[FPSPACE] Apollo Soyuz Test Project anniversary

David R. Woods drwoods at stny.rr.com
Fri Jul 16 10:08:29 EDT 2010

For some reason, the system did not pass Mark's message on to the list 
membership. I will check into it. Dave

RE: [FPSPACE] Apollo Soyuz Test Project anniversary
"Mark Kramer" <markkramer1 at verizon.net>
Fri, 16 Jul 2010 09:49:59 -0400

<fpspace-bounces at friends-partners.org>

In 1975 I was a producer for CBS News in Moscow for ASTP. I had covered the
Apollo program and then moved on to do the same for the joint flight.

In mid-April, I traveled to Moscow to shoot some advance stories with
Richard Roth, then our Moscow correspondent. We had some interesting
experiences, starting with an invitation to U.S. Ambassador Walter
Stoessel's residence, Spaso House, for a cocktail party in honor of the
upcoming joint mission. There were a number of astronauts and cosmonauts
there, and I was fortunate enough to run into Valentina Tereshkova. I speak
no Russian, and I cannot recall if she spoke English, but somehow she was
gracious enough to invite me and my team out to Star City the next day for a

That meshed perfectly with my plans, because I was looking for a way to
shoot in the Soyuz simulator there. But, new to Moscow, I made one
miscalculation: When we left the bureau that next morning, I did not bring
our interpreter. In those days, and perhaps today still, the license plates
of foreign journalists’ cars had some nomenclature that indicated who we
were. As soon as we passed outside of Moscow, the police pulled us over. We
had left the zone in which we were permitted to drive. Our correspondent,
who did speak some Russian, was to meet us out there, so we were essentially
on our own. Neither I nor my German crew could explain to the cops what we
were doing, and Sasha, our Russian driver, was totally helpless.

But I did manage to mumble Tereshkova's name and "Zvezdny Gorodok"
repeatedly, and the police finally got the idea. They apparently called
ahead, checked on the crazy US TV crew, and in an hour, we were back on our

Catching up with Roth at Star City, we talked our way into several
buildings, and finally got into the one with the simulator. There was also a
Salyut mockup there, carefully roped off. We were not allowed anywhere near
it. But the Soyuz was pretty amazing in itself. Having spent a modest time
poking around inside command module and lunar module trainers and
simulators, I was shocked when I saw how seemingly primitive this beast was.
I remember thinking then, and I have repeated this many times since, that I
was reminded of nothing so much as a 1930s stream locomotive, knocked
together with rivets and a big ball-peen hammer.  That’s a bit unfair, of
course, but that’s what I thought.

After shooting some b-roll and standups, we moved on, and I recall walking
down a long hallway lined with paintings by Alexei Leonov. All in all, it
was a wonderful day.

When we got back to the bureau, the chief fixer gave us the bad news about
the another part of our project: I had asked the Soviets for permission to
drive down to Kaluga to see the Tsiolkovsky museum, which was essentially
his home and workshop. The Soviets wanted us to pay $10,000 for the
privilege of driving down there, spending the night, and shooting for a day.
When I protested that this was outrageous, the comment from them was, “You
should not complain. We are charging ABC News $100,000 for their filming.”

We stuck to our guns, and I’m sure ABC did, too. I think we wound up giving
them $1,000 for the minder who accompanied us.

The trip to Kaluga was remarkable only in that I recall the roads were
incredibly bad, as was the hotel. But we got some good material, and in the
end, the bosses were pleased.

The final shoot was at VDNKh, which at that time had a wonderful display of
Soviet spacecraft. For me, it was like one of those kid-in-the-candy- store
experiences. There was more there than we could swallow. The thing that
struck me, though, was that as we were driving slowly through the crowded
parking lot on the way out from this bastion of Soviet high-tech space gear,
everyday Russians looked at our bureau Chevy (CBS News did not want to
spring for a Mercedes, like all the other major news bureaus) with big eyes.
They knew what it was, and they would stick their heads in the windows and
ask, “Skolko horsepower?”

When I returned in July to cover the mission itself, I brought along
correspondent Steve Young, who had covered the Apollo flights for radio and
then TV.  He and I, and all the other American broadcasters, were jammed
into one location (and I am afraid I can’t recall where in Moscow that was),
for our live standups. There was precious little news that one could
uniquely report, given that we all were listening to the same air-to-ground
and watching the same TV feeds. But CBS News did score one tiny scoop. One
of the Soviet press people approached me one day during the flight and asked
if we would like an exclusive interview with Valery Kubasov’s wife. We
jumped on that, of course, and then scrambled to make it happen. We were shy
one important element: a good simultaneous translator. I went to the NASA
PAO there and begged to borrow their translator, who was quite good. The
interview, predictably, yielded no news, but it was unusual just because the
no cosmonaut’s wife had ever been trotted out like that during a flight. And
if nothing else, it made our competitors jealous. (And to illustrate once
again how small the world is, ten years later in my driveway in Westchester
County, NY, my next-door neighbor introduced me to his good friend…who
happened to be the translator who helped me out with Mrs. Kubasov.)

I recall the in-flight news conference in which we were ushered into a hotel
function room, and a few journalists were allowed to ask the combined crew
some questions, something that was also a first. There were the spate of
predictable queries about the significance of this orbital détente, and some
about the mechanics of the flight. Then there was the hard-hitting
journalist from the eastern bloc, who pressed the Soviet crew with this
zinger: “Can you see Bulgaria?”

In 1975 working in Moscow was a bit of a challenge, but our hosts were
determined make everything work as well as possible. Calling the U.S. from
the hotel on my earlier trip was nearly impossible, but this time around,
all one had to say to the operator were the magic words: “Soyuz-Apollo!” and
the call would be put right through. The day after the Soyuz came home, I
picked up the phone, spoke the magic words, and was told, “Nyet.”

The entire experience was an eye-opener, and one I’ll never forget.

Mark Kramer

914 238-8061
917 796-9567 mobile
markkramer1 at verizon.net

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