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

Negotiation by Telephone


On January 1972, Glynn Lunney wrote to Professor Bushuyev, proposing a list of questions to be discussed in their first telephone conference.38 The basic purposes of the conversation were to clarify arrangements for the March meeting of Group 3 in Houston, to clear up some technical questions associated with the design of the docking mechanism, and to discuss arrangements for the Group 2 meeting tentatively scheduled for June in Moscow. During January and February, the number of letters between Houston and Moscow had increased, indicating the growing complexity of the joint effort. The specialists needed faster answers; at the request of the Soviets MSC initiated a telephone call to Bushuyev on the morning of 2 March. Because the overseas circuits were busy, nearly 40 minutes passed before the NASA party reached the Academy of Sciences. For 75 minutes, the two sides struggled with the initially awkward process of talking through an interpreter over a not-too-perfect overseas telephone connection. On the Soviet side, the process was complicated by the fact that they were using two telephone handsets, but in Houston a conference arrangement circumvented the necessity of passing the phone from one person to the other.39

Glynn Lunney was in Washington at the time of the call so Caldwell Johnson spoke for MSC.* Bushuyev and Johnson discussed several questions associated with fitting the docking mechanism under the launch shroud of Salyut. The Soviets agreed to ease up on their height requirement for the docking mechanism, a change that would be discussed at the Houston talks [180] scheduled for later in March. No date was selected for the Moscow visit of Working Group 2, but the American side restated its desire to hold the meeting after the 16 April launch of Apollo 16. After several minutes of speaking with Syromyatnikov about other docking mechanism questions and with Legostayev about Group 2 matters, Johnson bid Professor Bushuyev do svidaniya [good-bye]. The Professor in turn wished his best to Johnson and asked him to convey greetings to Lunney.40 (See box below.[in the next chaper])

The first telecon was helpful but difficult. The Americans sent a transcript of the tape recorded conversation to Moscow, and the Soviets sent their version to Houston. Thereafter, exchanging minutes became another way to assure clear understanding of such communications. Nevertheless, the Soviets, and particularly the Professor, were not satisfied with the telephone as a medium for discussing technical matters. As a result, Lunney on his return to MSC wrote to his counterpart:

It is my strong personal belief that continued exchanges like the tele-conference and probably more frequent meetings are essential to the success of the project. The difficulties and dangers of this mission will be reduced in direct proportion to the increase in knowledge and understanding between us and our colleagues.41

Stressing this point further, Lunney suggested that the Group 2 meeting in Moscow be preceded by a similar telecon. The Americans were determined to establish fast and reliable communications with the Soviets. The work in the immediate weeks ahead would stress the necessity of spelling out specifications for the docking system.

* Present in Houston for the telecon were C. C. Johnson, D. C. Wade, R.D. White, J. C. Jones, J. C. Waite, W. K. Creasy, R. Reid, E. N. Harrin, and W. Karakulko. On the Soviet side, K. D. Bushuyev, V. P. Legostayev, V. S, Syromyatnikov, I. V, Lavrov, V, N, Bobkov, and B, P. Artemov were near the phones. Harrin, Karakulko, and Artemov acted as interpreters.

38. Christopher C. Kraft to Frutkin, 19 Jan. 1972, asking transmittal of letter, Lunney to Bushuyev [27 Jan. 1972], with enclosure, "Docking Mechanism Subjects for Discussion." See also Johnson to Lunney, memo, "Preparations for Possible Telecons and Meetings with Soviets," 11 Feb. 1972.

39. TWX, Jacob D. Beam to Lunney, "NASA/Interkosmos Conference Call," 1 Mar. 1972; and Johnson to Lunney, memo, "Initial Telecon with Soviets to Discuss Technical Aspects of Contemplated CSM/Salyut Mission," 3 Mar. 1972.

40. Johnson to distribution, memo, "Transcript of Telecom between MSC, Houston, and Intercosmos, Moscow, 2 March 1972," 22 Mar. 1972, enclosing a copy of the transcript; [Soviet Academy of Sciences], "Summary of the March 2, 1972, Telephone Conversation between the NASA and the Academy of Sciences" [n.d.] ; and Roberts, notes, "Conference Call to Moscow" [n.d.].

41. Kraft to Frutkin, 22 Mar. 1972, asking transmittal of letter, Lunney to Bushuyev, 15 Mar. 1972.