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Starting on Saturday, July 15, a Russian Soyuz capsule will available for public viewing on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The public is invited to see an Apollo capsule and a Soyuz capsule together on the anniversary of their first meeting in space.
The rendezvous kicks off a series of space exhibits and events this summer by the USS Hornet, Chabot Space & Science Center and The W Foundation. During the exhibition, the capsules will be displayed with the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) from Apollo 14, a recovery helicopter from the “Apollo 13” movie, and a moon rock collected by Apollo 16. The USS Hornet Museum’s exhibition will feature the largest space collection on the West Coast.
About the Soyuz Capsule
The Soyuz 7K-0K descent module is a first generation Soyuz capsule that rolled off the production line about thirty years ago. It is a 3-seat capsule, with a full intact instrument panel and (hidden from view) a thruster engine configuration. Soyuz capsules, though having undergone several design revisions over time, are still in use today as part of the Soviet space program. The capsules have served as the sole method of transport to and from International Space Station while the Shuttle was grounded, proving themselves as a functional and reliable method of space transport.
Discovered in an outside central courtyard in a cultural palace in Georgia, Russia, the capsule was acquired by Chabot Space & Science Center and is awaiting conservation to become part of an upcoming space exhibit. The Soyuz capsule will be temporarily displayed alongside the Apollo command module CM-011A while undergoing restoration on the USS Hornet.
About the Apollo Capsule
The Apollo capsule, known as CM-011A, was flown into space prior to the manned Apollo missions and was initially used on the unmanned suborbital Apollo-Saturn 202 (AS-202) mission in 1966. The main objectives for AS-202 were to test the spacecraft systems, the heat shield, and the Saturn launch vehicle. Liftoff was from Cape Kennedy on August 25, 1966. During the flight, the service module engines fired four times for a total of 200 seconds. The command module then landed safely in the Pacific Ocean after 1 hour and 33 minutes of flight into space and was recovered by the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.
Following the suborbital mission, engineers from NASA and Rockwell/North American conducted land impact tests, dropping the capsule from a scaffold. This tested the structural integrity of the spacecraft and heat shield after it had gone through the cold vacuum of space and the heat of re-entry. On one of these tests, the capsule was dropped at a 23 degree angle, resulting in a crack at its base.
The capsule is on long-term loan from the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum and is part of HORNET’s “Apollo Splashdown” exhibit. The USS Hornet Museum plans to restore the capsule to its appearance immediately following the 1968 land impact tests.