Irony of the American and Russian Space Collaboration

The book Phases of Gravity by Dan Simmons is the story of the life of a fictitious Apollo astronaut playing in the eighties. The book was published in 1989. Here is an excerpt from page 250 where they are talking about the Russians:

Tucker snorted. “As long as we don’t have to sleep with the bastards,” he said. “Or fly their ships. Remember Apollo-Soyuz?”

Baedecker remembered. He and Dave had been part of the first team to sightsee the Soviet space program prior to the Apollo-Soyuz mission. He still remembered Dave’s subtle commentary on the flight back. “State of the art. Jesus, Richard, they call this state of the art! To think we’ve spent all that energy scaring ourselves and Congress into believing all that stuff about the Soviet space juggernaut, the supertechnologies they’re always on the verge of building, and then what do we see? Exposed rivets, electronic packages the size of my grandmother’s old Philco radio, and a spacecraft that couldn’t perform a docking maneuver if it had a hard-on.”

I don’t know whether Simmons’ portrayal of  Tucker, Dave and Baedecker, all astronauts who had walked on the moon, is accurate for the Apollo crews. If it is, they didn’t have much respect for the Russian Soyuz capsule in 1989.

If someone had told them that after the shuttle program ended on July 21, 2011, after 30 years, the only way American astronauts could travel to and from international space station was by a ride on a Soyuz capsule – they would have had doubts about their sanity.

Soyuz Capsule – Picture by NASA

Yet  that’s exactly what happened. There are no American space vehicles for manned missions at this time. However, the Soyuz spacecraft is the longest serving, most versatile manned spacecraft ever flown. Over more than 40 years there have been over 230 flights. There is a Soyuz capsule docked at the international space station as an escape vehicle at all times. The Soyuz is the Volkswagen Beetle of the space program, and it’s still running strong.

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