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Launch of the first manned Gemini flight
|Mission duration||4 hours, 52 minutes, 31 seconds|
|Distance travelled||128,748 kilometers (80,000 mi)|
|Launch mass||3,236.9 kilograms (7,136 lb)|
|Members||Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom
John W. Young
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||March 23, 1965, 14:24:00UTC|
|Rocket||Titan II GLV, s/n 62-12558|
|Launch site||Cape Canaveral LC-19|
|End of mission|
|Landing date||March 23, 1965, 19:16:31UTC|
|Regime||Low Earth orbit|
|Perigee||161 kilometers (87 nmi)|
|Apogee||225 kilometers (121 nmi)|
|Epoch||March 23, 1965|
Gemini 3 was the first manned mission in NASA's Gemini program, the second American manned space program. On March 23, 1965, the spacecraft, nicknamed Molly Brown, performed the seventh manned US spaceflight, and the 17th manned spaceflight overall (including X-15 flights over 100 kilometers). It was also the final manned flight controlled from Cape Canaveral, Florida before mission control functions were shifted to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas.
|Command Pilot||Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom
|Pilot||John W. Young
|Command Pilot||Walter M. Schirra|
|Pilot||Thomas P. Stafford|
(This was the prime crew on Gemini 6)
|Command Pilot||Alan B. Shepard|
|Pilot||Thomas P. Stafford|
The crew of Gemini 3 was changed after Shepard was grounded with an inner ear disorder in late 1964.
- Mass: 3,236.9 kg
- Perigee: 161.2 kilometres (100.2 mi)
- Apogee: 224.2 kilometres (139.3 mi)
- Inclination: 32.6 degrees
- Period: 88.3 minutes
First orbital maneuver by manned spacecraft
On March 23, 1965 at 15:57:00 UTC, at the end of the first orbit, over Corpus Christi, Texas, a 1 minute 14 second burn of the orbit attitude and maneuvering system (OAMS) engines gave a delta-V of 15.5 meters per second; which was the first orbital maneuver by any manned spacecraft. The orbit was changed from 161.2 kilometres (100.2 mi) x 224.2 kilometres (139.3 mi), period 88.3 minutes to an orbit of 158 kilometres (98 mi) x 169 kilometres (105 mi), period 87.8 minutes.
The mission's primary goal was to test the new, maneuverable Gemini spacecraft. In space, the crew fired thrusters to change the shape of their orbit, shift their orbital plane slightly, and drop to a lower altitude. Other firsts were achieved on Gemini 3: two people flew aboard an American spacecraft (the Soviet Union launched a three-man crew on Voskhod 1 in 1964 and a two-man crew just a few days earlier on Voskhod 2, upstaging the two-man Gemini and three-man Apollo programs), and the first manned reentry where the spacecraft was able to produce lift to change its touchdown point.
Grissom, hoping to avoid duplication of the experience with his Mercury flight Liberty Bell 7 in which the capsule sank after splashdown, named the Gemini 3 spacecraft Molly Brown, in a playful reference to the Broadway musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown. NASA management did not like this name, and asked him to change it. Grissom replied, "How about the Titanic?". The managers relented and allowed Grissom to keep Molly Brown, but this was the last Gemini flight they allowed the astronauts to name.
The only major incident during the orbital phase involved a contraband corned beef sandwich that Young had snuck on board, hiding it in a pocket of his spacesuit (though Director of Flight Crew Operations Deke Slayton wrote in his autobiography that he gave Young permission to do so). Grissom found this to be highly amusing, saying later, "After the flight our superiors at NASA let us know in no uncertain terms that non-man-rated corned beef sandwiches were out for future space missions. But John's deadpan offer of this strictly non-regulation goodie remains one of the highlights of our flight for me."
The crewmen each took a few bites before the sandwich was restowed. The crumbs it released could have wreaked havoc with the craft's electronics, so the crewmen were reprimanded when they returned to Earth. Other crews were warned not to pull the same type of stunt.
Two small failures occurred in-flight. The first was an experiment testing the synergistic effect of zero gravity on Sea Urchin eggs. A lever essential to the experiment broke off when pulled. The second involved the photographic coverage objective. It was only partially successful due to an improper lens setting on the 16 mm camera.
Early in the flight, the crew noticed the craft gradually yawing left:
- 00 18 41 (Command Pilot) I seem to have a leak. There must be a leak in one of the thrusters, because I get a continuous yaw left.
- 00 18 53 (CapCom) Roger. Understand that you get a continuous yaw left.
- 00 18 57 (Command Pilot) Very slight. Very slow drift.
The crewmen made their first orbit change an hour and a half into the flight. The burn lasted 75 seconds and moved them from a 122 by 175 kilometer orbit to a nearly circular one with a drop in speed of 15 meters per second. The second burn was 45 minutes later when the orbital inclination was changed by 0.02 degrees. The last burn came during the third orbit when the perigee was lowered to 72 kilometers. This meant that even if retrorockets had failed, they would still have reentered. When reentry finally occurred, crew commented that even the colors matched ground simulations.
On descent, the capsule shifted from a vertical to horizontal attitude under its parachutes. The change was so sudden that Grissom cracked his faceplate (made of acrylic) on the control panel in front of him. Later Gemini spacesuits and all Apollo and Space Shuttle (both launch-entry and EVA suits) used polycarbonate plastic.
The craft landed 84 kilometers short of its intended splashdown point. Wind tunnel testing had incorrectly predicted the craft's ability to compensate for course deviation. When the crewmen discovered the error, they decided to stay in the capsule, not wanting to open the hatch before the arrival of the recovery ship. The crew spent an uncomfortable half-hour in a spacecraft, not designed to be a boat. Due to unexpected smoke from the thrusters, the astronauts decided to deviate from the post landing checklist and to keep their helmets on with the face plates closed for some time after splashdown. The USS Intrepid recovered the craft and crew. The Gemini III mission was supported by the following United States Department of Defense resources: 10,185 personnel, 126 aircraft and 27 ships.
The mission insignia was not worn by the flight crew as a patch, like those from Gemini 5 onwards. The Gemini 3 The Molly Brown emblem was designed and minted on gold-plated, sterling silver, 1-inch (25-mm) medallions. The crew carried a number of these medallions into space to give to their families and friends. The same design was printed on the cover of Gus Grissom's book GEMINI. John Young was seen wearing the The Molly Brown emblem as a patch, produced post-flight, on his flightsuit as late as 1981.
- McDowell, Jonathan. "SATCAT". Jonathan's Space Pages. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
- "Our Gemini Astronauts Tell Their Own Story", Miami News, Apr 2, 1965
- "NASA History: Detailed Biographies of Apollo I Crew - Gus Grissom". NASA. Retrieved January 20, 2009.
- "Gemini III radio transcript on Spacelog". National Astronaut and Space Administration. April 1965. Retrieved 2011-05-01.
- French, Francis and Burgess, Colin. "In the Shadow of the Moon". University of Nebraska Press, 2007, p. 11.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gemini 3.|
- Gemini III radio transcripts on Spacelog
- On The Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini
- Spaceflight Mission Patches
- Astronaut John W. Young tribute website
- Gemini 3 at A Field Guide To American Spacecraft
- NASA Gemini 3 Press Kit
- The Space Race: Gemini 3 - slideshow by Life magazine