Friday, December 3, 2010

The Apollo–Soyuz Test Project

Here are some images of Revell's 1/96 scale Apollo/Soyuz Test Project.
From Wikipedia "

The Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) (Russian: Экспериментальный полёт «Союз» — «Аполлон») (Eksperimantalniy polyot Soyuz-Apollon) flew in July 1975. It was the last Apollo mission, the first joint U.S./Soviet space flight, and the last manned US space mission until the first Space Shuttle flight in April 1981.

Though the mission included both joint and separate scientific experiments (including an engineered eclipse of the Sun by Apollo for Soyuz to take photographs of the solar corona) and provided useful engineering experience for future joint US/Russian space flights such as the Shuttle-Mir Program and the International Space Station, its primary purpose was symbolic. ASTP was a symbol of détente that the two superpowers were pursuing at the time, and it ended the tension of the Space Race.

This was astronaut Deke Slayton's only flight. He was chosen as one of the original Mercury Seven in April 1959 but had been grounded until 1972 for medical reasons.

The Soyuz and Apollo flights launched within seven and a half hours of each other on July 15, and docked on July 17. Three hours later the two mission commanders, Stafford and Leonov, exchanged the first international handshake in space through the open hatch of the Soyuz. NASA had calculated that the historic handshake would have taken place over the British seaside resort of Bognor Regis, but a delay resulted in its actual occurrence being over the town of Metz in France.

While the two ships were docked, the three Americans and two Soviets conducted joint scientific experiments, exchanged flags and gifts (including tree seeds which were later planted in the two countries), signed certificates, visited each other's ships, ate together, and conversed in each other's languages. (Because of Stafford's pronounced drawl when speaking Russian, Leonov later joked that there were actually three languages spoken on the mission: Russian, English, and "Oklahomski.") There were also docking and redocking maneuvers during which the two spacecraft reversed roles and the Soyuz became the "active" ship.

After 44 hours together, the two ships separated, and maneuvered to use the Apollo to create an artificial solar eclipse to allow the crew of the Soyuz to take photographs of the solar corona. Another brief docking was made before the ships went their separate ways. The Soviets remained in space for five days, the Americans for nine, during which the Apollo crew also conducted experiments in Earth observation.

The mission was a great success, both technically and as a public-relations exercise for both sides. The only serious problem was due to an Apollo crew mistake during re-entry preparations that resulted in a very rough landing and entry of noxious gas into the spacecraft. The reaction control system was inadvertently left on during descent and highly toxic nitrogen tetroxide was sucked into the spacecraft as it drew in outside air. Brand briefly lost consciousness, and Slayton reported suffering nausea. As a precaution, the three astronauts were hospitalized for two weeks in Honolulu, Hawaii. In his autobiography, Slayton reported that the crew received doses of nitrogen tetroxide approaching the level that would cause death. The three upright bags in the nosecone were designed to upright the command module capsule if necessary after splashdown. These upright bags partially failed leaving the capsule upside down on the ocean's surface awaiting rescue by navy divers. This is the only time this situation occurred during the entire Apollo program. During the post mission hospitalization, a lesion was discovered on Slayton's left lung, not believed to have been caused by the fumes. A biopsy determined it was benign.

This was the final flight of an Apollo spacecraft. Immediately after the launch of the Apollo spacecraft, preparations began to convert Launch Pad 39B and the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center for use by the Space Shuttle, the United States' next manned spacecraft program. Launch Pad 39A had already been closed after the launch of Skylab.


Pat Tillett said...

It's amazing how sci-fi has affected the way we (or maybe just me) view how space vehicles are supposed to look. This is a great model of something that mankind had never attempted before. I guess the logistics of big space stations must be hard to comprehend...

Warren Zoell said...

It's amazing the amount of brain work that goes into conceiving and designing this equipment.

Hanny said...

I'm really enjoying this space series, Warren! The US Air Force just recently landed the first remotely piloted space shuttle, which is exciting. All I can think of is how much these space programs cost though! Nice work!

Warren Zoell said...

Thanks Hanny - Now American Astronauts are catching rides on Soyuz craft. In my books that aint cool.