The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project|
The Nixon-Kosygin Summit
Upon his return to Washington from Moscow in
April, George Low had informed Henry Kissinger that from NASA's point
of view a joint mission in  1975 was a
realistic goal and that no additional meetings between the Soviet
Academy of Sciences and NASA would be required before placing the
topic on the agenda of the May Summit meeting. Low felt that the
agreement between the two governments could be relatively short and
straightforward. While Low was communicating with the White House,
NASA's public position on the topic was one of silence.
Low recalled that from mid-April to mid-May
reporters had exhibited keen interest in the possibility of a joint
docking mission proposal being part of the Nixon-Kosygin
talks.59 In the many interviews between NASA officials and the
press, "there was never any hint about the 4-6 April meeting, nor was
there ever any hint that during the meeting the Soyuz spacecraft was
substituted for the Salyut," Low said. He believed that the agency
had been able to keep discussions about its work leading up to the
Summit to a minimum "only because a very small number of NASA people
had been involved in the activities. . . ." While their participation
in the business of summitry had been successful, Fletcher and Low
were puzzled over how slowly work on the Summit-level space agreement
was going at the State Department.60
It was not until the week before the Summit
meeting that the State Department and the White House began to
coordinate with the Soviets the draft language of the document of
space. On 20 May, the Soviets responded to the American proposed text
with a much lengthier document which, among other things, included
the text of the Low-Keldysh agreement of 21 January 1971 and the
agreement hammered out in April 1972. When the Soviet response was
received in Washington, Secretary of State Rogers and Kissinger were
immediately contacted aboard their airplane over the Atlantic en
route to Salzburg, Austria. Kissinger asked the State Department
staff to contact Low and have him help them work out a suitable
alternative to the Soviet proposal without significantly revising the
Low went over to the State Department at about
2:30 Saturday afternoon and worked with the staff there until the
middle of the night. In the process of that lengthy session, they
were able to revise the preamble of the agreement, while retaining
the sense and meaning of the Soviet draft. In only one area,
communications satellites, did they make any major change. This had
not been part of the Low-Keldysh agreement because Low had told the
Soviets that this was an area of commercial enterprise in the United
States. Since NASA was not empowered to negotiate for these private
companies, Low had this section eliminated from the draft sent to
Kissinger that night.
After Low's Saturday session with the State
Department, NASA had no additional information about the status of
the space agreement, except for  "persistent
signals" that it was scheduled to be signed on Wednesday, the 24th.
On Tuesday, Low left Washington for San Diego where he was scheduled
to give a speech - "NASA Looks Ahead in the 70s." During the course
of the evening after dinner, Low received a trans-Atlantic telephone
call patched through the State Department operations center that
involved himself, Frutkin, and a State staff member. There were still
some questions about the wording of the text, and the three men
worked out a final version just in time for Low to make his way back
into the ballroom where he was being introduced as the evening's main
President Richard Nixon and
Premier Aleksey Kosygin sign a five-year agreement between the United
States and the Soviet Union on cooperation in the fields of science
and technology, 24 May 1972.
President Nixon and Premier Kosygin signed the
"Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer
Space for Peaceful Purposes" at 6:00 p.m. Moscow time on the 24th.
Later that afternoon (Washington time), Vice President Agnew
introduced NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher to the press at a
briefing held in the Executive Office Building. The reporters were
given the text of the space agreement while Fletcher made the
following statement: "We . . .are extremely pleased that President
Nixon's meeting with officials of the Soviet Union in Moscow has
brought to fruition the most meaningful cooperation in space yet
achieved by our two nations." He noted that they had been discussing
the possibilities for such cooperation for some time and that this
agreement molded these technical discussions into a "definitized
program." Of the various planned enterprises, "the most dramatic . .
. will involve the rendezvous and docking of a U.S. spacecraft with a
Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 1975."62
The space agreement was only one of a host of
important issues discussed at the Summit. The Soviet and American
leaders agreed on ways of working together to protect the natural
environment, to advance health, to cooperate in science and
technology, to prevent incidents at sea, and to expand trade between
the two nations. President Nixon spoke over radio and television to
the people of the Soviet Union on the evening of 28 May. He noted
that one of his principal aims as President had been "to establish a
better  relationship
between the Soviet Union and the United States." Our two great
nations, which have never faced one another on the battle field,
"shall sometimes be competitors, but . . . need never be
enemies."63 Nixon felt that it was "most important" that the two
countries had "taken an historic first Step in the limitation Of
nuclear strategic arms."64 This agreement was signed on the 26th of May, the
product of the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) begun in 1969.
However, it lacked one important element that did exist in the
Apollo-Soyuz test flight agreement - the Apollo-Soyuz accord was tied
to a specific timetable. The engineers of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
would have to work hard and without discord if they were to meet it.
The concrete goal of flying together by a given date promised to
guarantee success, whereas the general agreement to limit strategic
arms carried no such inherent assurances. The task ahead of Glynn
Lunney and Professor Bushuyev was a challenging one - the forging of
59. "U.S.-Soviet Space
Feat Likely by 75," Baltimore
Sun, 5 Apr. 1972; Thomas O'Toole,
"U.S.-Soviet Joint Efforts in Space Seen," Washington Post, 6 Apr.
1972; Jim Maloney, "Joint U.S., Soviet Space Trip Likely,"
Houston Post, 5 Apr. 1972; Al Marsh, "Deke Learning Cosmonaut
Talk," Today, 17 Apr. 1972; "Deke Slayton Studies Russian and
Dreams of Space," New York
Times, 27 Apr. 1972; "Team Up with the
Soviets? The Chances Are Quite Good," U.S. News and World Report, 8
May 1972; Thomas O'Toole, "Summit in Space: June 15, 1975,"
Washington Post, 7 May 1972; Nicholas C. Chriss, "Joint Mission; NASA,
Soviet Togetherness: Its Far Out," Los
Angeles Times, 5 May 1972; and
Jonathan Spivak, "Ivan and John? The U.S. and Russia Seem Ready To
Join Hands in Outer Space; Soviets Need the Technology, NASA Needs
the Money: Going to Mars Together? Hooking Up Apollo to Salyut,"
Wall Street Journal, 16 May 1972.
Low-Ezell, 30 Apr. 1975; and [Low], "Visit to Moscow," 4-6 Apr.
62. A press package
released by NASA on 24 May 1972 included Richard T. Mittauer, "Note
to Editors" [n.d.]; NASA News Release, HQ [unnumbered], "Text of
US/USSR Space Agreement," 24 May 1972; "Statement by Dr. Fletcher,"
24 May 1972; NASA News Release, HQ, 72-109, "US/USSR Rendezvous and
Docking Agreement," 24 May 1972; NASA News Release, HQ [unnumbered],
"Background on Rendezvous Results," 4-6 Apr. 1972; and "Summary of
Results of the Low-Keldysh Agreements," 18-21 Jan. 1971. See also
NASA press conference, HQ, "News Conference on US/USSR Rendezvous and
Docking Agreement," 24 May 1972; and "White House Press Conference of
the Vice President; Dr. James C. Fletcher, Administrator of NASA;
Glynn S. Lunney, Assistant to the Manager for Operational, Experiment
and Government Furnished Equipment, NASA; and Dr. Edward E. David,
Jr., Science Adviser to the President," 24 May 1972.
Quarterly, Inc. (comp.), Historic
Documents 1972 (Washington, 1973), p.
64. "Salt and the Moscow
Summit, May 22-30, 1972," in Congressional Quarterly, Inc., comp.,
1972 (Washington, 1973), pp. 431-463.