The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project|
April in Moscow
Following the November-December 1971 meeting
in Moscow, NASA Headquarters has recommended to the White House that
a formal agreement on an Apollo/Salyut mission be included on the
agenda for the May Summit meeting between President Nixon and Premier
Kosygin. After several  discussions with
the White House during the ensuing months, Henry Kissinger asked NASA
to make a firm recommendation by 15 April concerning the feasibility
of conducting such a flight. In Glynn Lunney's opinion, the Soviets
would have to agree to three basic management documents before NASA
could make a positive recommendation to the President. Draft versions
of Lunney's documents - a project technical proposal, an
organizational plan, and a project schedule - were ready for
transmittal to Moscow by the end of March. Fletcher and Low decided
that Low, Lunney, and Frutkin should visit Moscow during the week of
2 April to discuss these documents and reach a common position on the
most important points. Low remembered that they especially wanted "to
determine whether the Soviets really understood what we were talking
Fletcher and Low also decided not to publicize
this trip;* insofar as MSC was concerned, Lunney was visiting
Washington, and Low was supposedly on leave "to take care of family
business." To further assure that no one would know their
destination, Low's secretary went to a commercial travel agent to get
his tickets instead of buying them through the NASA travel office.
Low felt that the semi-clandestine nature of the trip lent some
excitement to his normally closely regulated life. On this occasion
only Fletcher, Mrs. Low, and Low's secretary would know where he
was.44 That is, they thought that was the situation until the
Sunday morning newspapers appeared on 2 April.
John Noble Wilford, on page one of the
New York Times, reported an interview with Academician Petrov, in
which Petrov mentioned an upcoming meeting with NASA officials. He
pointed out that the negotiations thus far had "considered only the
technical aspects of solving these problems" of a joint mission and
that neither government had yet approved the flight. When did he
expect such approval? Petrov said, "This would depend much on the
meetings that will take place next week and probably on the joint
meetings of all the working groups of engineers afterwards." When
Wilford asked if the necessary arrangements could be made in time for
the Summit discussions, Petrov replied, "I would not like to guess on
that. I know that on a government level there are a lot of very
important problems to discuss, and whether [a joint mission] is one
of them depends on the leaders, not us."#source45``45 Fletcher and
Low held their breath and waited to see if anyone would follow up the
story. No one did.
Low, Frutkin, and Lunney departed Washington
on Easter evening and arrived in Paris early Monday. After a short
layover, they continued aboard an Aeroflot jet to Moscow, where they
were met by Petrov, Bushuyev, and  Vereshchetin.
During their ride into the city, Petrov told Low that Keldysh had
been hospitalized. Vladimir Alexandrovich Kotelnikov, acting in the
capacity of Academy President, would be negotiating on behalf of the
Soviets. Because of a schedule conflict, he would not be able to meet
with the Americans until Tuesday afternoon. In their free time, the
three Americans visited the American Embassy, where they were invited
to lunch with Ambassador Jacob D. Beam and his guests later that
week. Jack Tech, the science attaché at the Embassy, later
asked Low if he knew who the guests for Thursday's luncheon would be,
and Low replied that Ambassador Kaiser and his son would be joining
them. Tech responded by asking if he knew who Ambassador Kaiser's son
was. When Low confessed that he did not, Tech dropped the bombshell -
Robert Kaiser was the Washington
Post's Moscow correspondent. Low went
immediately back to Ambassador Beam and said that in light of the
desire of the White House and the State Department to keep their
visit quiet, he questioned the wisdom of dining with the press. The
Ambassador assured Low that the luncheon would be a social affair and
that there would be no need to discuss his mission. Furthermore, Beam
said that he would take personal responsibility if there were any
leaks. Although he was extremely skeptical about this whole idea, Low
saw no way to avoid the invitation.46
For about two hours on Tuesday afternoon, the
American trio met with Kotelnikov, Petrov, Bushuyev, Vereschetin, and
I. P. Rumyantsev. After a typical Moscow lunch at the Club of the
Scientists, they continued their discussions with Petrov until 7:00
that evening. The two groups reconvened the next morning and
continued their negotiations until early afternoon. When the
Americans adjourned, they ate a quick lunch at the American Embassy
snack bar while they rewrote their version of the Summary of Results.
The afternoon session with the Soviets lasted only 2 hours, and based
upon the revised American draft and the basic understanding reached
that morning, the two sides were able to conclude the substance of
the talks. Frutkin and Vereshchetin completed the final editing of
the agreement Thursday morning.
Low, Frutkin, and Lunney attended their
obligatory noon meal on Thursday, which proved to be uneventful,
while waiting for the English version of the Summary to be typed at
the Embassy. The three returned to the Presidium of the Soviet
Academy of Sciences (where all the discussions had been held) for the
signing of the documents. The usual ceremony, in which both sides
signed two English and two Russian copies, took place in Kotelnikov's
office. The Acting President told Low that according to legend
Napoleon had slept in this room during his last night in Moscow 160
years earlier. There was a farewell dinner on the night of the 6th,
and Low and his colleagues departed for home the next morning.
 The Americans'
basic purpose for these meetings had been to obtain assurance from
the Soviets that there could be agreement on the organizational
structure to conduct a joint mission and that the mission could be
carried out according to a specified timetable. Low in his opening
remarks on Tuesday had told the Soviets that NASA was sure that a
joint mission was technically feasible, but the agency was not sure
that in managerial terms it was possible. Thus, Low's goal for the
Moscow meeting was to gain this assurance. Before the two sides
pursued this point further, Kotelnikov said that he had an important
statement that he would like to make.
Kotelnikov told the NASA people that in
re-evaluating the proposed test mission the Soviets had come to the
conclusion that it would not be technically and economically feasible
to fly the mission using Salyut. Salyut had only one docking port and
the addition of a second port would be very difficult technically and
very costly in both time and money. Therefore, the Soviets proposed
to conduct the test flight using Soyuz, which could accept all the
modifications necessary for such a mission. They were quite forceful
in stating that there would be no changes in any of the agreements
made thus far.
Surprise was perhaps the mildest word for the
Americans' reaction. Nevertheless, Low quickly responded and told
Kotelnikov that barring any technical difficulties, the switch from
Salyut to Soyuz would be acceptable.47 He turned to Lunney and asked him if he saw any
technical reason for opposing such a change, and Lunney could think
of none. Operationally, this would present a simpler mission since it
would involve only two coordinated launches - Apollo and Soyuz and
not three - Apollo, Salyut, and Soyuz. Low and Frutkin tried to think
through any "political" implications and found none. It would still
be possible to exchange crews, which would be the major public impact
of the mission, and such a mission would give the Americans an added
advantage - not calling attention to the fact that the Soviets
already had a space station flying and NASA did not.
After Low agreed to this change, he took the
opportunity to raise an issue that was of concern to NASA the lack of
Soviet responsiveness to the proposals concerning regular, direct
voice communications between the two sides.48 Low mentioned that he was interested in more than just
the basic issue of communication; he said that if this
unresponsiveness was indicative of their attitude for the future, it
would be very difficult to conduct a joint mission. Kotelnikov
quickly understood why Low placed such importance on this issue and
said it would be settled immediately. After considerable debate and
discussion, the NASA position on regular communication between Lunney
and Bushuyev prevailed.
On Tuesday afternoon, the discussion turned to
the "Apollo/Salyut Test Mission Consideration," which was essentially
a summary of the  organization plan.
The Americans had hoped to agree on this plan in detail. As Lunney
was presenting the document, the discussion fell apart and became
quite confusing, with an inordinate amount of time being spent
quibbling over the exact wording of each sentence. "We quickly saw,"
Low reported, "that we would be in Moscow for weeks rather than days
were we to proceed this way." Low called for a short recess, so the
Americans could discuss their strategy.
Before the Americans went off to themselves,
they showed the Soviets a draft version of the Summary of Results
that they hoped would be the basis for their mutual agreement. Low
told the Soviets that it was essential to reach an accommodation and
full understanding of the "12 principles governing mission conduct"
that were a part of the "Apollo/Salyut Test Mission Consideration"
document, which Low now suggested might be included in the Summary.
The Soviets said they would look at these materials while the
Americans held their private discussion.49
After the recess, the Americans and Soviets
resumed the negotiations, reviewing the 12 principles and the Summary
of Results until Wednesday. The negotiations were long and difficult,
and sometimes when it appeared that agreement had been reached in
English on a specific point, the material when read back in English
after being translated into Russian sounded like the text of a
completely different agreement. Low continually had to emphasize the
necessity of having complete concurrence on the substance of the
text. At one point in the negotiations, he told the Soviets that
unless he could come away from this meeting with a firm agreement on
the basic principles of organization, documentation, and scheduling,
he would be in no position to recommend the test mission to President
Nixon. He stated further that he would even go so far as to make a
negative report. On the other hand, he expressed a willingness to
stay in Moscow until they were able to hammer out the necessary
On Wednesday when the three Americans returned
from lunch with a freshly typed copy of the Summary of Results, Yu.
V. Zonov translated the English draft and then called a recess so
that the Soviets could discuss the document in private. The Soviets
seemed amazed that anyone could have completely recast an entire
document in such a short time. When they came back, the Soviets told
the visitors that the revised paper, with some minor editorial
exceptions, was completely acceptable to them. The alterations were
performed by Vereschetin and Frutkin.50
The Summary of Results that emerged from these
efforts was the keystone in the negotiations for a joint test
mission.51 Without the basic understandings that were forged at
that time, the subsequent work would have been difficult, to say the
least. In all, seventeen points (see box below.) illustrated the
level of trust and understanding that would have to...
17 Points of Agreement
Negotiation in Moscow, 4-6 Apr. 1972
A. For the preparatory (pre-launch)
- Regular and direct contact will
be provided through communication links and visits as
- A complete project schedule will
be developed and commitments will be made on both sides
to meet this schedule in order to avoid costly delays to
- Arrangements will be made for
necessary contact and understanding between specialists
engaged in developing and conducting the project.
- A comprehensive test,
qualification, and simulation program will be
- A sufficient level of
familiarization and training, where applicable, with the
other country's vehicle and/or normal training equipment
must be defined and provided for safety-of-flight
assurance. The necessary training exercises will be
conducted in each country for the other country's flight
crew and ground operations personnel.
- The parties recognize in
particular that they must jointly make a concerted effort
to arrive at a full agreement on the engineering aspects
of the mission during the meeting of the work groups in
- Two years prior to the flight,
responsible persons who will directly participate in the
flight operations should be included in the Working
groups in order to assure a proper level of mutual
understanding and continuity of personnel into the
B. For the mission operation -
- Control of the flight of the
Apollo type spacecraft will be accomplished by the
American Control Center and that of the Soyuz by the
Soviet Control Center, with sufficient communications
channels between centers for proper coordination.
- In the course of control,
decisions concerning questions affecting joint elements
of the flight program, including countdown coordination,
will be made after consultation with the control center
of the other country.
- Joint elements of the flight will
be conducted according to coordinated and approved
mission documentation, including contingency
- In the conduct of the flight,
pre-planned exchanges of technical information and status
will be performed on a scheduled basis.
- The host country control center
or host country spacecraft commander will have primary
responsibility for deciding the appropriate pre-planned
contingency course of action for a given situation in the
host vehicle. Each country will prepare detailed rules
for various equipment failures requiring any of the pre-
planned contingency courses of action.
- In situations requiring immediate
response, or when out of contact with ground personnel,
decision will be taken by the commander of the host ship
according to the pre-planned, contingency courses of
- Any television downlink will be
immediately transmitted to the other country's control
center. The capability to listen to the voice
communications between the vehicles and the ground will
be available to the other country's control center on a
pre-planned basis and, upon joint consent, as further
required or deemed desirable.
- Both sides will continue to
consider techniques for providing additional information
and background to the other country's control center
personnel to assist in mutual understanding (including
the placement of representatives in each other's control
- As a minimum, flight crews should
be trained in the other country's language well enough to
understand it and act in response as appropriate to
establish voice communications regarding normal and
contingency courses of action.
- A public information plan will be
developed which takes into account the obligations and
practices of both sides.
 ...be established
before a joint mission could be carried out. Of these points, the
most difficult to negotiate were ones relating to crew training and
the public release of information about the flight. After much
dialogue, it was decided that the candidate crews would have to be
identified one to two years before the flight so that they would have
adequate time to train on the other nation's hardware. On the point
of releasing information about a joint mission, the Soviets agreed
that everything during a normal flight should be released
immediately. In case of a major disaster, they would be willing to
release information just as they had done in the case of
Soyuz 11. Their main concern seemed to lie with the minor
abnormalities during a flight that might be blown out of proportion
or misunderstood. In his turn, Low had stressed an absolute need for
NASA to continue its policy of disclosing all information available
at the control center and tracking stations. At the conclusion of the
discussions, the two sides agreed that they would develop a public
information plan that would take into account the "obligations and
practices" of both sides.
Looking back on that experience in Moscow, Low
was optimistic when he returned to Washington. He had reached the
conclusion that the two sides were ready now to undertake a test
mission. As for hardware matters, they had reached an understanding
on all issues that had been identified so far and did not foresee any
new problems that they would be unable to handle. On the management
side, the Soviets and the Americans had decided on such matters as
regular and direct contact through frequent telephone and telex
exchanges, the requirements for and control of formal documentation,
joint reviews of design and hardware of various stages of
development, the requirement for joint tests of interconnecting
systems, early participation by flight operations specialists, and
the like. Based upon all these agreements, it was George Low's
recommendation that the United States government execute an agreement
for a test mission.52
* At the request of the
White House, this trip was not publicized because NASA planned to
discuss a possible agenda item for the forthcoming Summit
Low-Ezell, 30 Apr. 1975; [Low], "Visit to Moscow, April 1972, to
Discuss Compatible Docking Systems for US and USSR Manned
Spacecraft," 4-6 Apr. 1972; Lunney to Bushuyev [n.d.], with
enclosure, "Apollo/Salyut Test Mission Considerations," 23 Mar. 1972;
and Kraft to Frutkin, 4 Apr. 1972, asking transmittal of letter,
Lunney to Bushuyev [n.d.], enclosing, NASA, MSC, "Project Technical
Proposal for an Apollo/Salyut Test Mission" [n.d.] and NASA, MSC,
"Proposed Project Schedule Document," ASTM 30 000, 3 Mar.
Low-Ezell, 30 Apr. 1975; [Low], "Visit to Moscow," 4-6 Apr.
45. John Noble Wilford,
"U.S.-Soviet Accord in Sight on a Joint Space Mission,"
New York Times, 2 Apr. 1972.
Low-Ezell, 30 Apr. 1975; and [Low], "Visit to Moscow," 4-6 Apr. 1972.
Kaiser had written articles on the docking talks in the past, a fact
that brought little comfort to Low. Robert G. Kaiser, "U.S., Soviet
Space Link-up Seen Near," Washington
Post, 4 Dec. 1971.
Lunney-Ezell, 23 July 1974.
48. Ibid.; [Low], "Visit
to Moscow," 4-6 Apr. 1972; and TWX, Secretary of State to Science
Attaché, American Embassy, Moscow, "US/USSR Rendezvous and
Docking Summary of Results," 25 Feb. 1972.
49. "Apollo/Salyut Test
Mission Considerations," 23 Mar. 1972.
Low-Ezell,30 Apr. 1975;and [Low], "Visit to Moscow," 4-6 Apr.
51. "Summary of
Results," 4-6 Apr. 1972.
Low-Ezell, 30 Apr. 1975; and [Low], "Visit to Moscow," 4-6 Apr. 1972.