow, President Richard Nixon and Premier Alexei Kosygin signed an agreement calling for an Apollo-Soyuz docking in July 1975.
NASA and its contractors studied ways of expanding upon ASTP even before it was formally approved; in April 1972, for example, McDonnell Douglas proposed a Skylab-Salyut international space laboratory (see "More Information," below). A year and a half later (September 1973), however, the aerospace trade magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology cited unnamed NASA officials when it reported that, while the Soviets had indicated interest in a 1977 second ASTP flight, the U.S. space agency was "currently unwilling" to divert funds from Space Shuttle development.
Nevertheless, early in 1974 the Flight Operations Directorate (FOD) at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, examined whether a second ASTP mission might be feasible in 1977. The 1977 ASTP proposal aimed to fill the expected gap in U.S. piloted space missions between the 1975 ASTP mission and the first Space Shuttle flight.
|Cutaway illustration of ASTP Apollo Command Module (lower left), ASTP Docking Module (DM), ASTP Soyuz Orbital Module, and ASTP Soyuz Descent Module (upper right). The three U.S. crewmembers wear brown coveralls. Image credit: NASA.|
FOD also assumed that the ASTP prime crew of Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, and Deke Slayton would serve as the backup crew for the 1977 ASTP mission, while the 1975 ASTP backup crew of Alan Bean, Ronald Evans, and Jack Lousma would become the 1977 ASTP prime crew. FOD conceded, however, that this assumption was probably not realistic. If new crewmembers were needed, FOD noted, then training them would require 20 months. They would undergo 500 hours of intensive language instruction during their training.
FOD estimated that Rockwell International support for the 1977 ASTP flight would cost $49.6 million, while new experiments, nine new space suits, and "government-furnished equipment" would total $40 million. Completing and modifying CSM-115 for its backup role would cost $25 million. Institutional costs — for example, operating Mission Control and the Command Module Simulator (CMS), printing training manuals and flight documentation, and keeping the cafeteria open after hours — would add up to about $15 million. This would bring the total cost to $104.7 million without the backup CSM and $129.7 million with the backup CSM.
The FOD study identified "two additional major problems" facing the 1977 ASTP mission, both of which involved NASA JSC's Space Shuttle plans. The first was that the CMS had to be removed to make room for planned Space Shuttle simulators. Leaving it in place to support the 1977 ASTP mission would postpone Shuttle simulator availability.
A thornier problem was that 75% of NASA JSC's existing flight controllers (about 100 people) would be required for the 1977 ASTP in the six months leading up to and during the mission. In the same period, NASA planned to conduct "horizontal" Space Shuttle flight tests. These would see a Shuttle Orbiter flown atop a modified 747; later, the aircraft would release the Orbiter for an unpowered glide back to Earth. FOD estimated that NASA JSC would need to hire new flight controllers if it had to support both the 1977 ASTP and the horizontal flight tests. The new controllers would receive training to support Space Shuttle testing while veteran controllers supported the 1977 ASTP.
|ASTP Apollo spacecraft and Saturn IB rocket sit atop the "milkstool" on Launch Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Image Credit: NASA.|
|ASTP Soyuz 19 spacecraft and Soyuz rocket lift off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Soviet central Asia. Image credit: NASA.|
Once in orbit, the ASTP CSM turned and docked with the DM mounted on top of the Saturn IB's second stage. It then withdrew the DM from the stage and set out in pursuit of the Soyuz 19 spacecraft, which had launched about eight hours before the Apollo CSM with cosmonauts Alexei Leonov and Valeri Kubasov on board. The two craft docked on 17 July and undocked for the final time on July 19. Soyuz 19 landed on 21 July. The ASTP Apollo CSM, the last Apollo spacecraft to fly, splashed down near Hawaii on 24 July 1975 — six years to the day after Apollo 11, the first piloted Moon landing mission, returned to Earth.
|Conceptual illustration of proposed Space Shuttle/Salyut docking. Image credit: Junior Miranda.|
|U.S. Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the Russian Mir space station, 4 July 1995, as imaged from the Russian Soyuz TM-21 spacecraft. Image credit: NASA.|
In May 1977, the sides formally agreed that a Shuttle-Salyut mission should occur. In September 1978, however, NASA announced that talks had ended pending results of a comprehensive U.S. government review. Following the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, work toward joint U.S.-Soviet piloted space missions was abandoned on advice from the U.S. Department of State. It would resume a decade later as the Soviet Union underwent radical internal changes that led to its collapse in 1991 and the rebirth of the Soviet space program as the Russian space program.
"Second ASTP Unlikely," Aviation Week & Space Technology, 3 September 1973, p. 13.
Memorandum for the Record, "information. . . developed in estimating the cost of flying a second Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission in 1977," NASA Johnson Space Center, 4 April 1974.
Thirty Years Together: A Chronology of U.S.-Soviet Space Cooperation, NASA CR 185707, David S. F. Portree, February 1993.