Gemini spacecraft was a significant advancement over the Mercury
spacecraft. Gemini was larger and could carry two astronauts while
Mercury was limited to one.
Gemini could change its orbital path in space. With this
maneuverability, Gemini was truly a pilot's vehicle.
was also heavier than the Mercury spacecraft. That extra weight
that a new launch vehicle would need to be utilized for Gemini to reach
orbit. A two stage Titan rocket originally developed as a
missile was selected.
affectionately referred to
the Gemini spacecraft as the "Gus Mobile". It received this moniker
because of astronaut Gus Grissom's close involvement with the
development of the spacecraft.
Before NASA had a chance to fly a manned Gemini mission the Russians
beat them to the punch again. On October 12, 1964 they launched
not two but three cosmonauts in a spacecraft they called Voskhod.
The Voskhod 1 crew consisted of Commander Vladimir Mikhailovich
Komarov, Research Scientist Konstantin Petrovich Feoktistov, and
Physician Cosmonaut Boris Borisovich Yegorov.
The Voskhod spacecraft was not a totally new design but rather a
modification to the Vostok single man craft. In order for three
cosmonauts to squeeze into the spacecraft, they were launched without
Voskhod 1 orbited the Earth for 16 revolutions. The crew returned to Earth on October
13, 1964. The flight
duration was 1 day 0 hours, 2 minutes, and 17 seconds.
Then on March 18, 1965, the Soviet Union launched another bold mission.
This was Voskhod 2 and its crew consisted of cosmonauts Commander
Pavel Ivanovich Belayev and Pilot Aleksey Arkhipovich Leonov.
One hour and
four minutes after launch, cosmonaut Leonov became the first man to
walk in space. The Americans would not get around to doing
an EVA until the second manned Gemini mission. This reinforced
the perception that the Americans were lagging behind in the space race.
Leonov's historic twelve minute spacewalk was not without danger.
later, we would find out that he had difficulty getting back in the
Voskhod 2 spacecraft. Leonov had to partially depressurize his suit in
order to fit back
through the hatch in Voskhod II. As a consequence of that
depressurization, Leonov was afflicted with a dangerous medical
condition known as 'the bends'.
Voskhod 2 returned to Earth on March 19, 1965 after 18
revolutions A malfunction of the spacecraft's orientation prior
to retrorocket ignition caused the crew to land miles away from the
target in a snow covered mountainous region. It was with great
difficulty that the crew was recovered. The flight duration of
Voskhod 2 was 1 day, 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 17 seconds.
Voskhod 2 marked the fourth consecutive and unanswered Soviet
Spaceflight without an American flight since Gordon Cooper's flight on
Faith 7. The American response would come with
the launch of Gemini Titan III.
The primary objectives for the Gemini Titan III mission included:
Commander of Gemini
Titan III was veteran Astronaut Virgil (Gus)
Grissom. He became the first human being to fly in space for a
second time. Grissom's pilot was rookie Astronaut John Watts
orbital flight with the Gemini spacecraft
spacecraft two-man design.
Orbital Attitude and Maneuvering System (OAMS) capability in orbital
maneuvers and in retrofire backup.
controlled reentry and landing.
preparation and launch procedures.
Gus remembered his near disaster during the recovery of Liberty Bell 7,
so he named his Gemini Spacecraft "Molly Brown". It was a
reference to the Broadway musical, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown". NASA
public relations was not very pleased with the selection of this
name but relented after they found out that Gus's second choice for a
name was "Titanic". The practice of naming Gemini spacecraft
ended with "Molly
On March 23, 1965, Gemini Titan III lifted off with Grissom and Young
on board. At the moment of liftoff capsule communicator Gordon
Cooper called to the crew, "You're on
your way, Molly Brown."
One of the primary objectives of this mission was to
that Astronauts could maneuver the Gemini spacecraft in space and alter
the plane of their oribt.
Indeed, Grissom and Young became the first men to maneuver a spacecraft
orbit. They were able to change the plane of their orbit by one
fiftieth of a degree.
The name "Molly Brown" was not the only aspect of Gemini III
the ire of NASA management. A corned beef sandwich smuggled on
board by John Young also caught their attention.
One of the science experiments for Gemini III was to check out a menu
of reconstituted food. This experiment was selected to verify
that an adequate diet was available for longer duration missions.
Grissom was not a fan of the dehydrated menu and he let people around
know of his opinion.
At an opportune moment in the flight, Young asked Grissom, "You care for a
corned beef sandwich
skipper?" Much to Grissom's amazement,
was holding out an actual deli corned beef sandwich that he had
smuggled on board in his spacesuit pockets. Wally Schirra had
purchased the sandwich for Young the night before the launch at a local
Cocoa Beach delicatessen called "Wolfie's".
Grissom sampled a few bites and then promptly stowed the
sandwich. The rye bread had dried out and left quite a few crumbs
floating around the cabin. Grissom appreciated the humor but NASA
management did not.
After 3 orbits, the retrorockets were fired on Molly Brown to return
the crew back to Earth. Molly Brown splashed down in the Atlantic
Ocean on March 23, 1965. Astronaut Grissom found that the
recovery of Molly Brown went much smoother than his previous experience
with Liberty Bell 7.
The prime recovery
ship for this mission was the USS Intrepid.
70 minutes after splashdown, the crew was on board the recovery ship.
Gemini III had a mission duration of
4 hours, 52 minutes, and 31 seconds. During that time the
spacecraft traveled 80,000.27 miles.
the press became aware of the corned beef sandwich
incident. Congress became inflamed and a Congressional Committee
held a formal hearing on the incident. Astronaut Young was
reprimanded. A NASA administrator later stated, "We have taken steps
- to prevent
recurrence of corned beef sandwiches in future flights."