Another Step Toward Apollo: Gemini-9

Forty-five years ago today — June 3, 1966 — Gemini-9 launched from Cape Canaveral on a Titan-II rocket.

(Gemini-9 in orbit. NASA image.)

The crew of Gemini-9, Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene A. Cernan, carried out a series of maneuvers to simulate future Apollo rendezvous maneuvers. They were supposed to actually dock with a target vehicle, but they saw “that the launch shroud … had failed to deploy and was blocking the docking port.”

Another part of the mission profile was to test the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit, but that test also ran into difficulty:

On 5 June at 10:02 a.m. EST the Gemini capsule was depressurized and the hatch above Cernan opened. Cernan was out of the spacecraft at 10:19, attached by an 8 meter long tether which was connected to Gemini’s oxygen supply. He had no gas maneuvering unit as was used on Gemini 4. He retrieved the micrometeorite impact detector attached to the side of the capsule and then moved about the spacecraft. He had great difficulty manuevering and maintaining orientation on the long tether. He took photographs of Gemini from the full length of the tether and finally moved to the back of the capsule where the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU) was mounted. He was scheduled to don the AMU, disconnect from the Gemini oxygen supply (although he would still be attached to the spacecraft with a longer, thinner tether) and move to 45 meters from the capsule. The task of donning the AMU took “four to five times more work than anticipated”, overwhelming Cernan’s environmental control system and causing his faceplate to fog up, limiting his visibility. It was also discovered that the AMU radio transmissions were garbled. These problems caused Stafford to recall Cernan to the spacecraft. He reentered the spacecraft at 12:05 p.m. and the hatch was closed at 12:10. Cernan was the third person to walk in space and his total time of 2 hours, 8 minutes was the longest spacewalk yet.

The image above shows one of the pictures Cernan took of the Gemini spacecraft.

Stafford and Cernan de-orbited and splashed down on June 6th.

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