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The Visit of Apollo 15 Astronauts in Slovenia

Apollo 15 was the fourth manned mission to land on the Moon. The very successful space mission ended on August 7, 1971 and at the start of 1972 the astronauts of Apollo 15 and their wives set off on a European tour. In Yugoslavia they first stopped for a short visit in Belgrade and Zagreb, before coming to Slovenia where they stayed from January 27 to 31.

First page of the program.

Note on the visit of the Apollo 15 crew to the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, p. 1. | Author Arhiv Republike Slovenije

Between 1961 and 1972, a number of manned missions were sent to land on the Moon by America’s Apollo space programme. In 1969, this was first achieved by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Apollo 15 was the fourth manned mission to land on the Moon. The crew consisted of the Commander David R. Scott, Command Module Pilot Alfred M. Worden and Lunar Module Pilot James B. Irwin. Launched on July 26, 1971, the mission’s greatest achievement, when compared to other space missions, was to double the time the astronauts spent outside the spacecraft on the lunar surface and to prolong the distance covered by previous space missions by ten times. They set up the third automatic scientific station and conducted a series of experiments and measurements in the lunar orbit. An electric vehicle was used for spacewalks for the first time which had a camera that enabled observers back on Earth to view the actions of the astronauts. The crew returned back to Earth on August 7, 1971, bringing back about 70 kg of lunar rocks for further research.

At the start of 1972, the astronauts of Apollo 15 and their wives set off on a European tour. They arrived to Yugoslavia on January 22, where they first stopped for a short visit in Belgrade and Zagreb, before coming to Slovenia where they stayed from January 27 to 31. In attendance were also the representatives of the U. S. Embassy in Yugoslavia, the U. S. General Consulate in Zagreb, and the mission’s deputy director at NASA.

Their first stop in Slovenia was Otočec castle, were they were met by the director of the Institute for International Technical Cooperation of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia (SRS) dr. Pavle Rozman, by the chief secretary of the Research Community of SRS eng. Edo Pirkmajer, and by the representatives of the Protocol. In the afternoon of the same day the quests were met by the member of the Executive Board of the SRS Assembly dr. Ernest Petrič. Having checked into Hotel Lev, the astronauts met with the reporters and answered their questions about the space mission at the press conference held by the Slovenian Association of Journalists.

On the second day of their stay in Slovenia, the astronauts did a series of interviews and were met by a number of scientists and politicians in Ljubljana. They were received by the president of the Assembly of the City of Ljubljana eng. Miha Košak, and after that by the president of the Executive Board of the Assembly of SRS Stane Kavčič. While their husbands were busy talking to scientists, their wives visited Mladinska knjiga publishing house, had a look at the Maximarket department store, where a fashion show was staged for them, and finished their tour of Ljubljana by visiting an antique store. The programme ended for all guests with a lunch at Villa Podrožnik. In the afternoon they all took a trip to Bled, where they had a reception at Villa Bled, organized by the president of the Assembly of the Radovljica Municipality Stane Kajdiž. They also saw the performance of the band Slovenski oktet. 

The third and the fourth day were spent skiing in Zatrnik, ski resort above Bled.  Abundance of new snow and the presence of famous guests attracted a huge crowd of skiers and spectators who all wanted to get a glimpse of the famous astronauts.

After this recreational weekend, the astronauts and their attendance set off to Brnik airport where a special plane was already waiting for them. They left with a number of protocol gifts. They were given situlas, Idrija lace, umbrellas, majolicas, jugs, cases with napkins, vases, flowers, candlesticks, tablecloths, and a set of records by Slovenski oktet. Elan ski factory presented them with seven pairs of skis, Toper sportswear factory gave them seven sets of ski jackets and trousers, and Alpina shoe factory gave them ten pairs of ski boots.

Almost 45 years have passed since the last manned mission to the Moon. The final one was Apollo 17 mission that took place on December 17, 1972.

Maja Povalej