Soyuz and Apollo
| All the piloted Apollo missions included three different
spacecraft-a command module, a service module, and a lunar module. The lunar
module, shown here against the Moon and the rising Earth, carried astronauts
from the command and service module to the surface of the Moon and back.
The year 1967 was one of tragedy for both spacefaring nations. On January 27,
during a ground test of the Apollo spacecraft at Cape Kennedy, fire broke out in
the three-man command module. Because of the pressurized pure-oxygen atmosphere
inside the spacecraft, a flash fire engulfed and killed the three
astronauts-Grissom, White, and Lieutenant Commander Roger B. Chaffee of the
navy. As a result of this tragedy, the Apollo programme was delayed by more than
a year while vehicle design and materials underwent a major review.
On April 23, 1967, cosmonaut Komarov was launched in the first manned flight of
a new Soviet spacecraft, Soyuz. The Soyuz had room for three cosmonauts and a
separate working compartment, accessible through a hatch, for experiments.
Following re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere and deployment of landing
parachutes, the shroud lines became twisted, and Komarov plunged to his death in
the spacecraft. The Soviet space programme was set back by nearly two years.
| In October 1968, the first manned Apollo flight
was launched by a Saturn 1B booster. Astronauts Schirra, Major R. Walter
Cunningham of the US Marine Reserve Corps, and Major Donn F. Eisele of the
air force circled the Earth for 163 orbits, checking spacecraft performance,
photographing the Earth, and transmitting television pictures. In December
1968, Apollo 8, a landmark flight carrying astronauts Borman, Lovell, and
Major William A. Anders of the air force, circled the Moon ten times and
returned to Earth safely. The Apollo 9 flight, with Major James A. McDivitt
and Colonel David R. Scott of the air force and a civilian, Russell L.
Schweickart, tested undocking, rendezvous, and docking of the Apollo lunar
module (LM) landing craft during a 151-orbit mission. The Apollo 10 flight,
with astronauts Stafford and Lieutenant Commander John W. Young and
Commander Eugene A. Cernan of the navy, made 31 orbits of the Moon in a
rehearsal for the lunar landing. As planned, Stafford and Cernan transferred
from the Apollo command module (CM) to the LM, separated, and descended to
within 16 km (10 mi) of the lunar surface while astronaut Young piloted the
CM. Subsequently, rendezvous and docking of the ascent stage of the LM were
accomplished; the two astronauts then transferred to the CM, discarded the
LM, fired the service module rocket to enter the return trajectory to Earth,
and returned safely. Project Apollo was now ready to land astronauts on the
Moon (see "Human Beings on the Moon" below).
An American Apollo spacecraft and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft
docked in space in July 1975 in the first major joint mission between the
two countries. Here, the American astronaut Thomas Stafford (left) and the
Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov (right) meet in the tunnel between Soyuz and
the docking module, which linked the two spacecraft.
Meanwhile, the USSR launched unmanned Zond spacecraft around the Moon,
carrying cameras and biological specimens. Colonel Georgi T. Beregovoi flew a
60-orbit mission in Soyuz 3 in October 1968. Soyuz 4 and 5 rendezvoused and
docked in Earth orbit in January 1969. While the spacecraft were linked,
cosmonauts Aleksei S. Yeliseyev and Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny V. Khrunov, in
space suits, transferred by EVA from Soyuz 5 to Soyuz 4, which was piloted by
Colonel Vladimir A. Shatalov. In October 1969, Soyuz 6, 7, and 8, launched a day
apart, rendezvoused in orbit but did not dock. Soyuz 9, with a two-cosmonaut
crew, set a flight duration record of almost 18 days in June 1970.