Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Gemini - Pathfinder to the Moon

Hey Space Placers!

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
The two astronauts were future moon walkers Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott.

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

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