On this date in 1975, I was living in San Jose, California a month away from my 23rd birthday. About two and a half months earlier, the Vietnam war had ended with a Communist Vietcong victory over U.S. forces. My friends and I had a mixed bag of emotions regarding events of the Spring and Summer at that time. Mostly, though, a sense of relief that the conflict had finally drawn to a close.
There was a budding sense of peaceful coexistance between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Indeed, in spite of the intrigue between the two super-powers regarding Vietnam and elsewhere, space program planners of the two rival nations began to plan a joint mission in 1970.
The actual culmination of the mission happened with the Rendezvous of the last Apollo spacecraft (unofficially, Apollo 18) with the Soviet’s Soyuz 19 spacecraft. This happened 36 years ago, July 17, 1975.
Then as now, I rarely watched any teevee. I did make exceptions for potentially historical stories. Apollo/Soyuz Rendezvous was one of those major events I wanted to follow. This was almost as big as the first moon landing. Both major enemies in the Cold War docking their state of the art spacecraft in orbit.
Soviet Cosmonauts and American Astronauts spoke each others’ languages to people on the earth’s surface. The footage of the historic handshake between Alexei Leonov and Thomas Stafford was repeatedly shown on newscasts and documentaries. I shared the optimism of the day that the space mission engendered. Any major easing of tensions between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was cause for celebration. What more dramatic way than to conduct a joint scientific mission in outer space?
Apollo/Soyuz was inspiring then and continues to be when its historical significance is contemplated today.
If the Soviets and Americans could agree to cooperate and work together way back in the 1970s during the Cold War. Republicans and Democrats should be able to easily find ways to cooperate to fix problems in one country in 2011.
If the Soviet Space Agency and NASA could find ways to be friendly with one another, can’t the USA find ways to be friends with people of the Middle East?
Or must people have the threat of nuclear annihilation paired with the cooperation of space exploration to enable friendship. I don’t think so.
It’s thrilling to remember what happened on this day in outer space back in 1975.
The Blue Jay of Happiness thinks understanding and compassion have been given short shrift the past few years.