10 February 2008
The Gemini Project’s Manned Missions
The Gemini Project was a major step in the advancement of the space industry in the United States. The then-Soviet Union was leading the way in terms of scientific achievement in the “Space Race,” and the United States would not accept defeat at their hands. So, what was the Gemini project exactly? The Gemini Project began in 1962 in order to achieve three goals- the most important of these goals being the “subjection of a human male and space equipment to space flight for up to two weeks in duration” (Doumolin, Goals). In 1965, after two successful unmanned test flights, the manned flights began. Not unlike many technological feats accomplished throughout time before it, the Gemini project experienced both rise and fall in regards to public opinion; and magazine and newspaper articles from the time reveal just that. The earliest articles concerning the Gemini missions were filled with a sense of “we can do it!” but those that were written near to the end of the Gemini period were rather lifeless as a strange sort of boredom and apathy took over.
On the 23rd of March, 1965, Gemini-3 – the first manned mission of the Gemini Project- successfully launched, orbited and landed on the same day (Doumolin, Gemini-3). This must have been an extraordinarily exciting moment in U.S. history for the Americans proved that they could do just as well as the Soviets, and that the United States seemed to have more of a fighting chance against them. The determination and motivation to succeed, to win this race against the Russians (or Soviets as they were at that time) was powerful and most of the articles from the early and mid-60s are deeply expressive of these qualities. In 1965, a very l piece in Time magazine called, “New Look at the Cape,” was written and placed in Time magazine where the author states that no matter what the cost; they will beat the Russians – even if that means using German scientists like Wernher Von Braun to do it. This go-get-‘em attitude was just what the American people wanted at that time. They didn’t want the Soviets to beat them at anything.
Also written in 1965, the Time article entitled, “Gemini’s Week” discusses the mission of Gemini VII. The tone of this piece was quite a take-it-for-granted sort of feel as the introductory paragraph opens with “what a helluva bore” and “flawless performance has become commonplace, that near-perfect timing, preparation and execution of Gemini flights have become routine” (Gemini’s Week, 1). A sharp contrast to the excited and determined mindset during the beginning of the Gemini missions! It is rather sad how the author chose not to appreciate the many achievements of the Gemini missions. Although the enthusiasm has worn off by now, the article related how these flights were important in order to perfect certain techniques that would enable a future mission to the moon (Gemini’s Week, 2).
In 1966, “And Now Apollo” was published in Time and the author of this piece writes about Gemini 12 as if it were a god, “swaying under a marigold-and-white parachute” (Apollo, page 1). The piece continues on to seemingly boast about Gemini’s past ten successful missions but again indicated the goal of transporting U.S. astronauts to and from the moon. And why should they not be proud of such an achievement? It was an amazing feat of technology and science.
The success of the Gemini mission had an unforeseen negative consequence as can be discovered from a later article, “A Chance to be First.” In this article, a 1967 test resulted in the deaths of three astronauts due to, as the author stated, “The tragedy jolted NASA out of the complacency that had built up during the highly successful Mercury and Gemini programs, in which a total of 16 manned craft were sent into space, manoeuvred and recovered without serious mishap” (Chance, page 1). The high amount of pride that was found in “And Now Apollo” was nowhere to be seen in this article.
The culmination of all the work that went into the Mercury, Gemini and countless other experiments was the eventual landing of the moon in 1969. The quest to reach the moon seems the driving force behind the Mercury and Gemini missions. Gemini, however, was important because it continued the rise in interest and enabled scientists to try to perfect their skills as best as they could for the eventual mission to the moon. Over the years, interest in the space industry has risen, peaked and dramatically decreased as time went by. Perhaps this is only a momentary setback, for who knows what aeronautical scientists will be able to accomplish in the future. What shall our children and grand-children witness in terms of space exploration technology? Will other planets be populated with humans? So many technological advancements took place during such a short span of time from the middle of the twentieth century onwards, and those of us who appreciate space history will keep on looking to the stars and dreaming.
1. “A Chance to be First.” Time magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,902392,00.html
2. “And Now Apollo.” Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,843111,00.html
3. Doumolin, Jim. “Project Gemini Goals.” NASA. http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/history/gemini/gemini-goals.txt
4. Doumolin, Jim. “Project Gemini.” NASA http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/history/gemini/gemini.html
5. “Gemini’s Week.” Time Magazine. December 17 1969). http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,834797-1,00.html
6. “New Look at the Cape.” Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,841801-1,00.html