In the Museum: My Vostok Is Bigger Than Your Mercury

Launching two very different capsules—and a space race.

Visitors assemble space station elements in the Moving Beyond Earth gallery. (Eric Long)
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While the space race started as a competition between the superpowers, a short 14 years later the countries collaborated on the first international manned spaceflight, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which lasted from July 15 to 24, 1975. The mission was designed to test the rendezvous and docking systems for U.S. and Soviet spacecraft, as well as to open the way for joint manned flights.

It took the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 for those flights to actually happen. Two years later, the United States entered into an agreement (“phase one”) with Russia to fly cosmonauts on the space shuttle, and send Americans to the Russian space station Mir. This was followed by phase two, the construction of the International Space Station.

In November 2000, a Soyuz space capsule took the first crew to the International Space Station. And now, with the space shuttles retiring, U.S. astronauts will hitch rides to the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz until at least 2016.

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