Project Gemini, with its 2-man capsule, allowed the United States to develop the techniques needed to do productive work in space and to link together two spacecraft. These two tasks were critical to the eventual success of the Apollo lunar landing missions. During the period of the mid-1960s, Gemini gave the United States a big lead over the Soviet Union in the race to the Moon. During spacewalks of increasing length and complexity, the astronauts learned to maneuver and perform routine tasks while floating outside the Gemini spacecraft. Beginning with the meeting in orbit of Geminis 6 and 7 in December 1965, the Gemini program also proved that rendezvousing and docking of spacecraft was a relatively easy task for the trained astronauts. Finally, the 14-day flight of Gemini 7 proved that men could survive in space long enough for a round trip flight to the Moon.
At the time of NASA's successful civilian Gemini program, the U.S. Air Force was planning for a military follow-on program called the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). The purpose of MOL was to have a continuing manned presence in Earth orbit to collect reconnaisance photographs and other information. The program would have mated a Gemini capsule to a 42-foot long, 10-foot diameter laboratory module where the astronauts would live and work in space. The MOL would have been launched by Air Force Titan III booster rockets. Beginning in 1965, seventeen Air Force pilots were selected to be the MOL astronauts, but the program was canceled in 1969 for budgetary reasons. Eight of the seventeen MOL astronauts joined NASA (six flying various space shuttle missions), two were killed in military aircraft crashes, and one (Michael Adams) was killed in the only fatal crash of the X-15 program. The other six went on to other aerospace positions.
# of Flt. Date Spacecraft Name Crew Days Mission/Payload -------- ----------------------- ---- ---- ------------------------ Manned Flight Details 04/08/64 Gemini 1 - - Orbital test 01/19/65 Gemini 2 - - Orbital test 03/23/65 Gemini 3 2 -1 Earth orbit 06/03/65 Gemini 4 2 4 Earth orbit 08/21/65 Gemini 5 2 8 Earth orbit 12/15/65 Gemini 6 2 1 Gemini 7 rendezvous 12/04/65 Gemini 7 2 14 Gemini 6 rendezvous 03/16/66 Gemini 8 2 1 Agena docking 06/03/66 Gemini 9 2 3 ADTA rendezvous 07/18/66 Gemini 10 2 3 Agena docking 09/12/66 Gemini 11 2 3 Agena docking 11/11/66 Gemini 12 2 4 Agena docking 11/03/66 Titan III-MOL - - Unmanned test
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