On this Day - July 17th

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The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), conducted in July 1975, was the first joint U.S.-Soviet space flight, as a symbol of the policy of d├ętente that the two superpowers were pursuing at the time. It involved the docking of an Apollo Command/Service Module and the Soviet Soyuz 19 capsule. The unnumbered Apollo vehicle was left over from the cancelled Apollo program and the last Apollo CSM to fly. This mission ceremoniously marked the end of the Space Race that had begun in 1957 with the Sputnik launch

The Soyuz and Apollo flights launched within seven-and-a-half hours of each other on July 15, and docked on July 17 1975. Three hours later, the two mission commanders, Stafford and Leonov, exchanged the first international handshake in space through the open hatch of the Soyuz.

NASA had calculated that the historic handshake would have taken place over the British seaside resort of Bognor Regis, but a delay resulted in its occurrence being over the city of Metz in France.

The mission included both joint and separate scientific experiments, including an engineered eclipse of the Sun by Apollo to allow Soyuz to take photographs of the solar corona. The pre-flight work provided useful engineering experience for future joint US-Russian space flights, such as the Shuttle-Mir Program and the International Space Station. ASTP was the last crewed US space mission until the first Space Shuttle flight in April 1981.

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