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19 Jul, 2010 10:34

Space embrace - milestone Soyuz-Apollo mission turns 35

Soviet-era cosmonauts and American astronauts who performed the first international space mission are celebrating the flight's 35th anniversary.

The Soyuz-Apollo mission in 1975 was the first joint space venture between the US and the Soviet Union, and marked a new era of co-operation.

For two days, from July 17 to July 19, Russian and American spacecrafts were docked to each other and two Russians and three Americans conducted joint and separate scientific experiments and training, though primarily the mission was symbolic. Astronauts and cosmonauts shook hands to put an end to the space race that started when the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite – Sputnik – in 1957.

A special collar docking unit was built to make the mission possible as Soyuz and Apollo naturally had different docking systems and could not be hard-docked together directly.

On Monday the surviving members of the historic mission were present at the Moscow Space Museum to share with the public and each other memories of the event that eased the tensions between the two countries.

But it was more than just easing relations – it was the beginning of a joint conquest of space that 20 years later transformed into the Shuttle-MIR program, in which the American space shuttle docked to the Russian MIR space station. It was unofficially announced as Phase 1, while Phase 2 saw the merging of the American space station program Freedom and the MIR-2 project, which now form the International Space Station.

It is believed that the practice, the technology and the ability to work together 35 years ago laid the foundation for the ISS, which is alive and active today.