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, picture 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. 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
... this site is really fantastic.
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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