On July 15, 1975, the United States launched an Apollo spacecraft and the USSR launched a Soyuz. On July 17, the two spacecraft docked successfully. Thomas Stafford, the Apollo Commander, recalled:
On worldwide television, I opened hatch number three into Soyuz and saw a smiling Aleksei Leonov swimming toward me from a tangle of cables. "Ah, good to see you!" he said.
I took his hand. "Ochen rad." ("Very good.")
I moved into Soyuz, where I got a hug from Valery. Deke followed me, and there we were, two Americans and two Russians inside the orbital module of a Russian spacecraft, 130 miles from Europe. We had come a long way from flights along the Iron Curtain, secret missile tests, and the moon race.
The Apollo Soyuz Test Project was the last Apollo mission. The Apollo program had been initiated to end the space race. It achieved this goal, though not in the way originally intended. The last Apollo mission did not win for the US the race to the moon. That triumph had been the result of Apollo 11 in 1969. Rather, the Apollo Soyuz Test Project, by ending the space race with the USSR, acheived a cooperative space mission between the two rival nations thirteen years after Kennedy and Khrushchev started efforts to have this happen.