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Dick Covey
2nd Baptist
Space Week

Apollo Soyuz 15th Anniversary

A Salute from a General
Photo Credits Mine
Embossed Soyuz Apollo emblem on 15th Anniversary Invitation
Embossed Emblem on Apollo-Soyuz 15th Anniversary Invitation
Explanation of Apollo Soyuz Flight inside Invitation
Invitation to Apollo Soyuz 15th Anniversary
Explanation of ASTP on inside of invitation
Invitation to ASTP Fifteenth Anniversary
On July 23, 1990, the 15th anniversary of the Apollo Soyuz flight was celebrated in Oklahoma City.  This was held at the Oklahoma Air & Space Museum at the Kirkpatrick Center.  I attended this event along with my girlfriend's 8 year old son Toby and my friend Mark Shelton.

For the third weekend in a row, Mark and I were on the road.  It was a space enthusiast grand slam.  First we were in Houston at a Baptist church were we met three astronauts.  The next weekend we were back in Houston at the Space Week National banquet where we met four more astronauts.  We hoped to add meetings of two more astronauts and two cosmonauts in Oklahoma City.

Our drive to Oklahoma City took about three hours.  I drove my car which was a red Camaro IROC-Z.  Toby was beginning to become a real space trooper.  Two weeks before he was down with us in Houston when we met three moonwalkers.  This would be the first formal banquet that Toby attended.  We bought him a sports jacket and tie just for this event. It was a time in life when I was very close to Toby.  If I went somewhere he was usually at my side.

We arrived at the Kirkpatrick Center on schedule and parked the car.  We were dressed casually for the drive up.  That meant that we had to get dressed before the banquet.  We found a rest room in the building where we could dress for the banquet.  I helped Toby get on his tie and sport coat.  He was a sharp looking young man.  We returned to the car and deposited our casual clothes.

The reception started at 6:30.  At the reception we learned that Deke Slayton would not be in attendance.  Astronaut Tom Stafford was present, as were Cosmonauts Alexi Leonov and Valeri Kubasov.  While it was disappointing to miss out on Slayton, it was more than compensated for by the presence of the cosmonauts.

We introduced ourselves to the Stafford, Leonov, and Kubasov.  Leonov was very jovial.  After he signed an autograph for Toby, I whispered in Toby's ear that he should thank Leonov.  Toby told Leonov thank you for the autograph.  Leonov got a big smile on his face and snapped to attention.  He then saluted Toby.  That was awesome.  Toby was the recipient of a salute from a Soviet General.  Leonov was the first man to ever walk in space.  I felt really proud of Toby and it is still one of my favorite memories.

The setting for the banquet was pretty neat.  The tables were set up in the midst of the displays of space hardware.  We had a full size command service module mockup hanging overhead.  All of the tables had baskets that contained a bouquet of flowers.  Our table was very close to the head tables where the dignitaries were seated.

Stafford and Leonov both spoke during the banquet.  Leonov's English was pretty good.  He told us that he always called the program Soyuz-Apollo while in the United States we always called it Apollo-Soyuz.  One of the things that Leonov presented to the Museum was an old photo that was autographed by the first eleven cosmonauts.  He told us how rare such a photo was.

After the speeches were done, Leonov raised his glass in a toast.  Mark had made sure that before the dinner started we had glass with vodka in it.  You know when the Russians are involved, that there is going to be a toast involved.  It's more appropriate if you have vodka at hand.

I met someone at dinner who knew, Luba Diangar, the person that published the US version of Valentin Lebedev's Diary of a Cosmonaut.  I told him that I really would love to have that book autographed by Lebedev for my space library.  He gave me the contact information of Ms. Diangar.  Later I wrote her and she was able to inform me of a personal appearance in the US by Cosmonaut Lebedev.

We had a wonderful time at the dinner.  After the dinner, Mark asked some of the banquet organizers if it would be Okay to take any of the table centerpieces home that contained the flowers.  They told him that it was fine.  So Mark took a centerpiece home for his wife.  Toby and I also took one home for Mary.

We got out to the car.  Toby swapped clothes and got into his pajamas.  It was late at night and he would be asleep by the time we got home.  As we were getting Toby situated in the back seat with a pillow and blanket, Tom Stafford’s wife came by.  She made a remark about Toby getting comfortable for the drive.  I told her that we had at least a three hour drive ahead of us before we got home.  She told me how nice it was for us to bring Toby to the banquet.  I thanked Mrs. Stafford for coming to Oklahoma City for the anniversary.  She told me it was no problem since they lived in Oklahoma City.

We got on the road for the long trip ahead of us.  After about three hours we were nearly at the place where Mark had left his car.  It must have been around twelve thirty or one o'clock in the morning.  We were still on the freeway and a car pulled up along side of us.  Mark smiled at the woman passenger in the car and he said she raised her shirt.  Mark always had a way with women. I missed out on the show as I was concentrating on the road.  Fortunately Toby was asleep so I didn't have to do any explaining.

Mary loved the flowers that we had brought back.  She saved the wicker basket that they came in.  To this day, we still bring that simple basket out and use it for a bread basket whenever we have a special dinner in our home.

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UPDATED : February 22, 2007
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