Weatherford, OK (June 2, 2015) On June 8, 2015, Apollo and Shuttle astronauts from across the country will gather at the Stafford Air and Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma for a gala event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Astronaut Thomas P. Stafford and Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov of the mission will be guests of honor at the gala. The Apollo-Soyuz mission was the last of the Apollo missions and the first international human space flight. For the mission, the United States and the Soviet Union joined forces to demonstrate cooperation between the two super powers. The historic nine day mission launched on July 15, 1975 and marked the end of the Space Race.
After three years of planning, each nation launched its own spacecraft on July 15, 1975 with the goal of the two crafts connecting in space using a docking mechanism designed by NASA. The US launched an Apollo command and service module with a three member crew and the Soviets launched a Soyuz spacecraft with a two member crew. On July 17 at 4:19 p.m. (UTC), the spacecrafts docked together and the portal connecting the two opened. As the world watched, U.S. Commander Thomas P. Stafford and Soviet Commander Aleksei Leonov engaged in the famous “handshake in space” – the symbol both countries were seeking. Many historians credit this mission as the beginning to the end of the Cold War between the two nations.
Joining Commander Stafford onboard the Apollo were astronauts Deke Slayton and Vance Brand. The Commander for the Russian Soyuz mission was Aleksei Leonov, the first man to walk in space. Valeria Kubasov served as the Flight Engineer, his second mission into space. During preparations for the epic mission, both groups studied each other’s language and traveled to both countries to learn more about each other including trips to Disneyland in America and Star City in Russia. Commanders Stafford and Leonov have remained good friends since the historic mission.
General Thomas P. Stafford was born and raised in Weatherford, Oklahoma. He was selected by NASA in 1962 to participate in Projects Gemini and Apollo and was named Commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission. He was later nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in this mission and was presented with the Russian Medal “For merit in Space Exploration” for outstanding contribution for the development of international cooperation in manned space flight. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
The Stafford Air and Space Museum will host the evening’s celebration on Monday, June 8th to pay tribute to this monumental spaceflight and the last of the Apollo missions. The exclusive event is sold out.
The Stafford Air & Space Museum houses one of the finest collections of aviation and space flight exhibits in the Central United States including the Apollo 10 spacesuit worn by General Stafford on his historic mission to the Moon in 1969. The museum is located at 3000 Logan Rd. at I-40 & Exit 84 in Weatherford, OK, 73096.