[FPSPACE] Apollo-Soyuz Spawned 1st Handshake in Space by US-Soviet Crews 40 Years Ago

Mark Kramer markkramer1 at verizon.net
Sun Jul 19 10:01:28 EDT 2015


My somewhat unconventional recollections of the Apollo-Soyuz test Project:

 

In 1975 I was a 29-year old producer working for CBS News covering the ASTP
mission. I came to the assignment after covering the Apollo program, and
even though this was not going to be on the same level as landing men on the
moon, I was still excited.

 

I was with the joint crew for a press event at the Kennedy Space Center in
the months leading up to the flight, and we followed them over to Disney
World, where they pronounced Space Mountain a big hit. At what was then the
Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, I produced the formal interviews that
we did with every spaceflight crew in that era, and I was looking forward to
a trip to Moscow (my first) in advance of the mission.

 

I flew to Moscow in mid-April and met up with our Bonn, Germany-based crew
and Richard Roth, our Moscow correspondent. Our plan was to shoot some of
the Soviet space artifacts at VDNKh, the Kosmos Pavilion at the Exhibition
of Economic Achievements on the edge of the city. That's when I learned what
a "minder" was. Everywhere we wanted to go and everything we wanted to shoot
had to be approved by a minder. 

 

I also discovered what great capitalists the communists were. A day after I
arrived we met with a bureaucrat from either Novosti or the State Committee
for Radio and TV. He asked what we'd like to film in the two weeks I was
there, and when I completed the list, he said, "Fine. That will cost you
$40,000." I was stunned speechless. I recovered enough to protest, saying I
was certain that ABC News, which was also in town shooting an hour-long
special, was not paying $40,000. Our host assured us, "That's right --
they're not. They're paying $100,000."

 

After several days of arguing back and forth, our very clever bureau
coordinator, Mila Taubkina - a Soviet national - talked them down to $5,000.
I heard that ABC's fee had been similarly slashed.

 

When we arrived at VDNKh, I found it was just as I had read: a candy store
for space nuts. If I remember correctly we filmed full-scale replicas of
Luna 16 and 17, as well as many other spacecraft I cannot recall. But I
suppose the thing that sticks most in my mind was what happened as we were
leaving.

 

Many of the foreign news bureaus in Moscow had very nice cars, often a
Mercedes. The CBS News bureau, in an effort to save money, had a Chevrolet.
I thought it was pretty dull, but I remember several young men coming up to
the car, eyes wide, asking "сколько (skohlkuh, how many) horsepower?" So
there we were at this showcase of Soviet engineering, and the young Russians
there were impressed with a Chevy.

 

On another day we drove down to Kaluga to see Tsiolkovsky's home and study.
The 115-mile schlep each way took four or five hours along badly pockmarked
roads. As a newcomer to the Soviet Union, I was surprised to see a fair
number of carts pulled by livestock, elderly peasants on the side of the
road in colorful garb from another era and crumbling houses trying to deny
their age with a bright coat of paint. 

 

Our hotel was a mirage. From a distance it seemed like a decent enough
place, but when we got there, it was more like a series of bad jokes. The
key to my room did not fit the lock; the windows would not close properly
and the  elevator did not fit the elevator shaft. It rattled around inside
it as though the shaft was two sizes too large.

 

The museum composed of Tsiokovsky's home and workshop was impressive, if
only because of the genius who had toiled there.

 

The highlight of that first visit to the Soviet Union, though, started with
an invitation to cocktails at Spaso House, the home of U.S. Ambassador
Walter Stoessel, Jr. All the usual suspects were there: diplomats,
journalists and, of course, astronauts and cosmonauts. I met Valentina
Tereshkova at one point, and I mumbled something about Zvezdny Gorodok (Star
City), because I knew about ten words of Russian. Through an interpreter she
invited me and my crew there for the next day! I had hit the jackpot through
nothing more than dumb luck.

 

The next morning Roth, the crew and I started out for Star City, and for
reasons I cannot recall today, we made the fateful decision not to take the
bureau interpreter. Roth had only been there a few months, and his Russian
was not very good, and the German crew knew no more than I did. Oh:and
driver Sasha didn't speak English, so he wasn't going to be much help if we
ran into trouble.

 

As we headed out of Moscow, the traffic thinned out, and Roth pointed out to
me that the bureau car had special license plates identifying it as a
journalist's car. Such vehicles were limited to something like a
30-kilometer radius outside the city. I thought that was interesting,
particularly when we noticed a police car behind us with flashing lights and
a siren. He pulled us over, and it soon became clear that we had entered
forbidden territory and that we were in trouble. I had no idea what the
officer was saying, so all I did was endlessly repeat "Valentina Tereshkova,
Zvezdny Gorodok, Valentina Tereshkova, Zvezdny Gorodok:"

 

After an hour or so, and some calls to goodness-knows-who, he finally got it
and actually let us proceed.

 

40 years later it's hard to recall the details of what happened when we got
there, other than a few salient facts: Valentina Tereshkova was nowhere to
be found. We were taken through a long corridor adorned with Alexei Leonov's
paintings, some of which were quite impressive. 

 

The payoff, though, was when we were escorted into a large simulator
building that housed a full-scale mockup of a Salyut as well a Soyuz
trainer. The latter was not just a faithful reproduction of the interior of
the spacecraft, but the exterior as well. I remember being shocked at how
primitive it seemed compared to the sleek Apollo spacecraft. I could imagine
a 1930's locomotive, its massive rivets driven in with a ball peen hammer.
Of course, that's an exaggeration, but it was, indeed, the impression I left
with.

 

When I returned in July for the actual flight, it was a very different
scene. Elaborate preparations had been made for all the foreign
broadcasters. We all had decent studios in adjacent workspaces at the press
center. The Soviets had brought in transmission lines for each company so
that we could feed directly from there without having to drive across town
to Ostankino, where the main Soviet TV operation was housed.

 

As I wandered around the press center, I came across producer Phil Lewis
from ABC News. Phil was 25 years my senior, and I had served as his desk
assistant on the CBS Morning News 9 years earlier. Here we were in Moscow,
competing at the same level. When I said hello, he responded, "Didn't you
used to get coffee for me?"

 

Several days into the mission there was a joint news conference with the
orbiting crews. There were many good questions asked, and some good answers
returned. But the award for the hardest-hitting, toughest question went to
the Bulgarian reporter who shouted, "Can you see Bulgaria?"

 

Towards the end of the mission, someone from the press operation came into
our studio and asked us if we would like an exclusive. Does a dog like red
meat? Of course we would! We were taken on short notice to interview Valery
Kubasov's wife. As we walked in I saw one of her minders, who was wearing a
wide belt with an ostentatious Lone Star state buckle. I couldn't help
smiling. He smiled back and I pointed to his belt buckle. Then he pointed to
mine: a Red Army belt that I had just purchased in the Red Army surplus
store, with its own very prominent star.

 

The mission was, of course, a great success, at least in terms of diplomacy
in space. And I've read many accounts of it, including those in Tom
Stafford's and Alexei Leonov's books. But I confess that more than the
spaceflight itself, I remember working in Moscow as an eye-opening
experience.

 

 

Mark Kramer

PRODUCER, U.S. TV POOL 

2015 PAPAL VISIT

 

 <mailto:markkramer1 at verizon.net> markkramer1 at verizon.net

 

From: FPSPACE [mailto:fpspace-bounces at mail.friends-partners.org] On Behalf
Of Alexandre Popov
Sent: Saturday, July 18, 2015 2:46 PM
To: fpspace <fpspace at mail.friends-partners.org>
Subject: [FPSPACE] Apollo-Soyuz Spawned 1st Handshake in Space by US-Soviet
Crews 40 Years Ago

 

Greetings !

 

Could anyone share his/her memories on the first collaboration project in
space that we commemorate this week please?

 

 
<http://www.space.com/29979-apollo-soyuz-test-project-40th-anniversary.html>
Apollo-Soyuz Spawned 1st Handshake in Space by US-Soviet Crews 40 Years Ago

http://www.space.com/29979-apollo-soyuz-test-project-40th-anniversary.html

 

 
<http://www.ibtimes.com/international-space-station-crew-commemorates-40th-a
nniversary-us-russia-handshake-2011212> International Space Station Crew
Commemorates 40th Anniversary Of US-Russia 'Handshake In Space'

http://www.ibtimes.com/international-space-station-crew-commemorates-40th-an
niversary-us-russia-handshake-2011212

 

Looking forward to hearing from our fpspace community.

 

 

Best regards,

 

Alex

AIAA SETC

 

 

 

 

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