On July 17, 1975, the U.S. spacecraft Apollo 18 and the Soviet vessel Soyuz 19 rendezvoused in space.
The Cold War was a time of tension for more than two decades by the time the superpowers met in space, but the space crews were determined to break through that friction.
The Apollo-Soyuz mission began with Soyuz 19’s launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on July 15, 1975. Aboard were cosmonauts Alexey Leonov and Velery Kubasov. Hours later, Apollo lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, and Donald Slayton.
When the hatches between the two vehicles were opened on July 17, the astronauts and cosmonauts warmly greeted each other as a global audience watched on television from the planet below. The astronauts and cosmonauts took congratulatory calls from Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and U.S. President Gerald Ford before exchanging gifts including U.S., Soviet and United Nations flags, commemorative plaques, medallions, certificates, and tree seeds.
The Apollo-Soyuz Mission was the final Apollo program mission; as the first handshake in space, the Apollo program ended with hopes of peace and international cooperation while it symbolically reflected the end of the Space Race that began with the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957.
Featured Image: The Apollo-Soyuz crew, from left: American astronauts “Deke” Slayton, Tom Stafford, Vance Brand, Russian cosmonauts Aleksey Leonov, Valeriy Kubasov. (NASA image)