Connecting Science and Diplomacy: President Ford at 100

Today’s post was written by Corrin Baker, former education intern at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

In July of 1975, the Apollo-Soyuz test project was completed. Apollo-Soyuz was the first joint docking between American and Soviet spacecraft.

This project was the culmination of work between American and Soviet scientists. Though this space flight was important to the scientific community, it also brought together two national superpowers in the midst of a tense diplomatic struggle. Both President Ford and Soviet National Secretary Leonid Brezhnev understood that Apollo-Soyuz has implications beyond the scientific realm. Apollo-Soyuz was an important step in the multifaceted process of détente.

Letter from President Ford to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev Regarding the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Excerpt of letter from President Ford to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev Regarding the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, 9/17/1975, From the White House Central Files Subject Files Collection at the Gerald R. Ford Library

Unfortunately, the ways that science has aided diplomatic endeavors is hard to communicate to students. However, DocsTeach enables teachers to convey this idea through primary document analysis. Utilizing documents and artifacts can help students see the connection between the two.

When we sat down to create an activity for President Ford’s 100th birthday at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, we decided to create a lesson that enables students to analyze how President Ford used the first joint country space flight as a diplomatic opportunity. In the activity Apollo-Soyuz: Space Age Detente, students will compare President Ford’s and Soviet General Breszhnev’s letters of congratulations on the completion of the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

Introduction to Apollo Soyuz DocsTeach Activity

The goal of this lesson is for students to better understand unusual avenues for diplomacy. The activity prompts students to identify and compare key phrases and ideas within each letter. Because both letters are only one page, this activity is an excellent introduction to document analysis.

Feel free to tell us how this activity worked with your students. We’d love to hear your feedback! And for more teaching activities for this time period, visit our special “Turning Points in the Nixon & Ford Years” page.

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