Presidential Libraries

Ford and the U.S. Space Program

Ford and the U.S. Space Program

Gerald R. Ford became President during a time of great unease. The war in Vietnam divided Americans and the Cold War was two decades old and counting. In spite of tension, both the United States and the Soviet Union expressed interest in joint space exploration. In 1972, the two countries signed an Agreement of Cooperation regarding possible joint initiatives. The idea for a mission during which a U.S. and a Soviet spacecraft would dock emerged from this agreement. For more information on this agreement, see Nixon and the U.S. Space Program.

Finally, on July 15, 1975 the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was ready. U.S. astronauts—Brigadier General Thomas P. Stafford, Vance D. Brand, and Donald K. Slayton— and Soviet cosmonauts—Aleksey A. Leonov, the first cosmonaut to walk in space, and Valery N. Kubasov—were launched into Earth orbit.

This unique mission, combining both diplomacy and science, demonstrated that U.S./Soviet cooperation was possible and laid the foundation for the current International Space Station.

The artifacts, photographs and documents shown here tell fascinating stories about the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project program and the possibilities it created.