ALEXEI LEONOV'S FLOWN SPACE SUIT FROM ASTP.
SPACE SUIT WORN IN SPACE BY THE APOLLO-SOYUZ TEST PROJECT COMMANDER.
"Sokol K" ("Falcon" in Russian) pressure suit, manufactured by Zvezda. White nylon canvas with blue trim, approximately 63 inches tall. Integral pressurized hood/helmet with hinged polycarbonate visor securing to aluminum flange anodized in blue. The sleeves with adjustable articulating cables and webbed belt lashings, pressure gauge on the left sleeve. Detachable gloves. Lace-up front and crotch, the lacing covered with a triangular placket. On the torso are anodized aluminum umbilical attachments for electricity, air and coolant, with attached cables and hoses. Below the heart area is a pressure equalization valve. A support sling wraps from chest to back using webbed belts and metal clips. Pleated knees, cargo pockets on each leg, boots also of nylon canvas and laced to knee area. Rubberized cloth lining. Patches of the Soviet standard on left sleeve and ASTP emblem on right sleeve. Name tag in Cyrillic and Roman characters. Gray leather radio headset with mesh skullcap. Some discoloration, skullcap with small split, holes in soles of the feet probably from prior mounting. Supported on external frame.
A key artifact from the symbolic end of the Space Race.
The Space Race essentially began in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik 1, and was arguably 'won' in 1969 when the USA put a man on the moon. But it was not until the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975 that the two competitors literally shook hands in Earth orbit. The Project would see the docking of an Apollo spacecraft with its Soyuz counterpart, using a special docking module attached to the Command Module. The docking module also served as an airlock since the two spacecrafts had different pressurization and gas mixtures.
This final Apollo mission carried Tom Stafford, Vance Brand, and Deke Slayton. On board the Soyuz were Alexei Leonov and Valery Kubasov. Leonov, particularly, had been a key player in the Space Race, as he was the first man to walk in space in 1965. On July 17, 1975, the two spacecraft docked, and the commanders, Stafford and Leonov, shook hands through the open hatch of the Soyuz, a moment whose symbolism cannot be overstated. The astronauts and cosmonauts then conducted experiments, exchanged certificates, flags and gifts, ate together, and talked in each other's languages. The image of détente in space was powerful, although the reality on Earth was more problematic: even organizing a joint press conference involved six months of negotiations.
Leonov wore this space suit during the docking operations, and during launch and re-entry. The Sokol-K suit was categorized as a "rescue suit" since it was not suitable for EVA use, but was designed to protect the wearer in the event of spacecraft depressurization. It could safely be worn for up to two hours in a vacuum. The Sokol-K was first used on the Soyuz 12 mission in 1973 in response to the loss of the Soyuz 11 crew whose spacecraft depressurized during re-entry. The innovative, lightweight design (the suits weigh around 22 lb) was achieved partly by dispensing with a solid helmet in favor of an integral soft "hood" with a polycarbonate visor. The suits were custom-made for each cosmonaut, and could be donned in only a few minutes, even in zero gravity.
Since the Apollo and Soyuz spacecrafts docked and redocked several timesat one point the Americans maneuvered into place to simulate a solar eclipse so the cosmonauts could photograph the solar coronaLeonov would have been wearing this suit for a large portion of the two days that joint operations took place.
The three American ASTP suits are owned by the National Air and Space Museum and are exhibited at various space facilities in the US.
Provenance: Zvezda, the manufacturer; Sotheby's, Russian Space History, New York, December 11, 1993, lot 92; The Forbes Collection.
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