Yesterday I posted a piece on the passing of star U.S. astronaut John W. Young. I opened by talking about my early morning rise to see the first Space Shuttle launch.
Perhaps the single most exciting "blast off" for me was that of Soyuz 19, the Soviet side of the "Apollo-Soyuz Test Project" of 1975. The Soyuz launch vehicle and spacecraft were somewhat mysterious entities to those of us in the west -- civilians in the west. Photographs had been released by the Soviets, some officially and others unofficially, so we knew what the machine looked like at launch -- it looked super cool, that's what it looked -- but there were no motion picture images and nothing substantial in the way of data and specifications. (Like the Vostok and Voskhod rockets the Soyuz was an outgrowth of the brilliant R-7A Semyorka, itself an upgrade of the earlier R-7 Semyorka.)
July 15, 1975: The day of Soviet and 'American' launch vehicles. I had great interest in seeing the Saturn 1B rocket lift the Apollo space vehicle, but the big draw for me, and many others, no doubt, was witnessing the launch of the Soviet machine. I sat in front of the colour Zenith television set. There was an anticipatory tension, an almost drum roll, as we waited for the scheduled launch time. When the final countdown rolled we scrutinized every piece of visual data -- there was no audio of the launch. That great Soyuz Roar would not be heard by me for many more years.
The rocket lifted; it was beautiful.