crew for Gemini IX was selected to be Commander Elliot McKay See, Jr.
and Pilot Charles Arthur Bassett, II.
Before they could fly this mission, their lives were cut short in a
tragic airplane accident in St. Louis, Missouri.
See and Bassett were killed on February 28, 1966 when the airplane they
were piloting crashed during a landing attempt in bad weather.
Serving as backup crew for Gemini
IX was Thomas (Tom) Patten Stafford with Eugene (Gene)
Andrew Cernan. Due to the loss of See and Bassett, the Gemini IX
backup crew was promoted to the primary crew. Stafford would be
the Commander and Cernan would be his pilot.
and docking with an Agena target
vehicle was one of the primary mission objectives. However, the unreliable Agena
orbit due to a malfunction during its launch.
A backup to the Agena was a
piece of hardware known the Augmented Targeting Docking Adapter
(ATDA). This was much simpler than the complex Agena, but would
satisfy the requirements for rendezvous and docking. Gemini IX
had a new mission objective and was renamed Gemini IX-A.
rocket lifted off on June 3rd, 1966. When the Gemini crew
rendezvoused with the ATDA, they were disappointed by what they
The payload faring that comprised the nose cone of the rocket for the
ATDA launch had not separated from the ATDA. A stubborn metal
strap held the fairing base tightly to the ATDA. Astronaut Stafford
got a wierd looking
machine here. Both clam shells on the nose are still on, but they
are wide open - it looks like an angry alligator out there rotating
configuration was impossible to dock with. Important rendezvous
techniques were still
with the ATDA so that portion of the mission was a huge success.
Another major objective of Gemini IX-A was an extravehicular activity
by astronaut Cernan. Cernan was supposed to make his way to the
of the Gemini spacecraft where a "Buck Rodgers" style flying backpack
was secured. During the EVA, Cernan was soon to find out that
performing tasks in a weightless environment were much more difficult
than the training on the Earth.
Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion pertaining to
reaction would become Cernan's undoing. It became a major struggle to
try and strap himself into the rocket pack. Cernan's heart rate soared
to between 140 and 160 beats per minute. This physical exertion
caused the visor of Cernan's space suit to fog over. With poor to zero
visibility, Cernan's task of flying the backpack was called off.
The EVA ended after 128 minutes.
The lost opportunity to test the maneuvering unit was very
disappointing. The difficulty with the EVA made one wonder if man
could even function in space. More questions would
need to be answered before a man could attempt to set foot on the
On June 6, the retro rockets on Gemini IX-A were fired to bring the
spacecraft back from orbit. The crew completed 45 orbits and splashed
down within one half mile of the targeted landing spot in the Atlantic
Ocean. The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp was the primary
Mission duration for Gemini IX-A was 3 days, 0 hours, 20 minutes and 50