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

Chapter 8

Apollo and Soyuz at Mid-Term


[225] The Mid-Term Review was another NASA tool that the Americans inserted into the joint project. As the name indicated, this examination at the mid-way point gave management an opportunity to ask questions of the technical teams and to evaluate their progress. George Low wanted an ASTP Mid-Term Review because Glynn Lunney had expressed his concern several times during 1973 over the Soviets' inability to meet deadlines in some areas. Lunney had already discussed this with Professor Bushuyev in their formal meetings and in private communications; early in August, Lunney drafted a letter to his counterpart in which he noted that despite the excellent progress of the work at the July meetings he must "amplify . . . [his] concerns regarding some of [their] discussions." While both he and Bushuyev agreed that they were continuing to meet their major milestones, Lunney said:

Despite these very significant accomplishments, I am still concerned about the delay we are experiencing in obtaining pertinent technical and program related data from your side. As I discussed [earlier], we have experienced a delay in exchange of material of up to 9 months. This has occurred even though we have signed minutes committing ourselves to specific dates for these exchanges. Our experience indicates that the need for rapid exchange of information and reports greatly increases as the time for flight approaches. For example, as we approach the launch date, the preparation and negotiation of documents such as the Safety Assessment Reports will have to be completed in a very short time rather than the 6 to 9 months currently required.1

Lunney went on to address problems being encountered by Working Group 4. "I think we both agree that the work of this group has not been satisfactory, and this has been due to a lack of timely preparation, primarily, on the USSR side." But the American Technical Director "was pleased to hear from [Bushuyev] that [he was] considering steps to solve this problem."2


226] Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft as configured for ASTP.

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Launch configuration of the Apollo spacecraft.

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Major Apollo spacecraft changes from Skylab configuration.


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Soyuz orbital module interior.

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Soyuz descent vehicle

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Soyuz instrument-assembly module.


Looking ahead, Lunney also felt that more data would be needed on the Soyuz 11 hardware failure. A detailed written report describing the problem and the corrective steps subsequently taken was in order. The [228] Americans believed that they "should institute a policy of exchanging such information as part of [their] process of developing mutual confidence in the success and safety of the joint flight." Furthermore, he argued that this mutual understanding should be extended to "Salyut and Skylab programs as they relate to the overall confidence in the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft." Lunney raised this issue because Bushuyev's assessment of Salyut 2, launched on 3 April 1973 - reportedly a normal mission - did not agree with reports from American tracking stations that indicated that the space station had broken up into many pieces, Lunney hoped "that during our meeting in October we will be able to further discuss and understand this problem." He added that he had been informed that Low had proposed that he and Academician Keldysh conduct a review of the entire program during the Mid-Term Review.3

With only 21 months remaining until the scheduled launch, Low thought that October 1973 would be an auspicious time to scrutinize the flight preparations. On 14 August, Low wrote to Keldysh: "it seems to me that it would be wise for you and me to meet at an early date to assess the progress of the ASTP project in mid-course. In particular, I believe we should try to give special consideration to those areas which could most likely present difficulties in the months ahead." He wanted "to discuss in detail four subjects" - Soviet hardware failures (Soyuz 11 and Salyut 2), joint participation in test and flight preparation activities, project milestones, and the preparation of documentation. Closing his letter, Low asked if it would be possible to visit some of the Soviet space facilities during his visit. "I would appreciate your suggesting an itinerary, but I would, of course, be interested in visiting installations of the sort you visited at NASA last October."4

Keldysh's favorable and warm response, dated 30 August, arrived in Washington in early September. He said that he had "attentively read [Low's] letter" and agreed that "in such a complex and responsible task, from a technical and organizational point of view . . . questions could arise, which would require additional consideration." He asked that the issues raised by Low be "studied with full attention" before they met in October for their review.5

About a week before his scheduled departure for the Soviet Union, Low received a telephone call from Chet Lee, who was already in Moscow. He reported that Keldysh was ill and would be unable to participate in the review.* Lee added that the Soviets still wanted to have the meeting and [229] were counting on Low's visit, having arranged tours of several space facilities for him. This trans-Atlantic conversation was followed by an official telegram from Keldysh in which he indicated that he had delegated the Soviet chairmanship for the Mid-Term Review to Boris N. Petrov. When the text of the cable was delivered to the American Embassy in Moscow for transmittal to Washington, V. S. Vereshchetin had told Jack L. Tech, the Science Attache, that Petrov rather than the higher-ranking Kotelnikov would substitute because of Petrov's close familiarity with the day-to-day management of the project and not because of any downgrading of the review. After consulting Arnold Frutkin, Low decided that they should still travel to Moscow.6

* Earlier in 1973, the Houston-based heart surgeon Michael E. DeBakey had flown to the Soviet Union to operate on Keldysh. After a short recuperation, Keldysh had plunged back into work, so that by the fall of the year he was worn down and exhausted. His physicians ordered him to rest and to refrain from participation in taxing activities.

1. Glynn S. Lunney to Konstantin Davydovich Bushuyev [signed 24 Aug. 1973, but an earlier draft appears in the files dated 7 Aug. 1973 apparently prepared before Lows letter to Keldysh of 14 Aug. 1973].

2. Lunney to Bushuyev [24 Aug. 1973].

3. Ibid.

4. George M. Low to Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh, 14 Aug. 1973. The two teams had discussed Salyut 2 and Soyuz 11 in some detail at the joint meetings in July 1973 in Houston, but Lee and others thought that additional information was necessary. See Chester M. Lee to Dale D. Myers, memo, "US/USSR July Working Group Meeting," 25 July 1973.

5. Keldysh to Low, 30 Aug. 1973.

6. TWX, Jack L. Tech to Arnold W. Frutkin, "NASA Delegation Visit to USSR," 4 Oct. 1973; TWX, Oscar E. Anderson, Jr., to Frutkin and Low, "NASA Delegation Visit to USSR," 5 Oct. 1973; TWX, Low to Keldysh, 10 Oct. 1973; and Michael E. DeBakey to Edward C. Ezell, 25 Feb. 1976.