On November 15th, 1966, Gemini XII, the final mission of the United States Gemini program returned to Earth, marking the end of space program to prove humans could do work outside of their spacecraft, could survive in space for the possible 2 week long duration moon missions would take, and lastly to prove two spacecraft could rendezvous and dock in orbit, a critical task for the mission design that Apollo would follow.
It stands as one of my favorite periods in space history: 10 manned missions over 2 years, from early 1965 to late 1966. Successful EVA by the United States, the rendezvous of Gemini 6 and 7, the first docking in space of Gemini 8 and its Agena Target Vehicle (and the subsequent abort and emergency landing of the spacecraft due to a stuck thruster), and, finally, by the time of Gemini 12, Buzz Aldrin proving that a person could work outside their spacecraft without getting exhausted.
It’s also worth noting that many of the most famous names in NASA history, Jim Lovell, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, John Young, were all Gemini astronauts first.
It was the moment the United States was put ahead of the Soviet Union in the Space Race – While 1964 saw the Soviets launch a 3 man crew on Voskhod 1 and Voskhod 2, with a 2 man crew, would have the first EVA in history, they would launch no further missions as they began to work on their new moon craft, a vehicle that, in an evolved form, still flies today: Soyuz. 10 missions by the US to the zero of the Soviet Union. We were ready for the moon.
With as much as I love the Gemini program, it’s somewhat funny that I failed to write at all about the program these past 2 years. I blame timing, and the late change to how I worked with Xadara; I missed out on the early months of the program, and as such, decided against suddenly following the program in the latter half. It just didn’t feel right.
I’m not going to go over the whole program for you here. Not directly. I do have a few videos I want to share, as time passes, and I’ll provide the usual links I do in such retrospective posts. Gemini was an absolutely fascinating moment in history, an amazing spacecraft, and, in an odd way, a forgotten piece of history, lost between Mercury and Apollo.