Gemini spacecraft

Gemini has been called the first true spaceship, because its revolutionary design allowed it to change orbits and actually "fly" in space, rather than just following the trajectory into which it was initially launched. It was also the first spacecraft with a docking capability. Conceived after Apollo, Gemini's design was in many ways more advanced than the spacecraft that succeeded it. Even after its last flight in 1966 Gemini had a long afterlife, with proposals for new projects based on the spacecraft continuing into the 1970s.

PARAGLIDER TEST

One early concept for Gemini would have seen it fly back to a ground-based landing beneath a glider called a Rogallo Wing. However, tests showed that the wing would not always deploy reliably, and so the concept was abandoned in favour of a splashdown.

Gemini Spacecraft

heat shield

Gemini Space Program Symbol

rendezvous antenno hatch electrical connectors

Gemini Capsule Control Panel

fuel inlet and outlet valves horizon sensors re -entry attitude-control system

Command Pilot's ejection seat waste storage parachute landing system drogue parachute system instrument panel second pilot's ejection seot control system

INSIDE GEMINI 7

The capsule's resemblance to the flight deck of a jet was partly due to Jim Chamberlin, a Canadian engineer who joined NASA after working on the Avro Arrow fighter-interceptor aircraft project.

rendezvous antenno

RECOVERY AT SEA

Gemini was suspended from its parachute at two points, allowing it to splash down horizontally. The weighting of the spacecraft kept it upright in the water until the recovery crew arrived and attached a flotation collar.

parachute landing system drogue parachute system instrument panel hatch fuel inlet and outlet valves heat shield second pilot's ejection seot

STACKING GEMINI 4

After the Gemini spacecraft arrived at Kennedy Space Center (above), it was stacked onto a Titan launch vehicle and raised using an erector tower. There was no escape tower on top of the capsule - unlike in Mercury and Apollo, Gemini astronauts would have used their ejector seats for emergency escapes.

GEMINI FUEL CELL

Gemini was the first spacecraft to use fuel-cell technology, which generated electricity by chemically combining hydrogen and oxygen to form water. This allowed it to operate for much longer than its predecessor.

electrical connectors horizon sensors re -entry attitude-control system control system

Command Pilot's ejection seat waste storage

5 February 1964

During a tour of OKB-1 to review progress on the Soyuz spacecraft, Korolev surprises both cosmonauts and colleagues with his plans for a three-man version of Vostok.

5 February 1964

During a tour of OKB-1 to review progress on the Soyuz spacecraft, Korolev surprises both cosmonauts and colleagues with his plans for a three-man version of Vostok.

Voskhod

13 March 1964

Development of the Voskhod project is approved by the Soviet government's Military-Industrial Commission.

15 August 1964

Following testing of the landing systems, the Council of Chief Designers meets to approve Voskhod 1 as ready for spaceflight.

8 September 1964

A test drop of the Voskhod re-entry module from 10km (33,000ft) ends in a spectacular crash. Nevertheless, Korolev overrides the concerns of others about the retro-rocket system.

6 October 1964

A Voskhod test launch goes almost flawlessly. The capsule returns safely to Earth a day later.

12 October 1964

Voskhod 1 is launched from Baikonour on a daylong flight.

After the announcement of the US Gemini project, Sergei Korolev was determined to maintain a Soviet lead in the Space Race. The result was Voskhod, a hurriedly modified and risky three-man spacecraft.

MINOR MODIFICATION

Externally, Vostok and Voskhod looked to be near-twins. Even the new retro-rockets were attached to the descent parachute rather than to the capsule.

MINOR MODIFICATION

Externally, Vostok and Voskhod looked to be near-twins. Even the new retro-rockets were attached to the descent parachute rather than to the capsule.

When the Gemini programme was announced in December 1961, it created a dilemma for Soviet politicians and engineers alike. The true successor to the Vostok capsules was Korolev's ambitious three-man Soyuz complex (see p.128), but this was still in the early stages of development, and the signs were that Gemini would certainly be ready long before it took flight. Faced with the prospect of losing the lead in the Space Race long before the final chase to the Moon, Korolev took a desperate gamble - one that would put the lives of his cosmonauts at more risk than ever before, but which would ultimately fool the watching world and maintain Soviet prestige. The Chief Designer apparently took the decision to develop a makeshift three-man capsule without consulting his superiors.

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