What did the first man on the Moon discover on his trip to the USSR? (PHOTOS)

Valentina Tereshkova and Neil Armstrong.

Valentina Tereshkova and Neil Armstrong.

Valentin Mastyukov/TASS
Neil Armstrong met with Yury Gagarin’s widow after the Soviet cosmonaut’s untimely passing. He was also the first foreigner to set foot in the hypersonic “Soviet Concord” and even had the opportunity to cook ukha soup on the shores of the Siberian “sea”.

In the 1960s-1970s, it was difficult to find people more popular than cosmonauts and astronauts. As frontrunners in our exploration of space, they enjoyed colossal public attention and respect. And on May 24, 1970, one of the heroes of that time, U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, who was the first man to ever set foot on the Moon, visited the Soviet Union.

Neil Armstrong at the Pulkovo airport in Leningrad.

The only American astronaut to visit “the country of victorious socialism” before Armstrong was Frank Borman, the Apollo 8 mission captain and the first man to circumnavigate the Moon.

Neil Armstrong, dancing at children's health center Solnyshko near Leningrad.

The historic visit, interestingly, did not start in Moscow. That day, Armstrong arrived in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), where he was invited to deliver a report on the exploration of the lunar surface at the 13th Session of theCommittee on Space Research (COSPAR). Delegates from 30 countries were in attendance. 

Armstrong spent several days in the Soviet Union’s ‘cultural capital’, visiting all the popular attractions, including the Hermitage, the Navy Museum and the Big Peterhof Palace. 

Neil Armstrong visiting the State Hermitage Museum.

The Cruiser Aurora, which, on November 7, 1917, signalled the start of the Russian Revolution at the hands of the Bolsheviks, was also visited by Armstrong. 

By the end of the conference on May 29, Armstrong flew to the “capital of Siberia” - Novosibirsk. There, the American made sure to visit the house of Yury Kondratyuk - the man whose calculations of the optimal trajectory of the journey to the Moon were used by NASA for the groundbreaking Apollo mission. He worked and lived there in the early 20th century. The American took a handful of soil from the plot as a keepsake.

Armstrong visits the Glory Monument memorial complex, Novosibirsk.

For the astronaut to really appreciate the beauty of Siberian nature, he was taken for a yacht cruise in the Novosibirsk aquifer in the Ob River - known locally as “the Ob Sea”.

In the course of a locally-organized picnic, Armstrong showed off his cooking skills, impressing everyone with his traditional Russian ukha soup!

The capital was the final destination in the American’s Soviet journey. No one on the May 31 Novosibirsk-Moscow flight was any the wiser that, for part of the flight, the plane was actually commanded by Armstrong himself, along with Russian cosmonaut Georgy Beregovoy.

Neil Armstrong in Moscow metro.

The American astronaut walked on the Red Square, visited Lenin’s Mausoleum and laid flowers at the grave of the first man in space - Yury Gagarin, built into the Kremlin’s wall. 

During the meeting with Aleksey Kosygin, the Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, Armstrong presented him with a receptacle containing samples of lunar soil and a small Soviet flag, which, together with the flags of over 130 countries, saw the surface of the Moon. Kosygin, for his part, told the American that “no one like the Soviet people holds his bravery and skill in such a high regard.”

On a personal invitation from Soviet aviation constructor Andrey Typolev, Armstrong visited the hangar with the cutting edge hypersonic Tu-144 passenger aircraft. He became the first foreigner to take a peek inside the “Soviet Concord”. 

The thing that excited Armstrong the most, however, was visiting the Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow. Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, personally gave the tour. 

Valentina Tereshkova and Neil Armstrong.

The most emotional moments of Amrstrong’s trip to the USSR were spent meeting the widows of the late cosmonauts, Valentina Gagarina and Valentina Komarova, whose husband Vladimir Komarov was the first man to die during a space mission. Armstrong would later admit to being “most emotionally moved” by the meeting. 

The Soyuz-4 and 5 spacecraft models were among the gifts Armstrong received when leaving. There was also a hunting rifle, given to him by the Soviet cosmonauts that he became good buddies with during his trip. 

Neil Armstrong’s 1970 visit to the USSR became an important moment in the thawing of US-Soviet relations during the Cold War. In part, thanks to it, the first ever jointly piloted space mission - the Soyuz-Apollo - was made possible in 1975.

The Pilot-Cosmonaut of the USSR Georgy Beregovoy saying good-bye to the American astronaut Neil Armstrong at the Sheremetyevo Airport.

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