|"We Have Ignition"|
Admittedly I was unconscious of all of this astronautic activity; I was far more interested in crawling and taking my first steps than in interplanetary adventure. The first extra-vehicular activity, or space-walk, took place three months before my third birthday. Affairs beyond the clouds simply weren't on my radar at this point in my life, though they soon would be.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. We find ourselves idolizing those who came and went before, seeing an automobile from our father's time as superior to our own and the songs from our childhoods as a sort of epitome against which modern compositions simply fail to measure up. It isn't rational to adore "Gone With The Wind" or "Star Trek" but we do it nonetheless; I'm sure there are volumes of psychological speculation on this topic but I think we can sum nostalgia up as a belief that somehow, someway, things were better in the past.
|The Gemini Two-Man Spacecraft|
And yet, Gemini was and remains my favorite manned spacecraft. I read everything I can get my hands on--including dry-as-dust technical pieces on Titan II booster modifications and Rogallo Wings--and build model after model of the capsule and adapter module. I would speculate that, during the build-up to Apollo, I was often exposed to the image of Edward White's historic EVA (March, 1965) and video of Gemini-Titan launches on TV. Perhaps I fell in love with this vehicle simply because of its sleek, powerful appearance--the "sports car" of manned spacecraft!
|Astronauts James Lovell and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Gemini XII Crew|
|Gemini VI and VII Rendezvous On Orbit|
Project Gemini ended with the completion of NASA's planned missions in November 1966--but it might have gone on. The USAF ran a parallel program known as "Blue Gemini", intended to support the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) which would have been America's first space station in the late sixties, but the programs were cancelled due to the cost of the Vietnam War and the perception that NASA and the Air Force were duplicating their efforts.
Planned missions completed and goals met, Gemini was all-but-forgotten in the rush to the Moon. Left behind by history, today few seem to remember that outer-space corvette, with its striking shape and impressive operational record. The Gemini spacecraft, the men who flew it, and the thousands of men and women who built, tested, serviced and otherwise supported the program, served as a crucial stepping-stone to the Moon; a vital link between Mercury and Apollo.
So...dreams of a spacecraft that flew before I was old enough to understand it or its missions; I watch the old NASA videos ("GEMINI: The next Step"), read the reports and imagine the experience of Edward White during that first American EVA. I share his emotions as well as anyone can over fifty years after the fact: when Mission Control ordered him (not for the first time) to return to the cramped cockpit of Gemini IV he grumbled "and it's the saddest moment of my life" as he reluctantly complied.
Yes, the Gemini missions lie five decades in the past, and even some NASA personnel I have talked to don't know about these space flights that bridged the gaps in our knowledge of the space environment and how to live and work in it. Gemini was more than just the intermediate step between Mercury and Apollo--it was the vital link in that chain of events that took us from Alan Shepard's 15-minute suborbital flight in 'Freedom 7' to 'Eagle's triumphant landing in the Sea of Tranquility and beyond. The Gemini spacecraft and the brave men who flew it should be remembered, not just by a few space "geeks" like myself but by anyone interested in knowing how we got from there to here.
I suppose spaceships need love too.