I’m reading Deke Slaytons autobiography, uncreatively titled DEKE!but space folk aren’t known for creative names. The big explosion that created the universe? The big bang! That great big red spot on Jupiter? The Great Red Spot! We’re lucky we live on Earth and not Tumbling Void Rock.
Anyway, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Russian and American space relations in the seventies, they were pretty good. During the mid-seventies, the Apollo Soyuz Test Project was underway, and a lot of the training saw the Americans going to Russia. Here’s an excerpt from the book about some of Deke’s adventures in Russia;
"On our next visit to Russia, in July 1974, without any advance warning we were taken directly from the airport to Star Town [the Russian equivalent of the Cape]…driven right through the gates in our KGB staff cars, to a brand-new hotel that had been built on the site. The Hotel Cosmonaut, it was called, and it had been built just for us-American astronauts and training officials. (They used it later for other "foreign" visitors, like the Interkosmos pilots who flew Soyuz missions between 1977 and 1981. And for the French and Indian pilots, too, at least on their initial visits)
The rooms were pretty plush by Russian standards, with all kinds of furniture-too much, in fact-but also typically Russian: there weren’t curtains on the showers. Doorknobs would be missing.
They built us our own restaurant and our own bar right in the hotel, to make things easier for everyone-it certainly kept us from associating with the rest of Star Town.
It got so that whenever we wanted something, all we had to do was speak…the walls had ears. One day we decided to test it, and complained loudly that we didn’t have anything to do. “Too bad we don’t have a pool table.”
The next day, by God, there was a pool table in our bar downstairs. It was probably the only pool table in Russia: it had square corners and balls that were too big for the pockets. You could play one game all night.
Then there was the time Bob Overmyer was at a meeting in the flight control center in Kaliningrad. He decided to move his chair and tried to do so: the thing wouldn’t move, so he yanked on it…and some wires came out of the base. Everybody just sort of looked the other way.
We called this the speak-into-the-lamp mode. We actually used it to get rid of a couple technical people on the Russian side who weren’t particularly productive: just complained about them among ourselves, when we knew someone would be listening. And we never had to deal with them again.”
Those KGB, resourceful cats!
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