Mint Stamp Sheet Honors the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
The Apollo-Soyuz test project was the first joint U.S.-Soviet space mission. It marked the end of the Apollo program and the beginning of the world’s two superpowers working together.
The Apollo-Soyuz test project was launched after years of preparations. American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts visited each other’s space centers and learned one another’s language. The American commander, Tom Stafford, had such a strong southern accent the Soviet commander said his Russian sounded more like “Oklahomski.”
On July 15, 1975, the Apollo spacecraft took off from the United States and the Soyuz from Russian soil. Two days later, they docked together in orbit. It took three hours to complete the joining of the two spaceships. The American and Soviet astronauts conducted joint experiments, toured each other’s spacecraft, and shared meals. The crews exchanged flags and gifts before separating 44 hours after docking.
The crews continued to work together in space. Apollo maneuvered in front of the sun to cause the first man-made eclipse, so Soyuz could take photos of the sun’s corona. When the spaceships were preparing to separate after a second docking, American astronaut Vance Brand told the cosmonauts, “I’m sure that we’ve opened up a new era in history. Our next meeting will be on the ground.”
The Apollo crew remained in space for six additional days observing the earth and the universe. The astronauts studied ocean currents and pollution, volcanoes, and iceberg movements. They expanded our knowledge of distant space with the discovery of the first pulsar (or pulsing star) outside our galaxy and evidence that led to identifying the hottest known dwarf star.
The knowledge gained during the mission was used in future programs such as the Space Shuttles and the Mir and International Space Stations. People from both countries gained a better understanding of each other by witnessing the crews’ interactions on live television feeds. The project was so historic, a monument commemorating the flight was erected outside the Russian space control center in Moscow.