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“Howdy Partner!” Space Brotherhood, Detente and the Symbolism of the 1975 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2018

THOMAS ELLIS
Affiliation:
History Department, University of Southampton. Email: tndgellis@gmail.com.
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Abstract

In 1975 American and Soviet spacecraft docked together in orbit as part of the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), the world's first international crewed space mission. Focussing on the project's political symbolism, this article argues that the ASTP was an attempt by the Nixon and Ford administrations to advertise US–Soviet detente by harnessing the optimistic imagery of “space brotherhood,” an instinctive kinship supposedly shared by American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts. This was ultimately unsuccessful, as detente's critics appropriated the mission for their own symbolic use to attack US–Soviet detente as a fantastical escape from earthly problems.

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Articles
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press and British Association for American Studies 2018 

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References

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61 “The Russians Have Landed – And Texas Says Welcome,” People, 30 Sept. 1974, at http://people.com/archive/the-russians-have-landed-and-texas-says-welcome-vol-2-no-14/; for similar coverage see Victor K. McElheny, “Soviet Astronauts Enjoy Flight into Fantasies of Disney World,” New York Times, 10 Feb. 1975, 24; Jack Waugh, “Building US–Soviet Space Team,” Christian Science Monitor, 19 July 1973, 5–6.

62 Scott and Leonov, 346.

63 See Sage, Daniel, “Giant Leaps and Forgotten Steps: NASA and the Performance of Gender,” in Bell, David and Parker, Martin, eds., Space Travel and Culture: From Apollo to Space Tourism (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2009), 146–63Google Scholar; Gerovitch, Slava, Voices of the Soviet Space Program: Cosmonauts, Soldiers, and Engineers Who Took the USSR into Space (New York: Palgrave Macmillan: 2014), 14CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Margaret Weitkamp has written persuasively about how NASA's institutional discomfiture with the female body constrained the opportunities available to would-be female space travellers. Weitkamp, Margaret, Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America's First Women in Space Program (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2004)Google Scholar.

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67 Ezell and Ezell, The Partnership, 329–40.

68 Scott and Leonov, 358–59. For astronauts’ difficulty mastering Russian see Ezell and Ezell, 255–56, 260–61.

69 “US Soviet Flight Not Just Handshake in Space,” Baltimore Sun, 22 Feb. 1975, A1; “Symbology Activity to Be Performed during ASTP,” John F. Kennedy Space Centre Press Release, 13 July 1975, record number 007463, “ASTP General July 1975,” NASA History Office.

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77 Jonathan Spivak, “The First Space Handshake,” Wall Street Journal, 22 July 1975, 16.

78 “Apollo-Soyuz,” Washington Post, 17 July 1975, A26.

79 “… And One Giant Leap for PR,” Los Angeles Times, 15 July 1975, 113.

80 Matthew D. Tribbe's recent cultural history of the Apollo era, No Requiem for the Space Age, has explored the way in which the American media and intellectual elite became disenchanted with space propaganda.

81 Morgan, Michael Cotey, “The United States and the making of the Helsinki Final Act,” in Preston, Andrew and Longevall, Frederick, eds., Nixon in the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 164–79Google Scholar, 165–66.

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83 “J.D.L Burns Rocket Model Here in Protesting Detente,” New York Times, 16 July 1975, 19; Scoop Jackson attended a less combative rally for Soviet Jews in Florida on the day of the Apollo launch; see “Rally for Soviet Jews Marks Cape Liftoff,” Jewish Floridian, 17 July 1975, 1A, 3A, available at http://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00010090/02424/1x, accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

84 94th Congressional Record, daily edn, 15 July 1975, statement of Robert Bauman H6821-2. For press examples see “Solzhenitsyn and the Spacemen,” Chicago Tribune, 18 July 1975, 2:2; “Dragon or Handshake?”, New York Times, 12 July 1975, 24.

85 Joy Billington, “Cheese Rocket Stayed on the Pad,” Washington Star, 14 Oct. 1975, D3.

86 Sargent, Daniel J., A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 247CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 221.

87 Henry A. Kissinger to the President, “Your Meeting with Gromyko,” 30 Sept. 1976, “USSR (44),” Box 19, country file USSR (32), Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, National Security Adviser Files, Ford Library.

88 Nicholas C. Chriss, “U.S., Russians to Begin Discussions on Resuming Cooperative Space Missions,” Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 1977, 1.

89 Responding to a 1984 questionnaire sent by the ASE, five astronauts (Walter Cunningham, Ronald E. Evans, Gordon Fullerton, Jim Lovell and Harrison Schmitt) expressed apprehension about the organization being used for political ends. Folder 3, Box 1, Records of the Association of Space Explorers, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, CA. The ASE will be explored in detail in Jenks's, Andrew chapter “Transnational Utopias, Space Exploration, and the Association of Space Explorers, 1972–1985,” in Geppert's, Alexander forthcoming edited collection Limiting Outer Space: Astroculture after Apollo (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)Google Scholar. Unfortunately this book was yet to be published at the time of writing.

90 For Shuttle–Mir see Angelina Long-Callahan, “Russian–American Cooperation in Space: Privatisation, Remuneration and Collective Security,” in Krige, Long-Callahan and Maharaj, NASA in the World, 153–84; Albrecht, Mark, Falling Back to Earth: A First Hand Account of the Great Space Race and the End of the Cold War (Lexington, KY: New Media Books, 2011)Google Scholar; Morgan, Clay, Shuttle–Mir: The United States and Russia Share History's Highest Stage (NASA SP-2001-4225) (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2001)Google Scholar, available at https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4225.pdf, accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

91 The decision to invite Stafford to the Soyuz 11 funeral indicates a similar recognition of space brotherhood's propaganda potential by Soviet leaders, though without access to Soviet archival sources this article has limited its discussion to the space brotherhood's reception and appropriation within the United States.

92 One of the six major design guidelines for Sputnik 1 was that its radio signal be powerful enough to be picked up by amateur listeners. Siddiqi, Asif, Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003) 162Google Scholar.

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