50 years ago two spacecraft docked together for the first time in human spaceflight. The manned spacecraft was a Gemini mission carrying two crew members and the unmanned spacecraft was an Agena upper rocket stage.
|The Agena Target As Seen by Gemini VIII|
After the successful rendezvous and docking, the two spacecraft were flying together for about 30 minutes when an uncontrolled spin started. As the spin quickly increased the G-forces on the astronauts were getting to the point where they were in real danger of blacking out which would lead to a probable loss of the crew.
"Cool Stick" Neil saved the day by initiating an emergency procedure using the re-entry control system which stabilized the spin. The two detached and following mission rules Gemini VIII re-entered Earth's atmosphere for a near perfect splashdown.
Gemini had many other firsts that paved the way for Apollo to the Moon:
- Two Crew Members w/A Larger & More Capable Spacecraft
- Extended time on orbit (14 days)
- 1st American EVA & More Complex EVAs
- Two Gemini Spacecraft Rendezvous
- Radar Rendezvous Procedures
- Orbit Change Capability
I fondly remember building the Revell Gemini model - going to have to get another one to go with my Apollo and Saturn V models. Gemini was a far bigger spacecraft than Mercury and it had two modules behind the Crew Capsule. One provided logistics - power from fuel cells, oxygen, propellant - and the other was the reentry module that housed the retrorockets. Gemini could maneuver and change its orbit using the sophisticated reaction control system.
I had a paper route in California back in the day of Gemini and I would deliver papers and then get back in time to see the launches. I don't think I missed one.
Sky Guy in VA