The Last Apollo

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CalliArcale

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In this forum dedicated to Apollo 11, I thought it would be fitting to also mention the *last* Apollo.

Thirty-four years ago today, on July 15, 1975, Tom Stafford, Don "Deke" Slayton, and Vance Brand flew into space aboard Apollo ASTP. One could call it Apollo 21, but no numbers were given after Apollo 17, the last Moon mission. There had been three Apollo flights to the Skylab space station; this flight would be the last to leave LC-39 before its conversion to support the upcoming Space Shuttle program. On the same day, Soyuz 19 blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying Valarie Kubasov and Alexei Leonov (already famous as the first man to perform an EVA). On the Apollo side, instead of an LM, a docking compartment was carried behind the CM. It extracted it just as it would have extracted an LM, and used it to dock with the Soyuz. This was neccesary because Soyuz and Apollo used different cabin atmospheres; they could not simply open their hatches. Soyuz had a modified docking port for this mission only, designed to mate with the unisex Docking Adapter, and the same three-petal design is found today in the Orbiter Docking System and the Pressurized Mating Adapters aboard the ISS. After completing their largely ceremonial docked operations, the two spacecraft undocked, performed a few experiments in tandem (reminiscent of the Gemini missions, but more capable), and then Soyuz 19 returned home on July 21. Apollo stayed up until July 23, conducting a few more experiments before also returning home. The return of this capsule had its harrowing moments, and though the public was largely unaware of it, the crew could have died quite easily -- a pressure equalization valve opened prematurely, while the RCS jets were still firing, allowing toxic hypergolic propellant fumes to leak into the cabin atmosphere. The crew were very ill on arrival, but recouperated in Hawaii. Brand went on to command three Shuttle missions; Stafford retired, this being his fourth mission; Slayton also retired -- although this was his first spaceflight, he had actually been one of the Mercury 7, grounded due to an irregular heartbeat. From the Soyuz crew, this was Alexei Leonov's second and final flight, whiel Valeri Kubasov went on to participate in the fifth long-duration crew aboard Salyut 6.

The main legacy of ASTP was the groundwork for American-Soviet cooperation, which progressed by fits and starts as both nations tried to work out plans for their own stations and planetary exploration while also discussing joint activities. The next major event was the Shuttle-Mir program, which led into the International Space Station, which of course is flying today. I doubt that any of the ASTP crew realized that it would be thirty years before their mission would reach fruition and actually produce a true international manned space program.
 
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jim48

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Good thread. Alas, the last Apollo. No more Saturn Vs. No more Apollo. I remember that. I was--and still am--a huge space program buff. Saturns and Apollos were so carefully crafted yet on the way to being mass-produced. I digress. I was in high school during the Skylab missions, and as I recall the plan was to boost Skylab into a higher orbit with the new space shuttle, but of course the shuttle program was always years behind schedule. We were pretty much cranking out--if you will--Saturn Vs and Apollos on an assembly-line basis. Pity that all of that was scrapped. What a waste of talent. Now they are scrambling to get a new moon rocket going, and I have had the pleasure of knowing or meeting former NASA/ contractor guys in their 60s who have been contacted by NASA asking about their availability. As one said to me a few weeks ago, "We did a pretty good job." They sure as hell did! ;)
 
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drwayne

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One note on Skylab. While there were plans to reboost it, it really was never set up to be
efficiently re-provisioned, it was very much of a throw away experiment.

Wayne
 
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