|The Gemini X
most complex mission plan and objectives ever laid out for a space
that time. Not only was Gemini X supposed to rendezvous and dock with a
launched Agena 10. They were also supposed to rendezvous with the
dead Agena 8 left over from Gemini VIII. Multiple EVAs were
for the mission.
upon the failures to meet objectives on previous missions, there were
some who thought that the plan for Gemini X was crazy. Included
group were the crew selected for Gemini X. The commander was chosen to
veteran astronaut John W. Young. His pilot would be Michael
The timing for a Gemini Titan launch was once again
predicated upon the
successful launch of an Atlas Agena. With the dual rendezvous goal, the
timing of Agena 8, which was already in space, further complicated the
launch time for Atlas Agena 10.
On July 18, 1966, Atlas Agena 10
lifted off. It missed the opening of its
launch window by a mere two seconds. One hundred minutes after the
liftoff, Gemini Titan X experienced an on time liftoff. The window of
opportunity for Gemini Titan X to launch was just 35 seconds. If it had
that window then the chance for a dual rendezvous would be
Gemini X was
rendezvous with Agena 10 within 4 orbits. Rendezvous was a
process that involved precise maneuvering thruster burns. Not
the burns required to be on time and for a specific duration, but also
spacecraft had to be pointed in the right direction.
During one of the rendezvous
burns Commander Young did not have the spacecraft in the exact
it should have been. This misalignment cost the crew valuable
In fact, the fuel usage for this rendezvous was nearly three times what
been experienced previously.
apologized to Pilot Collins, "Gosh
darn, Babe! I really missed this one! I don't
have enough gas for you to do your..." Collins
reassured Young, "Ah don't worry about
it. Maybe we do, maybe we don't. Do you know for sure we
don't?" Young answered, "No,
sorry." As they got closer to rendezvous,
continued, "No. No.
Don't worry about a
thing. We're there. Okay, keep your pants on. Docking
condition - ... Extension lights - Dock."
overcome and 5 hours, 52 minutes after launch, Gemini X successfully
with Agena 10. The crew was unsure if
the excess fuel consumption would curtail their plans for the use of
the Agena 10 booster and a rendezvous
Agena 8, but they were given the go ahead to proceed. The Capsule Communicator radioed the crew,
you're looking real good. We're giving you a GO for the burn."
The Agena vehicle, which can
be controlled from the docked Gemini, has a large main engine for
major orbital changes. It is with this
engine that Young and Collins boosted themselves into a different orbit
rendezvous with the Agena 8 vehicle.
The main engine of the Agena
is on the opposite end from the crew when they are docked to the Agena. This meant that when the Agena engine was
fired, the crew was flying backwards referred to as the “eyeballs out”
due to the negative g force. The ride
was quite thrilling for the crew and provided a visual spectacle. Young
Collins reported seeing sparks, fire, and smoke pour out of the Agena's
Collins reported, "That was really
something." CAPCOM added, "Pretty wild!"
Collins continued, "When that baby
lights, there's no doubt about it." A short while latter,
Young commented to Collins, "Whew! I saw
sparks flying, and noise, rattling and ... It's really going off."
Collins agreed, "Wow,
that's right! I almost shut it down. I almost did."
A skeptical Young countered, "No you didn't!"
Collins continued, "I almost did.
If you had said ... I would have shut it down. Really."
from the Agena, Young and Collins were now farther away from the Earth
human beings had ever been. The apogee
or top point of their orbit reached 763 kilometers.
The crew at times was not as descriptive in their communication with
the ground as Mission Control would have liked them to be. Deke
Slayton came on the communications loop and with a bit of sarcasm told
Commander Young, "John, this is
Deke. You guys are doing a commendable job of maintaining radio
silence. As soon as the French stop shooting at you, why don't
you do a little more talking from here on?" Young
What do you want us to talk about?" Deke answered, "Well, anything that
seems appropriate. Like EVA."
Collins was scheduled to
perform a stand up EVA. A stand up EVA
meant that the Gemini hatch would be opened to the vacuum of space, but
would remain in the Gemini, standing in his seat. The
purpose of this EVA was to do a combination photographic and
observation session. NASA wanted to
know if film photography could reproduce the colors seen in space
When the Gemini hatch was opened, Collins exclaimed, "Isn't that pretty? Holy mackerel! Anybody reading
Gemini X down there?" After another inquiry from the crew about
the communication status, the Capsule Communicator responded, "Roger, Gemini
X. This is Houston CAPCOM, loud and
to Young, "Yes. It's really nice out here,
John, though it is disappointing in one way. This visor, it has just
enough tint to it, that you really can't see the stars as I thought I
would. I don't see them any better. I don't believe
that I see them down to more than about 5th magnitude."
The observations that Collins was making of the stars occurred during
the nighttime pass of the orbit. As the orbit approached the
sunlit side of the Earth, Collins, noted, "And
it's starting to get light. Man look at that sunrise! Whoosh!"
Young responded, "It gets to you?"
Collins concurred, "Getting to me."
Young, "I've got a problem here, John."
Young asked Collins, "What's the matter,
babe?" Collins explained, "Well -
as soon as the Sun came up, my eyes started watering and I'm not sure
if it's this compound that's on the inner surface of the light band or
what it is. But my eyes are really watering like crazy, to the
point where it is real difficult to keep them open to see what the heck
observation experiment had to be terminated prematurely.
Collins eyes were
tearing up. It got to the point where he could no longer see. Commander Young was suffering the same
affliction. The EVA was halted and the
been terminated and the hatch closed, Young discussed
the vision problem with mission control. The Capsule Communicator
asked, "When did you first notice
problem, John?" Young replied, "Just
about sunrise. It was good all through the
night. I was crying a little through the night, but I didn't say
anything about it because I figured I was just being a sissy. You
know, my eyes were watering, but I just figured that was the oxygen
flowing. Then Mike said he couldn't see anything at all. So
right after he said that, I got where I couldn't see anything at
all. I guess we had to call it off." CAPCOM
responded, "Right, John. I think it was
a wise move."
Initially, it was thought
the environmental control system had been contaminated with lithium
hydroxide. That is a chemical that is
used to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Later
it was determined that the problem was caused by
space suit fans at the same time.
After a long day, it was time to rest for the night. CAPCOM told
the crew, "We
have nothing further for you on this pass. I guess this will be
our last wake up pass with you, so we'll wish you all a good night."
Young reciprocated, "Thank you. Happy
dreams." CAPCOM radioed, "We'll be watching
you while you sleep."
next morning, Young and Collins undocked
from Agena 10 after using it for one final rendezvous burn. They found
spotting Agena 8 during the rendezvous was rather difficult. Since Agena 8 had long since lost battery
power, its rendezvous lights no longer functioned.
At 45 hours and 38 minutes into the flight, Young recorded, "45:38. First
sighting of Gemini VIII Agena by John Young. At this minute it's
blurry." To the
surprise of the crew however, the Agena that they had spotted was not
the Gemini VIII Agena, but it was the Gemini X Agena that they had
previously undocked from.
CAPCOM C.C. Williams asked Young, "That Agena that you
saw, was it the Gemini VIII Agena or the X Agena?" Young
asked, "Is the
X Agena ahead of us?" CAPCOM responded, "That's
affirmative. About 3 miles." Young confirmed, "Well, that's what
we are looking at then."
C.C., I thought we were really seeing something." Williams
reassured Young, "Yes, I thought so
too John. You'll get it. 95 miles is pretty long range."
have to have
real good eyesight for that."
At 47 hours and 7 minutes into the flight, a more cautious Young
believe I see the target up here. The nose is up." A short time later Collins asked Young
about his sighting of the Agena, "You still got him?"
Young replied, "Yes."
Collins added, "Keep
him in sight. Don't loose that rascal!"
As they moved in
to the Agena, CAPCOM asked, "See anything of the
Agena VIII around?" Young answered, "We're about, I
guess 700 to 800 feet out." An excited CAPCOM responded, "Fantastic,
John!" Young sounded surprised and replied, "Yes, I don't
believe it myself."
The lack of rendezvous lights
did not prevent them
from accomplishing a second rendezvous. It
was unknown whether the dead Agena 8 would be gyrating
wildly or if
it would be in stable flight. The crew
found that it was stable and they assumed a station keeping position
within a few feet of the Agena.
CAPCOM radioed, "Gemini X,
Carnavon. You have a GO for the rest of station keeping."
Collins responded, "Roger. How
about that EVA? You want it?" CAPCOM answered, "That's what we
mean. That's what we mean exactly." Young quipped, "Glad you said that
because Mike's going outside right now."
The objective for this EVA
had Collins floating over to Gemini 8 to retrieve a micrometeorite
package that had been installed on it. Collins
found this maneuver to be very difficult. The
Agena had no handholds that he could
grasp to steady himself.
The maneuver was complicated by the fact that Young had to continue
firing thrusters to maintain the station keeping position. At the
same time he had to be careful so that the exhaust from the thrusters
did not impinge upon Collins in his space suit. Collins radioed
to Young, "Watch
that trustier there, Babe. All right don't translate down, I'm by
it." A short while later Young radioed Collins, "Well, Babe, if I
don't translate soon, we're going to run into that buzzard."
tried to hold on to the docking collar of the Agena but soon slipped
off. The second attempt he managed to
bundle of wires. By doing this he was
able to steady himself enough to remove the micrometeorite package. This package was then passed back to
Commander Young for stowage.
The original plan was to place a new micrometeorite package on the
Agena, but the Agena's attitude had become unstable and wires on the
Agena had become a hazard for Collins. Mission Control instructed
the crew to forget station keeping with the Agena and just save as much
maneuvering fuel as they could.
While Collins was closing out his EVA activities, he realized that he
had lost his camera. Collins radioed to Young, "Would you believe I
lost my Hasseblad?" In disbelief, Young responded, "You're
kidding!" All of
the wonderful images that Collins had captured on his EVA were
Mission Control on what he encountered during his EVA. Collins
Houston, his is Gemini X. Everything outside is about like we
predicted; only it takes more time. The body positioning is
indeed a problem, although the nitrogen line got connected without too
much of a problem. I - when I translated over to the Agena, I
found the lack of handholds is a big impediment. I would - I
could hang on, but I couldn't get around to the other side, which is
what I wanted to do. Finally I did get around to the other
side, and I did get the S-10 package and the nose faring
off. John now has them. However there is a piece of shroud
hanging - or part of the nose of the Agena that came loose and I was
afraid I was going to get snarled up in that. So did John and he
told me to come on back. So the new S-10, which I was going to
put on the Agena, I didn't and just now threw it away. Also I
lost my EVA Hasseblad inadvertently, I'm sorry to say. I'm getting
ready now to do some gun evaluations. Okay John, you can let go."
Maneuvering fuel limits with the Gemini spacecraft now
forced Collins to terminate his EVA early. Collins
got back in the spacecraft and closed the hatch. Some time now
had to be spent by Collins and Young to get Collins untangled from his
CAPCOM asked, "How are you coming
as far as getting untangled from that umbilical?" Collins replied, "We're about half
way there." Young chimed in, "This place makes
the snake house at the zoo look like a Sunday school picnic."
disconnecting from the umbilical, the spacecraft was
depressurized. Collins reopened his Gemini hatch and discarded
the umbilical as well
EVA chest pack.
It was time to settle down for a meal after a hard day of work.
Collins had a little difficulty with his butterscotch pudding food
bag. He commented, "It's not as bad as
what happened yesterday when I accidentally snipped the Tang and had
Tang flakes all over the cockpit."
Growing up in the 60s, Tang was a staple of my diet. It wasn't
because the drink tasted all that good, but because it was advertised
as the drink of the astronauts. This comment by Collins from
space leads me to believe that the advertising in the 60s wasn't all
Later Collins added, "I'm hungry.
This is a good meal, butterscotch pudding." Young also
commented about the meal, "I
tell you this soup is outstanding, the best I have ever eaten."
That comment was an indication that the food quality had improved
substantially since Young's Gemini III flight with Gus Grissom.
July 21, 1966, it was time to return to Earth for the Gemini X
crew. CAPCOM counted down the time for the firing of the
four retro rockets, "10, 9, 8 7, 6, 5,
4, 3, 2, 1. Retrofire!" Collins then remarked to
one was a soft one, wasn't it? I count four beautiful ones, John,
Babe." Young was pleased with the retrofire, "That was a
superfine automatic retrofire: 303 aft; 5 right; 119 down."
Astronauts Young and
Collins headed for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.
At about 500 feet above the surface of the ocean,
we're going to land like a ton of bricks!" After
splashdown, CAPCOM reported to the crew, "Gemini X, Houston
CAPCOM. Our plot shows you 4 miles off the IP." The IP
that the CAPCOM referred to was the targeted impact point.
The primary recovery ship
for this mission was the aircraft carrier USS Guadalcanal. The flight duration was 2 days, 22
46 minutes, and 39 seconds.