The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project|
Proposal for a Test Flight
 In October 1970,
Academician Keldysh responded to a September 1969 letter from
Administrator Paine, agreeing that the "limited character" of
Soviet-American cooperation in space science and applications could
After the two sides had decided on a January 1971 meeting in Moscow
to discuss this subject, NASA Acting Administrator Low set about
choosing a delegation and determining the agency's position on those
topics proposed for the agenda.2
Acting on the advice of Arnold Frutkin, Low opted for a small
delegation composed of individuals able to discuss a broad range of
subjects rather than specialists.* Low and Frutkin thought it best to draft beforehand
the agreements as they would like to see them signed, so that the
Acting Administrator would always have in front of him the goals they
wished to achieve. When he left Washington, he had a complete set of
proposed agreements and a draft press release, as
Before departing, Low was briefed by Under
Secretary of State Alexis Johnson on the heightening diplomatic
tension between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviets
had just concluded a trial viewed in the U.S. as having anti-Semitic
overtones, involving a group of accused airplane hijackers. Even as
two of the Soviet Jews charged with the crime appealed their death
sentences, the first ever levied for hijacking in the U.S.S.R., the
Jewish Defense League had undertaken a campaign of bombing Soviet
installations and intimidating Soviet personnel in New York and
Washington. On 4 January, Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin delivered a note
to the State Department accusing the American Government of
"connivance" in these hostile acts and warned that the Soviet
Government could not guarantee the safety of American officials and
businessmen in Moscow.4
Although Johnson told Low that he did not anticipate any difficulties
for an official delegation, he did voice his concern about public
statements that Low might  make at the end of
the negotiations and cautioned him to check with the Embassy in
Moscow before making a favorable release to the press if the
diplomatic situation were to worsen.5
As preparations in Washington progressed for
George Low's visit to the U.S.S.R., the manned spacecraft team in
Houston was working on a set of alternative proposals for a flight
using Apollo and Soyuz hardware. Shortly after returning from the
Soviet capital in October, Bob Gilruth had suggested to Low that
subsequent discussions with the Soviet Academy would be more
productive if the two sides began talking about specific missions
using existing spacecraft.6
Gilruth and Caldwell Johnson had conducted an intensive feasibility
study at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) and presented their
findings to Low on 5 January.
Based upon the rapid exchange of technical
data and the tone of his recent correspondence with Keldysh, Low
decided that it might be worthwhile to raise the possibility of a
He was willing to increase the tempo of the compatibility talks with
the Soviets, for both he and Frutkin believed that the whole approach
of the U.S.S.R. toward cooperation had changed. Reflecting on the
October 1970 meeting, Frutkin later said "that meeting was clearly
different from anything we had ever had before with them." In the
Dryden-Blagonravov era, meetings involved only the very senior
personalities in the Academy of Sciences; "you didn't feel that you
were dealing with people who got grease on their hands." October had
been different. "The protocol was minimal, and business was clearly
foremost," Frutkin added. He had been impressed by Suslennikov,
Syromyatnikov, and especially Feoktistov, whom Frutkin had found
"extremely able and very efficient . . . with no
NASA's interest in obtaining more immediate results with the Soviets
was boosted by this new working relationship.9
On 12 January 1971, a week before leaving for
Moscow, Low and Frutkin flew to San Clemente, California, to discuss
NASA's negotiating plans with the President's Foreign Policy Adviser,
Henry Kissinger. Low briefly outlined the events leading to Keldysh's
invitation and summarized his strategy for the meeting on space
science and applications. In response to Low's request for the
Administration's position on an actual test mission using Apollo and
Soyuz spacecraft, Kissinger replied that as far as the White House
was concerned Low had a completely free hand to negotiate in any area
that was within NASA's overall responsibility. The President,
Kissinger said, was in full support of these meetings and personally
wanted Low to express to the Soviets his desire for cooperative
efforts in space research and technology. Kissinger had only one
request of the Acting Administrator; he would prefer that NASA
personnel not contribute to the false notion that if
 they could reach technical agreements they could also
solve political problems if given the opportunity. Kissinger felt
that in the past some of the astronauts had tried to suggest that
since it was easy to negotiate with the Soviets on space topics it
should be equally simple in other areas. Such naivete on the part of
highly publicized individuals only hampered the work of diplomats on
both sides. In parting, Kissinger told Low: "As long as you stick to
space, do anything you want to do. You are free to commit - in fact,
I want you to tell your counterparts in Moscow that the President has
sent you on this mission."10
Low and his party arrived in Moscow late
Saturday afternoon, the 16th of January. Their reception at the
airport was warm, and Keldysh was there to greet them. While the
Americans waited for customs formalities to be completed, Low chatted
with Keldysh and the Vice President of the Academy, Aleksandr
Pavlovich Vinogradov, who had just returned to Moscow from Houston.
They talked about the upcoming Apollo 14 mission, Luna 16 - the topic of
Vinogradov's presentation at MSC** - and Lunokhod, the unmanned
moon rover that was still ranging widely over the lunar surface.
There was no sign of any coolness or hostility, and once again it
appeared that the desire to cooperate in space exploration outweighed
any extraneous political events.11
Although Low asked for a reprieve from
extensive sightseeing that night, he and his colleagues had a
pleasant dinner with Keldysh, Blagonravov, and several other Soviets.
Low and Keldysh talked about manned versus unmanned flights and the
importance of space programs to the support of science and
technology. Manned flights, they agreed, were essential "to lift the
human spirit." They both felt that the United States and the Soviet
Union must compete and cooperate in space compete because they needed
the contest to spur the nations on and cooperate because of the
vastness of the universe and the number of problems that needed to be
Academician Aleksandr Pavlovich
Vinogradov, left, examines a lunar rock collected on the
12 mission. Assisting the
visitor to the Manned Spacecraft Center is Dr. Michael B. Duke,
center, curator in the Lunar and Earth Sciences Division. MSC
Director Robert R. Gilruth looks on.
At the Presidium of the Soviet
Academy of Sciences, the Soviet and American negotiators face one
another at the conference table in January 1971. Dr. Low and
Academician Keldysh (below) headed the delegations and signed the
agreements Soviet Academy of Sciences photos).
After four days of detailed and physically
exhausting negotiations,*** Keldysh and Low initialed an agreement calling for
fuller cooperation in five Specific areas:
- to improve the current exchange of data
from meteorological satellites and consider alternative
possibilities for coordinating systems;
-  to formulate
cooperative provisions for a program of meteorological rocket
- to study the possibility of conducting
natural environment research by coordinated surface, air, and
space measurements over international waters and specific ground
- to define and exchange information on the
objectives of space, lunar and planetary exploration, to consider
the possibility of coordinated lunar exploration, and to exchange
lunar surface samples already obtained; and
- to develop procedures whereby detailed
space biology and space medicine data could be more regularly
Although the Soviets would have preferred to
sign a more general set of statements, Low and the other Americans
stressed the need for specific agreements. The U.S. delegation felt
that the Soviets were surprisingly cooperative and open in their
approach, aside from some routine haggling over wording. From the
start, Keldysh had understood Low's concern for specificity and
practicality in the agreements and had seen to it that a compromise
was reached.14 While the news media reported favorably on the
proposal to exchange lunar samples, Low and Keldysh met privately to
discuss an even bolder plan.15
* Low was accompanied by
Frutkin; John D. Naugle, Associate Administrator for Space Science
and Applications; Arthur W. Johnson, Deputy Director, National
Environmental Satellite Service; William Anders, Executive Secretary,
National Aeronautics and Space Council; and Robert F. Packard,
Director, Office of Space-Atmospheric and Marine Science Affairs,
Department of State.
** Vinogradov presented
a paper, "Preliminary Data on Lunar Ground Brought to Earth by
Automatic Probe 'Luna-l6'," at the Second Lunar Science Conference
sponsored by the Lunar Science Institute, held in Houston, 11-14 Jan.
*** The Soviet
delegation consisted of M. V. Keldysh; A. P. Vinogradov; B. N.
Petrov; G. I. Petrov, Director, Institute for Space Research; I. P.
Rumyantsev, V. S. Vereshchetin, I. V. Meshcheryakov, and A. I.
Tsarev, Intercosmos; M. Ya. Marov, Institute of Applied Mathematics;
Ye. K. Federov, Chief, and L. A. Aleksandrov, Deputy Chief, Main
Administration Hydrometeorological Service; N. N. Gurovskiy, Chief,
Directorate, Ministry of Health; O. G. Gazenko, Director, Institute
of Medical-Biological Problems, Ministry of Health; Yu. A. Mozzhorin,
Professor, Moscow Physics-Technical Institute; V. P. Minashin, Chief,
Main Administration of Space Communication, and I. Ya. Petrov, Deputy
Chief, Main Administration of Space Communication, Ministry of
Communications; and K. G. Fedoseyev, Deputy Chairman of the USA
Section, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Vsevolodovich Keldysh to George M. Low, 19 Oct. 1970; and Thomas O.
Paine to Keldysh, 15 Sept. 1970.
2. Low to Keldysh, 24
Nov. 1970; Keldysh to Low, 4 Dec. 1970; and TWX, Keldysh to Low, 30
3. Low, "Notes on Trip
to the Soviet Union," 15-22 Jan. 1971.
4. Harry Scharwtz,
"Threats and Bombs - A Nasty Phase for the Two Nations,"
New York Times, 10 Jan. 1970; David A. Andelman, "Dangerous Campaign
to Harass Russians," New York
Times, 17 Jan. 1971; "Soviet Union -
Limited Leniency," Time, 11 Jan. 1971, pp. 19-21; "Lapel Diplomacy,"
Jan. 1971, p. 27; and "The Private Jewish War on Russia,"
Jan. 1971, pp. 18 and 21.
5. Low, "Notes on Trip
to the Soviet Union," 15-22 Jan. 1971.
6. Interview, Low-Edward
C. Ezell, 30 Apr. 1975.
7. Robert R. Gilruth to
Boris Nikolaevich Petrov, 23 Nov.1970, with enclosures ("Operations
and Functions of the Apollo Guidance Computer During Rendezvous"; "A
Summary Description of the Apollo Command and Service Module
Telecommunications System"; "A Summary Description of the Apollo
Docking System"; "The Apollo Radar Systems"; and "A Summary
Description of the Apollo Command Module Environmental Control
System"); Gilruth to Dale D. Myers, 23 Nov. 1970; Petrov to Gilruth,
16 Dec. 1970, with enclosures ("Kratkoye opisaniye radioapparatury
sblizheniya kosmicheskikh korabley tipa Soyuz" [A brief description
of the radio equipment used for rendezvous by Soyuz type spacecraft];
"Radiotelefonnaya svaz mezhdu pilotiruyemymi korablyami tipa Soyuz"
[Radio-telephone communications between manned spacecraft of the
Soyuz type], and "Spravochnyye dannyye po parametram atmosfery
zhilykh otsekov korabley tipa Soyuz" [Reference data on the
parameters of the atmosphere in the living compartments of Soyuz type
spacecraft]); and Keldysh to Low, 4 Dec. 1970.
8. Interview, Arnold W.
Frutkin-Ezell, 5 May 1975.
9. Low to Henry A.
Kissinger, 29 Oct. 1970; and Low to U. Alexis Johnson, 30 Oct.
Low-Ezell, 30 Apr. 1975; and Low, "Notes on Trip to the Soviet
Union," 15-22 Jan. 1971.
11. Low, "Notes on Trip
to the Soviet Union," 15-22 Jan. 1971; Peter Reich, "Lunokhod Revives
Debate on Manned vs. Robot Explorers," Chicago Today, 28 Dec.
1970; John Noble Wilford, "Exotic Fragments Found in Apollo Lunar
Sample," New York Times, 11 Jan. 1971; Thomas Toole, "Soviet Scientist Details
Plans for Lunar Robots," Washington
Post, 15 Jan. 1971; and Alexandr
Pavlovich Vinogradov, "Preliminary Data on Lunar Ground Brought to
Earth by Automatic Probe Luna-16," paper presented at the Second
Lunar Science Conference, Houston, Tex., 11-14 Jan. 1971.
12. Low, "Notes on Trip
to the Soviet Union," 15-22 Jan. 1971; and Low, "Speech Delivered
before the National Space Club," Washington, 26 Jan. 1971.
13. NASA News Release,
HQ, 71-57, "U.S.Soviet Agreement," 31 Mar. 1971; and NASA News
Release, HQ, 71-9, "U.S.-USSR Space Meeting," 21 Jan. 1971.
14. Low, "Notes on Trip
to the Soviet Union," 15-22 Jan. 1971.
15. Don Kirkman, "Soviet
Invites Space Talks," Washington Daily
News, 6 Jan. 1971; and Bernard
Gwertzman, "U.S. and Russians Reach Moon Pact," New York Times, 22 Jan.