SP-4209 The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Preliminary Systems Review (Stage 2)


Working Group 3 tests of the two-fifths-scale model and the second part of the Preliminary Systems Review for the docking system was the last joint activity scheduled for 1972. The Americans arrived in Moscow on the 6th of December and worked through the 15th. MSC specialists were becoming seasoned travelers. During the October meeting in Moscow, most of the Americans had been infected by an intestinal parasite, which severely debilitated some of them after their return home. As a consequence, the team that went to the U.S.S.R. in December took along some pans in which they could boil their drinking water, hot plates, and some American style food-crackers, peanut butter, and canned dinners - to which their stomachs were more accustomed. With these supplementary rations and other items obtained from the American Embassy commissary, Don Wade reported that his team returned in much better health. Group 3's work went better than it had in October, too.52

Wade said that the Soviets were well prepared for the meeting. They had a team ready to begin the tests of the two-fifth's-scale docking systems. And following Lunney's suggestion, the Soviets provided the Americans with English and Russian versions of the materials they planned to discuss. There were some minor problems along the way, but all in all the trip was very successful. The PSR went especially smoothly, with the changes in the engineering drawings being studied and accepted by Syromyatnikov and Wade, who in turn recommended their acceptance by the Technical Directors at their March 1973 meeting.53

Testing the scale models at the Institute of Space Research in Moscow [216] went equally well. In his report to Chris Kraft, Lunney pointed out that these tests had indicated compatibility of the two systems in both the active and passive modes and that Working Group 3 had anticipated the minor problems experienced during the exercise and had already accounted for them in the revised drawings. Summarizing, Lunney said:

The meeting is considered to be a very successful one and, while we haven't placed a great deal of importance on the results of the model tests, I believe the accomplishment of this first major hardware related milestone on schedule is in itself significant. We have identified no major problems and are proceeding on schedule.54

Critics and supporters alike were surprised at the basically cooperative attitude of the Soviets and the progress being made toward the joint flight. There had been some frustrating moments for Glynn Lunney and his associates, and there would be times of tension and disagreement in the future, but how things had changed since the days of October 1957 or April 1961. Given the background of competition that had produced Sputnik, Gagarin's orbital mission, and the American resolve to beat the Soviets to the moon, the cooperative aspects of ASTP boggled some minds. One pair of critical writers found it all hard to believe:

Subsequent meetings were reported as going equally well. This applied both to specific "Working Groups," which met with increasing frequency either in the USSR or the US, and to large "plenary" meetings of full delegations from both sides concerned with the project. Within the compass of the ASTP project itself, these meetings were marked by exchanges of technical data and information, as well as a degree of personal contacts among the specialists involved almost without precedent in US-Soviet relations including those of the war-time alliance.55

The Soviets and Americans accomplished many things, but they still faced a multitude of tasks.

52. Wade to Lunney, memo, "Working Group #3 Debriefing Notes for the December 7-15, 1972, Meeting in Moscow" [drafted 20 Dec. 1972]. Dr. W. R. Hawkins, who accompanied the Working Groups in Oct. 1972, said that the parasite encountered was diagnosed as Giardia lamblia, which produces intestinal distress and severe diarrhea. The U.S. Public Health Service concluded that the NASA team probably contracted the parasite in the drinking water during their visit to Leningrad; interview (via telephone), W. R. Hawkins-Ezell, 3 Sept. 1975.

53. Wade to Lunney, memo, "Working Group #3 Debriefing Notes for the December 7-15, 1972, Meeting in Moscow" [drafted 20 Dec. 1972]; and "Apollo/Soyuz Test Project: Minutes of Meeting on Assuring Compatibility of Docking Systems, Working Group 3," 6-16 Dec. 1972.

54. Lunney to Kraft, memo, "Summary Report on Results of ASTP Working Group 3 Meeting in Moscow," 21 Dec. 1972, enclosing "Summary of ASTP Working Group 3 Meeting," 6-16 Dec. 1972.

55. Dodd L. Harvey and Linda C. Ciccoritti, U.S.-Soviet Cooperation in Space (Coral Gables, Fla., 1974), p. 246.