The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project|
On 2 July, Senator Proxmire voiced another
objection to the joint flight. He made public the testimony of a top
Central Intelligence Agency official who raised questions about the
ability of the Soviets to control two space shots at one time - ASTP
and Soyuz 18/Salyut 4, which had been  launched on 24 May
1975. Proxmire had part of Carl Ducket's testimony declassified so he
could release it to the press. The Senator's news release read in
During hearings before the HUD and
Independent Agencies Subcommittee on June 4, the CIA Deputy Director
for Science and Technology, Carl Ducket, stated, "I do not think they
(the USSR) are in good shape to handle two missions at once from the
command point of view."
. . .
"This warning from the nation's top scientific
intelligence expert should not be taken lightly," the Senator
The Soviet Union has announced that the two
Russian cosmonauts already in space in the Salyut space lab will not
be brought back to Earth before the July 15th launch of the joint
US-USSR space mission.
In view of the potential hazards that already
exist during the joint mission, the added complexity of having two
space missions going at once should be avoided at all costs.
Soviet communications capabilities and central
management facilities are greatly inferior to those of the U.S.
Having two missions in space at once, including one involving two
spacecraft of different nations, is complex enough to warrant concern
that the ASTP mission may not get the full support it needs to be
Particularly troublesome is the potential for
inadequate command and control should one or the other mission
Proxmire urged NASA to postpone the ASTP
launch until the Soviets brought Soyuz
18 home. He said that it would be "a
simple matter to de-orbit the two cosmonauts. . . . Then the joint
mission could proceed without concern over this particular
problem."54 Administrator Fletcher responded on 3 July to
Proxmire's request to postpone the launch.55 "Although the Soviets have not made any official
announcements with respect to their plans for the Salyut mission,"
Fletcher told the Senator, the Soviet press on 27 June had quoted
Leonov as saying that the Salyut mission would continue during ASTP.
Since the final full-scale simulation for ASTP had involved the two
countries' control centers, Glynn Lunney had used that occasion to
discuss the multiple flight control matter with Bushuyev.
The Professor indicated that there had been no
final decision on the length of the Soyuz 18/Salyut 4
mission.56 During their conversation, Bushuyev assured Lunney
that should the two missions overlap, the Soviets would use two
separate ground control teams and control centers for the two
missions. ASTP would be directed from the center at Kaliningrad,
while Soyuz 18/Salyut 4 would be conducted by the center that had been used
prior to Soyuz 12. The Professor also told his American counterpart that
the  ASTP mission had
been assigned priority if the two sets of space vehicles should pass
simultaneously within the same zone of coverage of a U.S.S.R.
tracking station. This, of course, would be highly unlikely because
ASTP and Salyut had distinctly separate flight paths. In fact, NASA's
tracking specialists had made independent calculations that indicated
that the two Soviet missions would be in communication with the same
U.S.S.R. ground station only twice during the ASTP flight and then
only for intervals of about 0.5 and 1.5 minutes. Administrator
Fletcher told Proxmire that based upon the data available and the
nature of the two missions, "NASA has concluded that the
Soyuz 18/Salyut 4 mission does not constitute a hazard to ASTP and that
there is no reason to delay the launch of ASTP if the Salyut mission
is still in operation."57
Senator Proxmire, however, would not let the
issue die. After inserting anti-ASTP articles in the Congressional Record on
11 July, he leveled another blast at the joint flight on the 14th,
the eve of the launch.58 Citing CIA data, the Wisconsin senator noted
the Soviets have encountered
severe problems in space and their technology is inferior to that of
the U.S. in almost every category.
- the Soyuz rendezvous and docking system
has failed almost half the time
- the current level of Soviet preparation
still is below that of the US
- the threat of a minor fire poses a
moderate risk to the ASTP while a major fire is much less
- Soviet communications are not up to the
quality of US communications
- Cosmonaut training and ground control crew
proficiency are inferior to that of US counterparts.
- There has been some technology flow to the
Soviet Union as a result of the ASTP. Future joint missions would
pose more of a potential for technology drain
- the primary advantage to the USSR from the
ASTP has been in observing US management and program operational
- the Soviet lunar program has produced a
string of failures.
In summary, the US has a significant
technological lead over the USSR in the following areas:
communications, management and quality control, handling of emergency
situations, launch coordination and procedures, computerized
functions, capability for inflight mission changes, space medicine,
and crew training.59
Looking back on the Senator's remarks,
American ASTP Commander Tom Stafford said that this was the first
time that Proxmire had been worried about aerospace safety. Stafford
had seen the Soviet flight hardware and had worked with the Soviet
crews. And he was ready to fly. Stafford believed that Proxmire was
simply opposed to space flight in general.
 Whatever the sources of his concern, NASA did not
share them. Nearly everyone was ready for the launch, and the space
agency personnel had said so at the Headquarters Flight Readiness
Review on 12 June.60
53. News release, issued
by the office of Senator William Proxmire, Wisconsin, 2 July
55. Proxmire to
Fletcher, 2 July 1975.
56. Fletcher to
Proxmire, 3 July 1975.
57. Ibid.; and Thomas
O'Toole, "U.S.-Soviet Flight Delay Is Rejected," Washington Post, 3 July
Record, 11 July, S12417. Proxmire
inserted Thomas O'Toole, "Apollo-Soyuz: Another Wheat Deal,"
Washington Post, 11 July 1975, and Tom Braden, "The Space Link-Up,"
Washington Post, 5 July 1975.
59. News release, issued
by the office of Senator William Proxmire, Wisconsin, 14 July
60. Interview, Thomas P.
Stafford-Ezell, 6 Apr. 1976.