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Space crew remembers US-Russia ‘handshake in space’ 40 years on

Space crew remembers US-Russia ‘handshake in space’ 40 years on

MOSCOW: Two Russians and an American in orbit commemorated on Wednesday the 40th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz mission, when a “handshake in space” brought the two Cold War rivals closer together.

The three delivered a video address to mark the 1975 event as they floated side by side in the International Space Station (ISS), a show of fellowship at a low point in US-Russian relations today.

Bilateral ties are at their lowest ebb in decades, and space remains one of the few areas of dialogue.

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko took turns hailing the historic mission, which saw two rockets blast off in the United States and Soviet Union on July 15, 1975.

Two days later they docked in space and the three Americans and two Soviets exchanged gifts and hugs in the first symbolic step away from decades of rivalry.

It was “the first real cooperation in space of — at that time — two irreconcilable enemies”, Padalka, the current commander of the ISS, said in the video.The meeting was “a kind of handshake in space, the beginning of an era of worldwide warming after a protracted Cold War”, Padalka said.

The Apollo-Soyuz project had to overcome many technical and cultural challenges, and the five astronauts also had difficulties speaking each other’s language.

Docking seemed like an impossible task due to the many differences between the two space programmes and compromises had to be made: the United States ended up using the metric system, for example.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2015

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