The Gemini Missions

Click on the image above.

The Gemini missions featured two-man spacecraft, modified from the original Mercury capsule. Pairs of astronauts were launched into space, and often two spacecraft flew simultaneously. By the time Gemini was being initiated, NASA engineers were already working on the design of the Apollo missions. In order to get to the Moon, Apollo astronauts would have to be proficient in several key aspects of the mission. The purpose of the Gemini program was to practice rendezvous, docking, spacewalks, and test the effects of long durations of spaceflights. If astronauts could not perfect the skills and survive two weeks in space, there was no way we could go to the Moon. Since the moon rocket had to carry a lunar lander in a special cargo bay behind the command module, the astronauts would have to practice turning the spacecraft around and removing the lander from its "garage" before then heading to the moon. In the movie, "Apollo 13," this was a very critical part of the mission for Jack Swigert. Gemini missions included rendezvous flights and then docking with special craft to prepare for the moonshot. Below are some pictures of these missions. The entire history of the Gemini Program is worth a bit of time and browsing of the images collected there.

A great moment for the American space program occurred when Ed White, pictured above, stepped outside his Gemini spacecraft for his spacewalk on June 4, 1965, while floating over the Indian Ocean. It wasn't so much a "walk" as it was a tethered spaceride, and at a speed of 11 miles per second. The David Bowie song, "Major Tom" describes a spacewalk gone awry ... something that has never happened in the history of manned spaceflight. As excited as America was about Ed White's experience, we were upstaged by the Soviets again. Aleksei Leonov, pictured below and left, became he first to leave a spacecraft and walk outside while in orbit on March 18, 1965. He was out for longer than planned because he had trouble reentering his spacecraft. His spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space outside his spacecraft, and he was kind of puffed up (so to speak), such that he could not get through the hach. After "bleeding" much of the air in his suit, and becoming close to a very dangerously low oxygen environment, he was able to get back inside. Also shown below and right is Valentina Tereshkova, who on June 16, 1963 became the first woman in space ... almost 20 years before Sally Ride was the first American woman.

If you want to learn more about the history or Russian spaceflight, click on Cosmonauts ... this site is really fantastic.

Please move forward to Apollo Missions 1-11 or back to Gemini.

Oh, by the way, I mentioned earlier in the unit that my cousin Johnny and I often went to each other's homes any pretended to be astronauts. Well, it was a lot more fun pretending to be Gemini astronauts since were could orbit the house together or play under the basement stairs side-by-side. But to pretend to land a spacecraft in the sandbox was really cool. We graduated from Gemini kids to Apollo kids!

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