August 21 1965 - Gemini 5
Gemini 5 lifted off from Cape Canaveral on August 21, 1965. Its flight lasted seven days 22 hours and 55 minutes. For a short time it held the record for longest flight. The two astronauts aboard were L Gordon Cooper jr and Charles Pete Conrad.
NASA History: Gemini V Launched From Cape Canaveral 53 Years Ago
FLASHBACK: August 21, 1965
ABOVE VIDEO: Fifty-three years ago today on August 21, 1965, Gemini V, the third crewed Gemini flight, launched from Cape Canaveral carrying commander Gordon Cooper and pilot Pete Conrad. (lunarmodule5 Video)
NASA – Fifty-three years ago today on August 21, 1965, Gemini V, the third crewed Gemini flight, launched from Cape Canaveral carrying commander Gordon Cooper and pilot Pete Conrad.
The 8-day mission broke the Soviet Union’s previous world record, set by the crew of Vostok 5 in 1963, for longest time in space.
The mission’s purpose was to test rendezvous capabilities with the Radar Evaluation Pod (REP) that was ejected from the craft during the second orbit.
Unfortunately, problems developed with the fuel cell and the crew could not rendezvous with the REP.
Back on the ground, fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin developed a plan where the crew could rendezvous with a “point in space.”
The plan worked and the crew executed the first ever precision maneuver during a spaceflight.
The crew completed its mission on August 29, 1965, and landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean.
Fifty-three years ago today on August 21, 1965, Gemini V, the third crewed Gemini flight, launched from Cape Canaveral carrying commander Gordon Cooper and pilot Pete Conrad. (NASA Image)
The launch went perfectly except for a few seconds of Pogo oscillation (axial vibration of the rocket). This was measured at +0.38 g (3.7 m/s²) during first stage flight, exceeding the permitted +0.25 g (2.5 m/s²) for a total of about 13 seconds. Conrad and Cooper found their vision and speech momentarily impaired by the strong vibrations. The cause was traced to improper gas levels in an oxidizer standpipe, and severe oscillations did not affect any subsequent Gemini flights. The initial orbit was 101x216 miles (163x349 kilometers).
Film of the launch revealed a series of unexplained light flashes in the first stage exhaust plume, but telemetry data failed to indicate anything that could have caused them. Subsequent review of previous Gemini launches as well as film of Titan II ICBM tests also showed the presence of these light flashes. This phenomenon was thought to be caused by duct tape securing desiccant bags to the turbine exhaust pipe.
The top half of the Titan II's first stage, comprising the nitrogen tetroxide tank and its surrounding fuselage, was found floating on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean and retrieved it is now on display at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The first major event on the mission was the ejection of the Radar Evaluation Pod (REP) at 2 hours and 13 minutes into the flight. The radar showed that the pod was moving a relative speed of two meters per second. While out of radio contact with the ground, the crew found that the pressure in the fuel cell had dropped from 850 to 65 pounds per square inch (5,860 to 450 kPa) 4 hours and 22 minutes into the flight. This was still above the 22.2 psi (153 kPa) minimum but Cooper decided to shut it down. Without power they would be unable to rendezvous with the REP, and it could also mean a premature end to the mission. The cause of this mishap was believed to be a short circuit in the oxygen tank heater that tripped a breaker.
Tests on the ground found that it was possible for the fuel cell to work, even with low oxygen pressure. However, with the fuel cell off, they would only be able to stay in orbit for a day and still have enough battery power for reentry.
It was decided to turn the fuel cells back on and test them by using equipment that required more and more power. These showed that the fuel cells were stable and the crew could continue the mission.
In the meantime, Buzz Aldrin had been working out an alternative rendezvous test. He had a PhD in orbital mechanics and worked out a scheme where the crew could rendezvous with a "point in space".
The crew became cold as they drifted. Even with the coolant pipes in the suits turned off and the airflow on low, they still shivered. Stars slowly drifting by the windows also proved disorienting, so the crew put covers on the windows.
As with Gemini 4, the crew had difficulty sleeping in alternate rest periods. They still had little rest when they decided to take their sleep periods together.
The phantom rendezvous came on the third day. It went perfectly, even though it was the first precision maneuver on a spaceflight. They tried four maneuvers—apogee adjust, phase adjust, plane change, and coelliptical maneuver—using the orbit attitude and maneuvering system (OAMS).
The ground crew discovered a small problem the next day. The fuel cell produced waste water (not suitable for drinking, as it was too acidic) that was stored in a tank on board. This was the same tank used for drinking water, with the potable and non-potable water separated by a bladder wall. The problem was that the fuel cell was producing 20% more discharge than expected. However, it was soon determined that there would still be room left over at the end of the mission. In general, the fuel cells were successful at producing cool drinking water for the astronauts, but they reported that the water had a high quantity of gas bubbles in it.
On the fifth day, a major problem occurred when one of the OAMS thruster blocks (comprising thrusters 5, 6, 7, and 8) malfunctioned repeatedly. The exact reason for these problems was unclear and a variety of possible causes were suggested. This meant the cancellation of all experiments requiring the use of the thrusters and the crew were not able to get them operating again. [ citation needed ]
Seventeen experiments were planned, with one cancelled, as it involved photography of the REP. Experiment D-1 involved the crew photographing celestial objects, and D-6 was a ground photography experiment. Experiments D-4/D-7 involved making brightness measurements of celestial and terrestrial backgrounds and of rocket plumes. Experiments S-8/D-13 investigated whether the crew's eyesight changed during the mission.
All of the medical experiments from Gemini 4 were performed, as well as experiment M-1 into the performance of the heart. This involved Conrad wearing inflatable leg cuffs. Experiment M-9 also investigated whether the astronauts' ability to measure horizontally changed.
The astronauts did not experience much of an appetite during the mission and averaged about 1000 calories a day, well below the intended 2700 calorie per day food intake. They reported dandruff to be a persistent problem to the point where their loose skin flakes would settle on the Gemini's instrument panel and partially obscure some instrument readouts. This condition was believed to be due to very low ambient humidity in the cabin causing the astronauts' skin to become dry and flaky. Postflight medical examinations showed some loss of red blood cells and plasma. Conrad's circulatory system returned to normal values within two days after the mission while Cooper took over four days.
S-1 involved Cooper taking the first photographs of the zodiacal light and the gegenschein from orbit. There was also syntopic photography of Earth. One photograph of the Zagros Mountains revealed greater detail than the official geologic map of Iran. Experiment S-7, the Cloud-Top Spectrometer revealed that the height of clouds could be determined from orbit.
Retrofire was initiated over Hawaii at 190 hours, 27 minutes, and 43 seconds into the mission. The astronauts controlled the reentry, creating drag and lift by rotating the capsule. Due to a computing error, the crew landed 80 miles (130 kilometers) short of the planned landing point in the Atlantic Ocean. Although the computer had worked perfectly, a programmer had entered the rate of the Earth's rotation as 360° per 24 hours instead of 360.98° See Sidereal day.
The Gemini 5 mission was supported by the following U.S. Department of Defense resources: 10,265 personnel, 114 aircraft and 19 ships. Recovery was by USS Lake Champlain.
This Day in History for August 21
1897 – Oldsmobile first manufactured by Olds Motor Vehicle Co. in Lansing, Michigan.
1901 – Baltimore Orioles pitcher Joe McGinnity is suspended from NL for punching & spitting on umpire Tom Connolly in previous day’s 5-2 loss to Detroit tigers lifetime suspension reduced to 12 days.
1926 – Chicago White Sox pitcher Ted Lyon no hits Boston Red Sox, 6-0 in just 67 minutes at Fenway Park.
1942 – Walt Disney’s animated movie “Bambi”, based on the book of Felix Salten, is released.
1945 – US President Harry Truman ends Lend-Lease program.
1952 – Baseball player representatives Ralph Kiner (NL) & Allie Reynolds (AL) hire labor leader John Norman Lewis at $15,000 to give legal advice to players in negotiations with team owners.
1959 – Hawaii becomes the 50th US state.
1962 – Verne Gagne beats Mister M (doctor X) in Minn, to become National Wrestling Association Champ.
1965 – Gemini 5 launched into Earth orbit (2 astronauts)
1968 – Marine James Anderson, Jr. is 1st African American to win Medal of Honor.
1982 – Rollie Fingers (Brewers) becomes 1st pitcher to get save #300.
1987 – “Dirty Dancing” film directed by Emile Ardolino, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey opens in the US.
1989 – Voyager 2 begins a flyby of planet Neptune.
1992 – US Marshals move in on Randy Weaver’s cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho to apprehend him on firearms charges an 11 day stand-off ensues.
1995 – Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 529 crashes near Carrollton, Georgia, killing 9 crew and passengers.
2007 – Hurricane Dean makes its first landfall in Costa Maya, Mexico with winds at 165 mph. Dean is the first storm since Hurricane Andrew to make landfall as a Category 5.
2017 – Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $417m to woman who developed ovarian cancer after using their talc-based products.
2018 – Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, pleads guilty to charges including illegal payment at direction of Trump to women Trump had affairs with.
2018 – Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, is convicted on eight counts of fraud in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
2019 – US President Donald Trump says Danish PM Mette Frederiksen was ‘nasty’ to him over his interest in buying Greenland and cancels his trip to Denmark
Eight Days or Bust: The Mission of Gemini 5
With the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) routinely spending six or more months in orbit, it is sometimes forgotten that only a few decades ago the first flights of such length were just being attempted and their effects on the human body were largely unknown. It has taken over a half a century of experience to develop the techniques needed for people to remain healthy and productive in space for months at a time as well as adapt to Earth’s environment after returning.
One of NASA’s earliest “long duration” crewed spaceflights was the mission of Gemini 5 launched on August 21, 1965. The second in a series long duration orbital missions in NASA’s Gemini program, this flight had goal of remaining in orbit for eight days. While very modest by today’s standards, this record-setting spaceflight was just one of the many steps towards NASA’s goal of reaching the Moon as well as developing the means of flying the longer missions common today.
Gemini Program Objectives
The purpose of NASA’s Gemini program was to develop the technologies and techniques needed to fulfill President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon by 1970. The major objectives of the program were:
– Demonstrate that humans and their equipment can survive up to two weeks in space
– Demonstrate rendezvous and docking techniques in orbit
– Demonstrate the technology and techniques needed to perform EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities)
Meeting all of these objectives was necessary if the Apollo lunar program were to be successful.
Diagram showing the major systems of the Gemini spacecraft. Click on image to enlarge. (McDonnell)
Gemini was a two-man spacecraft that was roughly conical in shape with a base diameter of 3.3 meters which stood 5.8 meters tall. Built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (which merged with Douglas in 1967 to become McDonnell Douglas which then merged with Boeing 30 years later), it consisted of two major sections. The first section was the reentry module which housed the crew, their equipment, food supplies and so on in orbit as well as the recovery systems needed to safely return them to Earth. Unlike today’s crewed spacecraft, the Gemini crew cabin was pressurized with pure oxygen at about one-third standard atmospheric pressure to save weight. Next is the adapter section which connected the reentry module to the launch vehicle during ascent and housed equipment needed to support the crew while in orbit. It consisted of a retrograde section which held a set of four solid retrorockets used to start the descent to Earth from orbit and an equipment section which housed the in-orbit propulsion systems called OAMS (Orbital Attitude and Manuvering System), life support, power systems and all other equipment not needed for the return to Earth.
With a typical launch mass of up to about 3,700 kilograms, Gemini needed the largest operational rocket available at the time to get into orbit: a modified Titan II ICBM built by Martin Marietta (which subsequently merged with Lockheed in 1995 to form the aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin). In addition to safety systems added to support crewed flight, the two-stage Titan II required modifications to dampen out longitudinal oscillations known as “pogo”. While not an issue for its role as an ICBM, the pogo effect could become intense enough to cause a problem for a crew. With the Gemini payload attached, the Titan II GLV (Gemini Launch Vehicle) was 33 meters tall and had a fully fueled launch mass of about 154 metric tons.
Diagram showing the major components of the Gemini-Titan II. Click on image to enlarge (NASA)
With the first successful manned test flight of the spacecraft during the brief three-orbit Gemini 3 mission launched on March 23, 1965, NASA was ready to work its way steadily up the learning curve to meet the Gemini program’s objectives (see “The Mission of Gemini 3”). The primary objective of the next flight, Gemini 4 launched on June 3, was to start the step-wise process of increasing the duration of crewed missions by spending four days in orbit (see “The Forgotten Mission of Gemini 4”). A secondary objective was to perform station keeping maneuvers with the spent second stage of its Titan II launch vehicle in preparation of the program’s eventual rendezvous and docking with an Atlas-launched Agena upper stage specially modified to serve as a target vehicle. Although it received the most public attention, an EVA was another secondary objective of this mission. While a simple standup EVA was originally planned for the Gemini 4 mission, a full blown spacewalk with astronaut Ed White completely exiting the spacecraft was performed instead in response to the successful EVA performed during the Soviet Voskhod 2 mission ten weeks earlier (see “The Mission of Voskhod 2”).
The Gemini 5 Mission
The third manned mission of the Gemini program, Gemini 5, would continue pushing the capabilities of the spacecraft and its astronaut crew. In order to meet its primary objectives, Spacecraft Number 5 was the first fully operational Gemini carrying innovative fuel cells required to generate power for longer missions as well as an L-band radar system and a full propellant load to perform an orbital rendezvous. Instead of using an Agena as a target for this mission’s rendezvous exercise, Gemini 5 carried a 34.5-kilogram Rendezvous Evaluation Pod (REP) in its adapter section. Once deployed in orbit, Gemini 5 would practice rendezvousing with the REP which was equipped with a radar transponder and other equipment like an Agena target vehicle which allowed the astronauts to track it out to ranges as great as about 400 kilometers.
Diagram of the Rendezvous Evaluation Pod (REP) carried by Gemini 5. Click on image to enlarge. (NASA)
Unlike the Gemini 4 mission where these maneuvers were performed only by eye and the intuition of the pilot (unsuccessfully, it should be added, due to the sometimes anti-intuitive nature of orbital mechanics), the Gemini 5 mission would use data from its radar system in conjunction with maneuvers calculated by on-board and ground computers to perform the rendezvous task more accurately. Since the retrorockets on the previous three Gemini flights had operated as intended, the Gemini 5 mission would be the first manned Gemini flight not to use its OAMS to lower its orbit just prior to returning as a “fail safe” measure to guarantee reentry in case of a retrorocket failure. This left significantly more propellant to maneuver in orbit to meet the mission objectives.
During early planning, it was envisioned that one of the Gemini 5 crew would perform an EVA during the mission. Since this goal was accomplished during the Gemini 4 mission and it was felt that a repeat of this feat would be of little additional value, the EVA objective was deleted as development of better equipment for more complex EVAs continued for future missions. Without the need of carrying sufficient consumables to repressurize the Gemini crew cabin after an EVA, mission planners could extend the mission of Gemini 5 from the originally envisioned week in orbit to a full eight days. Twice as long as the Gemini 4 mission, eight days was the minimum mission length required for Apollo to land on the Moon and return to Earth. Secondary objectives included evaluation of the new fuel cells under flight conditions, demonstration of systems to support all phases of orbital rendezvous and a controlled reentry to a predetermined landing point. While in orbit, the two astronauts would conduct 17 experiments to meet various scientific, medical and defense-related objectives.
The prime crew for the Gemini 5 mission: Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (left) as pilot and L. Gordon Cooper (right) as command pilot. (NASA)
On February 8, 1965, NASA officially announced the crew assignments for the Gemini 5 mission. The primary crew consisted of USAF Capt. L. Gordon Cooper as the command pilot and USN Lt. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. as the pilot. The 38-year old Cooper, known as “Gordo” to his colleagues, had a distinguished military career flying jet fighters and as a test pilot before being selected as a member of the original “Mercury 7” astronaut team in 1959 (see “Project Mercury: Choosing the Astronauts & Their Machine“). He was a veteran of the Faith 7 Mercury flight where he spent over 34 hours in orbit in that program’s finale in May 1963. The Gemini 5 mission would make Cooper the first human to fly into orbit twice. Pete Conrad was 35 years old and had been a Navy test pilot before being selected as part of NASA’s second group of astronauts in 1962. This would be his first spaceflight. The backup crew for the Gemini 5 mission was Neil A. Armstrong and Elliot M. See. Both men were civilian pilots who were part of the second group of NASA astronauts and neither had ever flown into space before.
The official version of the Gemini 5 mission patch. Originally the covered wagon included the phrase days or bust” but NASA officials insisted on it being removed. (NASA)
Getting the Mission Off the Ground
The Titan II launch vehicle for the Gemini 5 mission, serial number 62-12560 designated GLV-5, arrived at Cape Kennedy from Martin’s Baltimore, Maryland plant on May 18, 1965. It was erected at Launch Complex 19 (LC-19) on June 7 just four days after the launch of Gemini 4. The 3,605-kilogram Spacecraft No. 5 was shipped from McDonnell’s St. Louis, Missouri facility on June 19 and mated to GLV-5 on July 8. Testing and other preparations continued towards a scheduled August 9 launch date.
Spacecraft No. 5 being hoisted into position atop GLV-5 at LC-19 on July 8, 1965. (NASA)
As the crew continued its training vying for time on a limited number of increasingly busy simulators supporting an ever faster pace of future Gemini missions, it soon became apparent that more time was required especially to prepare for the untried and complex rendezvous maneuvers. Reluctantly, on July 21, 1965 Gemini program officials pushed back the scheduled launch date by ten days to give the ground and flight crews more time to prepare for the mission. Cooper and Conrad completed a dress rehearsal for the countdown on July 22 which included the simulated launch of an Atlas-Agena from LC-14. Although this mission was not going to use an Agena as a target vehicle, this was a much needed trial run for the Gemini 6 mission which was scheduled to rendezvous with an Agena in late October (see “The Unflown Mission of Gemini 6“). While the longer than expected 14½ hour exercise went well, it was marred by an unsuccessful attempt to raise the erector at LC-19 at its conclusion so that the crew could exit the spacecraft. Cooper and Conrad had to be extracted using a “cherry picker” similar to that employed during the Mercury program and included at Cooper’s insistence as a backup for just this contingency.
Cooper and Conrad after being removed from the Gemini 5 spacecraft by “cherry picker” at the end of their countdown dress rehearsal on July 22, 1965. (NASA)
Preparations for the launch of Gemini 5 scheduled for August 19 went well up until the day before liftoff. A series of issues with the new fuel cells and associated instrumentation, which were vital for a successful extended mission in orbit, had cropped up eventually forcing an unscheduled hold at 4:00 AM EDT on launch day. With the launch now pushed out to noon, the astronauts were allowed to sleep in late and did not finally enter the spacecraft until 10:35 AM. The countdown proceeded well until T-10 minutes when thunderstorms threatened the launch site. A lightning strike in the vicinity of the pad caused some instrumentation issues forcing the launch to be scrubbed just as torrential rains engulfed LC-19. Later in the day, a minor fire in the tunnel carrying cables from the blockhouse to the launch pad broke out forcing a complete checkout of the facilities including another mock countdown to ensure there were no problems.
Conrad and Cooper making their way towards the gantry at LC-19 on launch day. (NASA)
The second launch attempt on August 21 would go much better. Cooper and Conrad were woken up at 4:30 AM and had a traditional steak and eggs breakfast after a brief medical examine. Next, they put on their G4C spacesuits which had been originally meant to support an EVA. While the suits no longer included the extra bulky layers and other provisions needed to protect them from the space environment, the crew would be required to wear the suits for the entire eight-day mission despite their best efforts to be allowed to remove them once in orbit.
The launch of Gemini 5 from LC-19 on August 21, 1965. (NASA)
After a nearly flawless countdown, Gemini-Titan 5 lifted off from LC-19 at 9:00 AM EDT. All was going well with the ascent until near the end of the first stage burn. The pogo effect set in with the oscillations reaching an uncomfortable peak of 0.38 Gs which exceeded the allowable limit of 0.25 Gs. The ride finally smoothed out just a few seconds before the second stage was suppose to ignite. The rest of the ascent into orbit proceeded as planned with Gemini 5 inserted into an initial 163 by 349 kilometer orbit. A later investigation showed that improper procedures on the ground were responsible for the pogo effect which did not recur for the rest of the Gemini program. The oxidizer tank of the GLV-5 launch vehicle’s first stage was later found afloat in the Atlantic off the coast of Bermuda and was recovered by the US Navy destroyer, USS Dupont (presumably the fuel tank and attached engines broke off and sank).
The recovery of the Titan II GLV-5 oxidizer tank by the USS Dupont after it was found floating in the Atlantic off the coast of Bermuda. (NASA)
A Busy First Day
After attaining orbit, the Gemini 5 crew began preparations for their long stay in orbit. Near their first apogee, Cooper fired the OAMS thrusters briefly to raise the perigee to a safer 172 kilometers altitude to ensure orbital decay would not prematurely end the mission. But as the astronauts continued getting ready to deploy the REP, which Conrad had nicknamed “the little rascal”, for the upcoming rendezvous exercise, the first major problem had already cropped up.
Diagram showing the fuel cell system that provided power for the long duration Gemini flights. Click on image to enlarge. (NASA)
As in the future Apollo missions, the long-duration Gemini flights used fuel cells that combined hydrogen and oxygen in a set of specially designed cells to produce electrical power because they were lighter than batteries with the same energy storage capacity. For this mission, which would require an estimated 4,200 amp-hours of electricity, Gemini 5 had been loaded with 10.5 kilograms of liquid hydrogen and 81.5 kilograms of liquid oxygen (LOX). In order to keep the pressure up into the proper operating range as it was emptied, the LOX tank was fitted with an electrical heater to evaporate a small amount of the cryogenic liquid. Unknown to everyone at this time, the heater in the LOX tank had malfunctioned shortly after reaching orbit and the pressure slowly started to drop as a result. Noticing that the pressure in the LOX tank had fallen below the nominal 5,600 kilopascals (kPa) pressure to 3,100 kPa, Conrad manually activated the tank heater. Unfortunately, the malfunctioning heater failed to work and the pressure in the LOX tank continued to slowly declined as the reactant was being used up.
An artist depiction of the REP, dubbed “the little rascal” by Conrad, as it would have appeared after being deployed by Gemini 5. (NASA)
Unaware of the growing problem, the crew continued work for their rendezvous exercise. Two hours and 13 minutes after launch, Cooper yawed the spacecraft 90 degrees to its flight path while passing over the Indian Ocean and ejected the REP target. Cooper then turned to a rear-first attitude and switched on Gemini’s radar. Immediately they were able to detect the REP’s transponder signal which indicated that it was receding at a speed of two meters per second. But just 15 minutes into tracking the REP, the crew noted that the fuel cell’s LOX tank pressure was now only 2,270 kPa and dropping quickly. With a minimum recommended operating pressure of 1,380 kPa, Cooper reluctantly made the decision to power down and abort the rendezvous exercise while out of contact with ground controllers. By the time Gemini 5 had reached the mid-Pacific, the pressure had dropped to only 880 kPa threatening the mission with an early return.
Pete Conrad during his first day in orbit. (NASA)
Once back in touch with ground controllers and with the severity of the fuel cell issue realized, engineers at McDonnell set about troubleshooting the problem while at the same time calculations were made to determine how long Gemini 5 could stay aloft on its limited battery power alone. This was done in part to determine not only how much time engineers had to resolve the problem but also to delay Gemini’s return long enough to reach a more favorable recovery zone, if possible. While it was calculated that Gemini could stay in orbit for 13 hours on batteries alone, by the fourth revolution the pressure in the LOX tank had stabilized at 490 kPa. Tests on ground hardware and carefully powering up various spacecraft systems showed that it was possible for the fuel cells to continue operating even at this depressed pressure. Unfortunately, the rendezvous test with the REP was now not possible. A new plan had to be devised to practice rendezvous without the “little rascal”.
A photo montage showing Conrad and Cooper inside of their Gemini 5 spacecraft. (NASA)
In the mean time, the spacecraft was placed into a free drift mode while Cooper and Conrad got some much needed rest on a staggered sleep schedule where one of the astronauts was always awake to monitor spacecraft systems and perform other tasks. Unfortunately, Cooper and Conrad had no better luck getting any sleep than McDivitt and White did during the Gemini 4 mission. Communications with the ground and any activity in the tight confines of the Gemini crew cabin made it difficult for the “off duty” astronaut to get any sleep. The fact that the cabin grew a bit too cool while in the free drift mode only made the situation more uncomfortable. Obviously, changes were needed to keep the crew rested.
The Long Haul
With the excitement of the first day behind them, Cooper and Conrad shifted into a routine of performing experiments and monitoring systems on board the spacecraft. On the third day of the mission, Cooper and Conrad performed a rendezvous exercise with a “phantom” Agena target spacecraft. Relying on calculations and commands from ground controllers as well as their on board computer, the crew successfully executed a mock rendezvous that brought them to within 500 meters of their intended target point demonstrating the techniques that would be required for the upcoming Gemini 6 mission to rendezvous and dock with a real target.
A view of Cape Kennedy, Florida from Gemini 5 the day after its launch. (NASA)
After this successful demonstration, Cooper and Conrad powered down the spacecraft once again and entered a free drift mode performing experiments as they could in the days that followed. They executed radar tests with a ground-based transponder, vision tests, observed smoke from a fire in Laredo, Texas and attempted to observe a checkboard pattern target that was laid out for them to support this experiment. Later, the crew observed a Minuteman I launch from LF-06 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California codenamed “Shuttle Train” sponsored by the Strategic Air Command (SAC). For their third night in orbit, Cooper’s request for uninterrupted sleep was finally granted. That night, Cooper slept for seven hours while Conrad got five hours.
The next day included some more defense-related experiments. The astronauts successfully observed a rocket sled test at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. During the next overpass, they spotted the contrail of a chase plane before they glimpsed the ignition of a second Minuteman I ICBM launched from LF-04 at Vandenberg as part of an SAC test flight known by the code name “Pilot Rock”. Later as they passed over the Atlantic Ocean, they spotted their recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain, with a destroyer escort following astern.
A view of the Mission Control Center during the Gemini 5 mission in what is now the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. (NASA)
In the mean time, other problems were cropping up that were causing concern. While the pressure in the fuel cell LOX tank had actually risen somewhat alleviating concerns about its operation, the cells were producing 20% more waste water than expected. With no way to dump the excess waste water overboard, there were some concerns that it might exceed tank’s storage capacity. Powering down the fuel cells was not an option because of the limited battery life. In addition, excess hydrogen vented from the fuel cell storage tank tended to make the spacecraft tumble which increased OAMS propellant usage. Since the waste water from the fuel cells was being dumped into the same tank that contained the drinking water supply segregated in a separate bladder, the problem was alleviated by the crew increasing their intake of water.
Late during the fifth day of the mission, it was noticed that parts of the OAMS system started growing sluggish with one thruster quitting entirely. After their next sleep period in a free drift mode, Cooper and Conrad awoke to discover that the whole OAMS was acting erratically and that a second thruster had stopped functioning. Fortunately, one of the two redundant rings of attitude thrusters on the reentry module was available for attitude control for what was left of the mission.
Pete Conrad performing his duties in orbit on August 25, 1965. (NASA)
Despite the problems, the astronauts were able to accomplish most of their mission objectives. On the morning of August 26, Cooper and Conrad set a new crewed spaceflight endurance record beating the earlier record set by Soviet cosmonaut Valeri Bykovsky who spent just under four days, 23 hours in orbit during the Vostok 5 mission in June 1963. In addition to beating this two year old record, Cooper and Conrad performed all but one of their planned 17 experiments. Only the “D-2 Nearby Object Photography” experiment, which required observing the REP, was not performed because of the fuel cell issues during the first day of flight. All of the other photography experiments were performed as were the other medical, scientific and defense investigations.
Among the medical experiments was the “M-3 In Flight Exerciser” where the astronauts used a bungee cord with foot straps at one end and a handle at the other to perform some simple exercises. With their ship powered down and in free drift mode, Cooper and Conrad exercised frequently during their last few days in orbit to help pass the time. In another experiment, Conrad used inflatable leg cuffs as part of the “M-1 Cardiovascular Conditioning” experiment. While the experiment was running, these cuffs would inflate for two minutes out of every six to put pressure on Conrad’s legs in an effort to prevent deterioration of his cardiovascular system while in orbit. While the results seemed positive if somewhat inconclusive, they were yet another early example of NASA’s desire to address the effects of prolong weightlessness.
The US Navy’s Sealab II underwater habitat as it appeared before it was deployed off the coast of California. (OAR/National Undersea Research Program)
Before they returned home, the Gemini 5 crew participated in a unique communications experiment. Cooper and Conrad briefly talked with former Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter who was living in Sealab II at the time. Sealab II was the second in a series of underwater habitats developed by the US Navy to prove the viability of saturation diving and humans living in isolation for extended periods of time – issues not unlike those being addressed by NASA’s crewed space program. With a crew of four other “aquanauts”, Carpenter, who was technically still on NASA’s astronaut roster, was spending 30 days at a depth of 62 meters off the coast of La Jolla, California while his fellow aquanauts rotated through two-week stays in Sealab II (for a US Navy documentary on Sealab II, see the Related Videosection below). The conversation of these two Mercury veterans exploring two different alien frontiers was surely one of the more unusual moments in the history of the Gemini program.
As the Gemini mission approached its end on the morning of August 29, Cooper and Conrad began preparing for their return to Earth. With neither man being described as particularly tidy, the cramped cabin of their spacecraft had filled up with trash and assorted clutter prompting the often witty Conrad to characterize their mission as “eight days in a garbage can”. This was not too surprising given that a team of specialists had efficiently packed as much as possible into the limited storage space available on the small spacecraft so it was inevitable that better trash management strategies would need to be developed for future long space flights.
An image taken by the TIROS 9 weather satellite on August 29, 1965 of what would become Hurricane Betsy while it was off the coast of Puerto Rico. (NOAA)
But as the astronauts stowed their gear and prepared their spacecraft for landing, ground controllers were concerned about the weather in the planned recovery zone in the Atlantic Ocean 800 kilometers southwest of Bermuda. Early on August 27, a tropical depression had formed over the Atlantic about 560 kilometers east southeast of Barbados and began gaining strength as it drifted more or less towards the north over the Windward Islands. By the morning of August 29, what would become Hurricane Betsy was located east of Puerto Rico and had already strengthened to become a tropical storm. As a result, conditions in the primary recovery zone were quickly worsening. Although the conditions still had not exceeded established safety requirements for landing, the decision was made to bring Gemini 5 back home one orbit early with enough time for the USS Lake Champlain to reposition itself to the alternate recovery zone to the east and farther from the intensifying tropical storm.
While making their final pass over Hawaii 190 hours, 27 minutes and 43 seconds after launch, Gemini 5 fired its four retrorockets in succession to begin the descent back to Earth. With the reentry taking place in complete darkness, the descent was made on instruments only. Cooper held the reentry module in a full lift attitude until an altitude of 120 kilometers and then rolled to a bank angle of 53 degrees. Based on the prediction of the on-board computer, it quickly became apparent that they were going to overshoot their planned landing point. Cooper changed the bank angle to 90 degrees to increase the drag with the G-load quickly shooting up from 2½ to 7½ Gs. Unknown to Cooper and Conrad at the time, human error had resulted in the wrong rotation rate of the Earth being entered into the ground computer guidance program (360 degrees per day instead of 360.98 degrees) which caused a navigation error.
The Gemini 5 reentry module shown in the Atlantic after splashdown on August 29, 1965 as the crew was being recovered. (NASA)
At an altitude of 20 kilometers, Cooper manually deployed the drogue chute followed later by the main parachute. The Gemini 5 reentry module splashed down in the Atlantic 170 kilometers from its planned landing point at 7:55 AM EDT after a flight that lasted a record 7 days, 22 hours, 55 minutes and 14 seconds. Because of the navigation snafu, the demonstration of a precision landing would have to wait for another Gemini flight. Despite coming down far from the recovery ship, the Gemini 5 reentry module was quickly spotted by a Navy helicopter which dispatched three divers to secure the capsule 43 minutes after splashdown. While the seas were calm at the landing site and Cooper initially wanted to wait for the USS Lake Champlain to recover them, he quickly changed his mind when he discovered how far away the carrier actually was and opted for a helicopter recovery instead.
Conrad and Cooper on the deck of the USS Lake Champlain after they returned from their eight-day mission in orbit. (NASA)
Once on board the carrier, Cooper and Conrad, who were walking fairly well despite eight days in a weightless state, were greeted by the crew and whisked off for the first in a series of post-flight medical examines. While the astronauts’ blood plasma and calcium levels were somewhat low, they survived their eight-day spaceflight in good condition and seemed back to normal after just a couple of days after returning Earth. With 640 man-hours of cumulative experience in space, the American manned space program seemed to have finally turned a corner and was overtaking the Soviet space effort which had become quiet after the Voskhod 2 mission. While there were still more Gemini missions planned to learn what was needed about working and living in space, NASA seemed well on its way to getting Apollo to the Moon.
Here is a US Navy educational film about Sealab II entitled “Man in the Sea: The Story of Sealab II”.
“The Forgotten Mission of Gemini 4”, Drew Ex Machina, June 3, 2015 [Post]
“The Mission of Gemini 3”, Drew Ex Machina, March 23, 2015 [Post]
David Baker, The History of Manned Space Flight, Crown Publishers, 1981
Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, SP-4203, NASA History Division, 1977
David J. Shayler, Gemini: Steps to the Moon, Springer-Praxis, 2001
This Day in History for August 21
1841 – John Hampton patents venetian blind.
1864 – Battle of Globe Tavern, Virginia, ends after 2500 casualties.
1878 – American Bar Association organizes at Sarasota, NY.
1887 – Mighty (Dan) Casey struck-out in a game with NY Giants.
1897 – Oldsmobile begins operation as a General Motors division.
1914 – 20th US Golf Open: Walter Hagen shoots a 290 at Midlothian CC, Ill.
1929 – Chicago Cardinals become 1st pro football team to train out of town.
1932 – Wes Ferrell is 1st to win 20 games in each of his 1st 4 seasons.
1948 – US President Harry Truman ends Lend-Lease program.
1953 – Baseball player reps Ralph Kiner (NL) & Allie Reynolds (AL) hire John Norman Lewis at $15,000 to give legal advice to players in negotiation.
1959 – Hawaii becomes the 50th US State.
1965 – Gemini 5 launched into Earth orbit (2 astronauts).
1967 – Ken Harrelson becomes baseball’s 1st free agent.
1975 – US lightens trade embargo against Cuba.
1982 – Rollie Fingers (Brewers) becomes 1st pitcher to get same #300.
1993 – NASA loses contact with Mars Observer.
1995 – US marshals move in on Randy Weaver’s cabin in Idaho.
1995 – Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 529 crashes near Carrollton, Georgia, killing 9 crew and passengers.
1996 – Netscape Browser 3.0 is released.
2001 – “How You Remind Me” single is released by Nickleback (named #1 rick song of 2000s by Billboard).
Historical Events on August 21
Event of Interest
1541 Ottoman Turks under Suleiman the Magnificent capture Buda, the capital of the Hungarian Kingdom and go on to dominate central Hungary for 150 years
Event of Interest
1560 Tycho Brahe becomes interested in astronomy
- Spain begin siege of Alkmaar in the Netherlands -22] Deed of Transfers proclaims Netherlands independence Sea battle at Kijkduin: De Ruyter defeats English & French fleet Pueblo Indians takes possession of Santa Fé from Spanish Battle of Dunkeld fought in Scotland between supporters of King James VII of Scotland and troops of William of Orange The Edirne Event: Turkish army removes Sultan Mustafa II, lessening the power of the sultans
Treaty of Interest
1718 Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, Turkey and Venice sign peace treaty
- The church (later cathedral) of "Our Lady of Candlemas of Mayagüez (Puerto Rico)" is founded, establishing the basis for the founding of the city.
1772 King Gustav III of Sweden completes a coup d'etat by adopting a new Constitution and installing himself as an enlightened despot, ending 50 years of parliamentary rule
Victory in Battle
1808 Battle of Vimeiro: British and Portuguese forces led by General Arthur Wellesley defeat French force under Major-General Jean-Andoche Junot near the village of Vimeiro, Portugal, the first Anglo-Portuguese victory of the Peninsular War.
- Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, Marshal of France, is elected Crown Prince of Sweden by the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates. Jarvis Island is discovered by the crew of the ship, Eliza Frances
Event of Interest
1831 Former slave Nat Turner leads uprising against slavery
- John Hampton patents venetian blind The city of Hobart, Tasmania, is founded. Tlingit Indians destroy Fort Selkirk, Yukon Territory. America's first consul to Japan, Townsend Harris, arrives in Shimoda. (Traditional Japanese date: July 21, 1856) 1st Lincoln-Douglas debate in Illinois The Vienna Stadtpark opens its gates. Raid at Lawrence KS by William Quantrill BBT Charleston, South Carolina [->DEC 31] Battle at Globe Tavern, Virginia, ends after 2500 casualties Battle of Grubbs Crossroads, Kentucky Battle of Summit Point, Virginia Major General Nathan B. Forrest's assault on Memphis, Tennessee American Bar Association organizes at Sarasota, NY Surrey wicket-keeper Ted Pooley completes a then-1st class cricket record 8 stumpings in a County match against Kent at The Oval The Virgin Mary, along with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist, reportedly appears to the people of Knock, County Mayo, Ireland. American inventor William Seward Burroughs patents the adding machine Dutch Mackay government resigns
US Golf Open
1914 US Open Men's Golf, Midlothian CC: 21-year old Walter Hagen holds off amateur Chick Evans by 1 stroke to win the first of his 2 Open titles first of 11 major championships
- Belgium: German troops occupy Tamines French offensive in the Ardennen/Sambre Italy declares war on Turkey in World War One Australasian Championships Men's Tennis, Brisbane: Englishman Gordon Lowe beats Horace Rice of Australia 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 Sir Roger Casement, an Ulster Protestant and ardent Irish nationalist, arrested by the British PGA Championship Men's Golf, Flossmoor CC: American based Scotsman Jock Hutchison beats J. Douglas Edgar of England, 1-up first of Hutchinson's 2 majors Dutch football club FC Emmen is formed in the town of Emmen in north-eastern province of Drenthe in the Netherlands -22] Uprising against Greek president and dictator Pangalos Chicago White Sox pitcher Ted Lyons no hits Boston Red Sox, 6-0 in just 67 minutes at Fenway Park 4th Pan-African Congress meets (NYC) Chicago Cardinals become 1st pro football team to train out of town Prohibition of Wieringermeer finished
1931 Yankees slugger Babe Ruth becomes the first MLB player to hit 600 career home runs as NY defeats St. Louis Browns, 11-7 at Sportsman's Park
- Wes Ferrell is 1st to win 20 games in each of his 1st 4 seasons Italy bars all Jewish teachers in Public & High School Walt Disney's animated movie "Bambi", based on the book by Felix Salten, is released World War II: German soldiers plant the Nazi flag on Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Transport #22 departs with French Jews to nazi-Germany Gromyko named USSR-ambassador in Washington Japan leaves Aleutian Islands Germans storm up Hill 262 (Mont Ormel) Normandy Grieg, Wright and Forrest's musical "Song of Norway" premieres in NYC Raid on Jewish children's house in Secrétan/St-Mandé US 12nd Army Corps occupies Sens US President Harry Truman ends Lend-Lease program Cleveland Indians 47-inning scoreless streak is broken as future Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon yields a home run to Aaron Robinson in a 3-2 loss to Chicago WS Philadelphia fans cause A's to forfeit game when they riot over a trapped line drive by Rich Ashburn, Giants leading 4-2 in 9th declared winners Baseball player representatives Ralph Kiner (NL) & Allie Reynolds (AL) hire labor leader John Norman Lewis at $15,000 to give legal advice to players in negotiations with team owners Marion Carl in Douglas Skyrocket reaches record 25,370 m Sultan Sidi Mohammed Am Joessoef V of Morocco deposed
Event of Interest
1955 Emmett Till arrives in Money, Mississippi, a week before he is murdered
- WTVW TV channel 7 in Evansville, IN (ABC) begins broadcasting 1st launching in Baikonur, Kazakhstan (R7 "Semiorka"-rocket)
Event of Interest
1961 Kenyan political activist Jomo Kenyatta released from jail after 9 years. Imprisoned during 1952 Mau Mau rebellion with other nationalist leaders by British authorities
- Verne Gagne beats Mister M (doctor X) in Minn, to become NWA champ Jerry Lynch's record 15th pinch-hit HR gives Pirates a 7-6 win Martial law declared in South Vietnam, following raids on Buddhist pagodas Gemini 5 launched into Earth orbit (2 astronauts) Romania adopts constitution The Crusher beats Mad Dog Vachon in St Paul, to become NWA champ LPGA Western Open Women's Golf, Rainbow Springs CC Mickey Wright wins her 13th and final major title by 1 from Margie Masters & Jo Ann Prentice 1st concert at Busch Memorial Stadium: The Beatles (St. Louis, Missouri) China reports downing of 2 US bombers Kansas City utility Ken Harrelson becomes baseball's first free agent when he is abruptly released by the Athletics calls team owner Charlie Finley "a menace to baseball" Liquid gas tanker explodes in Martelange Belgium, 22 killed Mikis Theodorakis arrested in Greece After 5 years Soviet Union once again jams Voice of America radio
1968 Democratic Convention opens in Chicago, goes on to nominate Hubert Humphrey
Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia
1968 Warsaw Pact forces complete their invasion of Czechoslovakia by arresting the Czech leader Alexander Dubček and forcing him to sign the Moscow Protocols
Crowds of protesters surround Soviet tanks during the first days of the invasion of Czechoslovakia
1986 Ian Botham takes world-record 356th Test Cricket wkt (v NZ, The Oval)
- Red Sox Spike Owens scores 6 runs in a 24-5 rout of Cleveland Indians Surinames Ronnie Brunswijks Jungle commandos kill 2 government officials Lake Nyos volcanic eruption in Cameroon releases a poisonous gas cloud of carbon dioxide, killing 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock With 2 outs in 6th inning, Red Sox score 11 runs "Mack Lobell" set harness racing's trotting mil (1:52) Clayton Lonetree, 1st US marine court-martialed for spying, convicted Silke Horneer swims female world record 100m breaststroke (1:07.91) "Dirty Dancing" film directed by Emile Ardolino, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey opens in the US
Voyager 2 Spacecraft
1989 Voyager 2 begins a flyby of planet Neptune
1991 Conservative coup in the Soviet Union is crushed by popular resistance led by Boris Yeltsin in three days
- Latvia declares its independence from USSR US Marshals move in on Randy Weaver's cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho to apprehend him on firearms charges an 11 day stand-off ensues NASA loses contact with Mars Observer
Event of Interest
1998 P. W. Botha found guilty of contempt for repeatedly ignoring subpoenas to testify before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- NATO decides to send a peace-keeping force to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Red Cross announces that a famine is striking Tajikistan, and calls for international financial aid for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. "How You Remind Me" single released by Nickelback (Billboard Song of the Year 2002) The archery competition concludes at the Athens Olympics with South Korea dominant with 3 of 4 gold medals venue is the Panathenaic Stadium, in which the 1896 games were held Belarusian sprinter Yulia Nestsiarenka runs 10.93 to beat American Lauryn Williams and win the 100m gold medal at the Athens Olympics Nicolás Massú & Fernando González win the men's doubles tennis at the Athens Olympics beating German pair Nicolas Kiefer & Rainer Schüttler in 5 sets it's Chile's first Olympic gold medal
2004 American super-swimmer Michael Phelps wins his 6th gold medal of the Athens Olympics even though he doesn't swim the final of men's 4 x 100m medley relay US wins in world record 3:30.68
- The Australian women's 4 x 100m medley relay team of Giaan Rooney, Leisel Jones, Petria Thomas & Jodie Henry smashes the world record to take gold in 3:57.32 at the Athens Olympics
2008 Striker Carli Lloyd scores in extra time as the United States beat Brazil 1-0 to take the women's Football Gold Medal at the Beijing Olympics
- New Zealand clinch their 10th Tri Nations Rugby Series with one match remaining, scoring 2 tries in the last 3 minutes to beat South Africa, 29–22 in the first-ever Test at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg 20 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo die from the Ebola virus 37 people are killed and 16 are injured in a bus crash near Chin Swee Temple, Malaysia 21 people are killed in flash floods in Qinghai province, China Israeli airstrike in Rafah kills Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al Atar and Mohammed Barhoum - 3 of Hamas's top commanders Terrorist attack on train between Amsterdam and Paris thwarted by 4 passengers overpowering gunman After 108 years a "message in a bottle" put in the sea by UK Marine Biological Association is announced found on a beach in Amrum, Germany 1st British unmanned drone hit on a UK citizen outside a conflict - ISIS fighter Reyaad Khan in Raqqa, Syria European Refugee Crisis: Germany makes it easier for Syrian refugees to claim asylum by suspending their Dublin Regulations Kevin Durant scores 30 as the US retains the Olympic men's basketball title with a comfortable 96-66 win over Serbia at the Rio de Janeiro Games
2016 Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge wins the Olympic men's marathon gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games in a time of 2:08.44 Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) second in 2:09:54, and Galen Rupp (US) third in 2:10:05
- Brazil takes 3rd Olympic men's indoor volleyball gold medal at the Rio Games with 25–22, 28–26, 26–24 win over Italy Total solar eclipse visible from North America London's parliament clock Big Ben chimes for the last time before a four-year restoration process for its tower starts Destroyer USS John S McCain collides with an oil tanker near Singapore leaving 10 missing and 5 injured Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $417m to woman who developed ovarian cancer after using their talc-based products Chile's constitutional court approves bill to ease country's total abortion ban
Event of Interest
2018 Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer, pleads guilty to charges including illegal payment at direction of Trump to women Trump had affairs with
Event of Interest
2018 Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull calls for and wins a leadership vote 43-35 over Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton
- Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, is convicted on eight counts of fraud in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia Water-ice first detected on the Moon by India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft (2008-9) in findings published by scientists Californian Representative Duncan Hunter indicted for using campaign funds for personal expenses including holidays and flight for a pet rabbit
Event of Interest
2019 German Chancellor challenges British PM Boris Johnson to find a solution to a no-deal Brexit in 30 days at their meeting in Berlin
Event of Interest
2019 The Rock [Dwayne Johnson] named highest paid actor for a second year in a row, earning $89.4m
- 74,155 fires caused by land clearing are burning in the Amazon rain forest, the most ever recorded, according the Brazil's National Institute for Space Research US President Donald Trump says Danish PM Mette Frederiksen was "nasty" to him over his interest in buying Greenland and cancels his trip to Denmark
2019 Nigeria goes three years without a case of polio in landmark toward eradication of the disease
Children with polio in a US hospital, inside an iron lung. In about 0.5% of cases, patients suffered from paralysis, sometimes resulting in the inability to breathe. More often, limbs would be paralyzed.
- American golfer Scottie Scheffler makes birdie on 4 of final 5 holes to become 12th player in PGA Tour history to shoot 59 in 2nd round of the Northern Trust at TPC Boston Actress Lori Loughlin sentenced to two months in prison along with her husband for her role in US college admissions bribery scandal
2020 BTS's release new single Dynamite, becomes 1st video to be watched more than 100 million times in 24 hours on YouTube
8 Days or Bust
Fifty-one years ago this month, NASA astronauts Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper and Charles M. “Pete” Conrad set a new spaceflight endurance record during the flight of Gemini 5. It was the third of ten (10) missions in the historic Gemini spaceflight series. The motto for the mission was “Eight Days or Bust”.
The purpose of Project Gemini was to develop and flight-prove a myriad of technologies required to get to the Moon. Those technologies included spacecraft power systems, rendezvous and docking, orbital maneuvering, long duration spaceflight and extravehicular activity.
The Gemini spacecraft weighed 8,500 pounds at lift-off and measured 18.6 feet in length. Gemini consisted of a reentry module (RM), an adapter module (AM) and an equipment module (EM).
The crew occupied the RM which also contained navigation, communication, telemetry, electrical and reentry reaction control systems. The AM contained maneuver thrusters and the deboost rocket system. The EM included the spacecraft orbit attitude control thrusters and the fuel cell system. Both the AM and EM were used in orbit only and discarded prior to entry.
Gemini-Titan V (GT-5) lifted-off at 13:59:59 UTC from LC-19 at Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday, 21 August 1965. The two-stage Titan II launch vehicle placed Gemini 5 into a 189 nautical mile x 87 nautical mile elliptical orbit.
A primary purpose of the Gemini 5 mission was to stay in orbit at least eight (8) days. This was the minimum time it would take to fly to the Moon, land and return to the Earth. Other goals of the Gemini 5 mission were to test the first fuel cells, deploy and rendezvous with a special rendezvous pod and conduct a variety of medical experiments.
Despite fuel cell problems, electrical system anomalies, reaction control system issues and the cancellation of various experiments, Gemini 5 was able to meet the goal of an 8-day flight. But it wasn’t easy. The last days of the mission were especially demanding since the crew didn’t have much to do. Pete Conrad called his Gemini 5 experience “8 days in a garbage can.”
On Sunday, 29 August 1965, Gemini 5 splashed-down in the Atlantic Ocean at 12:55:13 UTC. Mission elapsed time was 7 days, 22 hours, 55 minutes and 13 seconds. A new spaceflight endurance record.
Gemini 5 was Gordon Cooper’s last spaceflight. Cooper left NASA due to a deteriorating relationship with management. Pete Conrad flew three (3) more times in space. In particular, he commanded the Gemini 11, Apollo 12 and Skylab I missions. Indeed, Conrad’s Apollo 12 experience made him the third man to walk on surface of the Moon.
Chronology of U.S. Astronaut Missions (1961 - 1972)
Mercury Redstone 3 - 5 May 1961 - Earth Suborbital (Shepard)
Mercury Redstone 4 - 21 July 1961 - Earth Suborbital (Grissom)
Mercury Atlas 6 - 20 February 1962 - Earth Orbiter (Glenn)
Mercury Atlas 7 - 24 May 1962 - Earth Orbiter (Carpenter)
Mercury Atlas 8 - 3 October 1962 - Earth Orbiter (Schirra)
Mercury Atlas 9 - 15 May 1963 - Earth Orbiter (Cooper)
Gemini 3 - 23 March 1965 - Earth Orbiter (Grissom, Young)
Gemini 4 - 3 June 1965 - Earth Orbiter (McDivitt, White)
Gemini 5 - 21 August 1965 - Earth Orbiter (Cooper, Conrad)
Gemini 7 - 4 December 1965 - Earth Orbiter (Borman, Lovell)
Gemini 6A - 15 December 1965 - Earth Orbiter (Schirra, Stafford)
Gemini 8 - 16 March 1966 - Earth Orbiter (Armstrong, Scott)
Gemini 9A - 3 June 1966 - Earth Orbiter (Stafford, Cernan)
Gemini 10 - 18 July 1966 - Earth Orbiter (Young, Collins)
Gemini 11 - 12 September 1966 - Earth Orbiter (Conrad, Gordon)
Gemini 12 - 11 November 1966 - Earth Orbiter (Lovell, Aldrin)
Apollo 7 - 11 October 1968 - Earth Orbiter (Schirra, Eisele, Cunningham)
Apollo 8 - 21 December 1968 - Lunar Orbiter (Borman, Lovell, Anders)
Apollo 9 - 3 March 1969 - Earth Orbiter (McDivitt, Scott, Schweikart)
Apollo 10 - 18 May 1969 - Lunar Orbiter (Stafford, Young, Cernan)
Apollo 11 - 16 July 1969 - Lunar Landing (Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins)
Apollo 12 - 14 November 1969 - Lunar Landing (Conrad, Bean, Gordon)
Apollo 13 - 11 April 1970 - Lunar Mission - Landing Aborted (Lovell, Haise, Swigert)
Apollo 14 - 31 January 1971 - Lunar Landing (Shepard, Mitchell, Roosa)
Apollo 15 - 26 July 1971 - Lunar Landing (Scott, Irwin, Worden)
Apollo 16 - 16 April 1972 - Lunar Landing (Young, Duke, Mattingly)
Apollo 17 - 7 December 1972 - Lunar Landing (Cernan, Schmitt, Evans)
Neil Alden Armstrong (5 August 1930–25 August 2012)
The following is the official NASA biography from the John H. Glenn Research Center:
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
John H. Glenn Research Center
Cleveland, Ohio 44135
Neil A. Armstrong
Neil A. Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. He began his NASA career in Ohio.
After serving as a naval aviator from 1949 to 1952, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1955. His first assignment was with the NACA Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn) in Cleveland. Over the next 17 years, he was an engineer, test pilot, astronaut and administrator for NACA and its successor agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
As a research pilot at NASA’s Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., he was a project pilot on many pioneering high speed aircraft, including the well known, 4000-mph X-15. He has flown over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders.
Armstrong transferred to astronaut status in 1962. He was assigned as command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission. Gemini 8 was launched on March 16, 1966, and Armstrong performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space.
As spacecraft commander for Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, Armstrong gained the distinction of being the first man to land a craft on the moon and first to step on its surface.
Armstrong subsequently held the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. In this position, he was responsible for the coordination and management of overall NASA research and technology work related to aeronautics.
He was Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati between 1971-1979. During the years 1982-1992, Armstrong was chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc., Charlottesville, Va.
He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University and a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California. He holds honorary doctorates from a number of universities.
Armstrong is a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the Royal Aeronautical Society Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the International Astronautics Federation.
He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco. He served as a member of the National Commission on Space (1985-1986), as Vice-Chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident (1986), and as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Peace Corps (1971-1973).
Armstrong has been decorated by 17 countries. He is the recipient of many special honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom the Congressional Space Medal of Honor the Explorers Club Medal the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy the NASA Distinguished Service Medal the Harmon International Aviation Trophy the Royal Geographic Society’s Gold Medal the Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Gold Space Medal the American Astronautical Society Flight Achievement Award the Robert J. Collier Trophy the AIAA Astronautics Award the Octave Chanute Award and the John J. Montgomery Award.
Armstrong passed away on Aug. 25, 2012 following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. He was 82.
Neil Alden Armstrong, age 6 Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, United States Naval Reserve, 23 May 1952. (U.S. Navy) Ensign Neil Alden Armstrong, United States Navy, circa 1951. (U.S. Navy) Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, as wingman to Lieutenant (j.g.) Ernie Moore, is flying the second Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 125127 (marked S 116), assigned to VF-51, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951. (Naval Aviation Museum) 3 September 1951, Ensign Neil A. Armstrong was flying his Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No., 125122, escorting a photo reconnaissance aircraft over Korea when his airplane was damaged by enemy ground fire. At low altitude, he struck an anti-aircraft cable which further damaged the fighter and made it impossible to land. Armstrong was able to reach friendly territory and ejected safely. This photograph was taken a short time later. (U.S. Navy) NASA Engineering Test Pilot Neil A. Armstrong, 1958. (NASA) NASA test pilot Neil A. Armstrong dons a David Clark Co. MC-2 full-pressure suit before his first flight in the North American Aviation X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane, at Edwards AFB, 30 November 1960. (NASA) Neil Armstrong with the first North American Aviation X-15A, 56-6670, on Rogers Dry Lake after a flight, 1960. Armstrong made seven flights in the X-15, including the longest, “Neil’s Cross Country”. (NASA) NASA Research Test Pilot Neil A. Armstrong with the Bell X-14 at NASA Ames Research Center, February 1964. (NASA via Jet Pilot Overseas) NASA Project Gemini astronaut Neil A. Armstrong during a field training exercise near Cimarron, New Mexico, June 1964. (NASA via Jet Pilot Overseas) Astronauts David R. Scott, Pilot (left) and Neil A. Armstrong, Command Pilot (right) with U.S. Air Force pararescue jumpers at the end of the nearly disastrous Gemini 8 mission, 17 March 1966. (NASA) NASA Project Apollo Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong with a Bell Aerosystems Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, 1969. (Ralph Morse/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images) Neil Alden Armstrong, Mission Commander, Apollo 11, 16 July 1969. (NASA) Neil Armstrong steps onto the Moon, 10:56 p.m. EDT, 20 July 1969. (NASA) Neil Alden Armstrong inside the Lunar Module Eagle on the surface of The Moon, 20 July 1969. (Edwin E. Aldrin, NASA) Professor Neil A. Armstrong in his classroom at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, 1974. (Peggy Palange, UC Public Information Office) An 8-foot tall bronze statue of Neil Alden Armstrong, sculpted by Chas Fagan, sits in front of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.