This week, you get a pair of images from the aerospace wing of the California ScienCenter in Los Angeles. First, the inside of the main hatch of an Apollo capsule — you can see it’s a mechanical marvel, but all those links had a very important job to do. They had to hold the hatch air-tight against the capsule, but then all release easily and quickly in the event that an exit (possibly an emergency exit) was necessary. By my count, there are 14 latches distributed around the various edges of this hatch, so getting them all in the right place at the right time is no simple job.
And then you’ve got the capsule itself. This particular capsule was originally going to be used for the Apollo 18 flight to the moon — but once the Apollo program was cancelled (ostensibly to save money, but political issues likely played an equal role), the hardware was re-routed to be part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) in the summer of 1975.
In a number of senses, ASTP was about both beginnings and endings. It was a fitting symbolic gesture of the beginning of the end of the cold war. Meanwhile, ASTP was the last Apollo flight, and for the U.S., its last manned flight until the Space Shuttle program began flying in 1981.