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Gemini 3 was a manned spaceflight that launched 14:24:00.064 UTC March 23, 1965 from Cape Canaveral's Pad 19.

The crew for the mission were Virgil Grissom and John Young. Grissom had flown once before on the second sub-orbital Mercury flight. At the end of the 15 minute flight, the spacecraft hatch had blown prematurally and the spacecraft sunk. Some blamed the incident on Grissom though it was shown that he couldn't have accidentally activated the explosive bolts.

This time he decided to use the callsign 'Molly Brown', after the musical 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown'. It is said that when the NASA managers heard this name they were less than impressed and asked Grissom what his second choice was. His reply - Titanic. They decided to allow him Molly Brown. However throughout the flight the only time the callsign Molly Brown was used was when at launch Scott Carpenter said 'Good Luck Molly Brown'.

This was the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft and as such was very much a test flight. The mission objectives centres around testing the systems and making sure that everything worked the way that it was meant to. For the first time there was two people on an American spacecraft, the first orbital change would occur, and it would be the first manned reentry where the spacecraft could produce lift to change its touchdown point.

The only major incident during the orbital phase was a contraband corned beef sandwich that Young had snuck on board. The crew each took a couple of bites from it before restowing it due to the crumbs that it released. These could have wrought havoc with the electronics on board, so the crew were reprimanded when they returned to Earth and other crews warned not to pull the same types of stunts.

The only major failure on orbit on the experiment on the Synergistic Effect of Zero Gravity on Sea Urchin Eggs. All the crew had to due was pull on handle but this broke meaning the experiment could not be performed. Also the photographic coverage objective was only partially successful because of an improper lens setting on the 16mm camera. The crew had some trouble with the other in flight experiments and said after the flight that this was probably due to the fact that the training packages were different from the ones that actually flew.

They made there first orbit change a hour and a half into the flight. The burn lasted 75 seconds and changed them from a 122 by 175 kilometres orbit to a nearly circular one with a drop in speed of 15 metres per second. The second burn was 45 minutes later when the orbital inclination was changed by one-fiftieth of a degree. The last burn came during the third orbit when the perigee was lowered to 72 kilometres. This meant that even if the retrorockets failed to fire they would still reenter.

However, they did fire properly. The reentry was as expected with the crew commenting that even the colours were identical to the ground simulations. The only problem came when they realised that they were more than 69 kilometres off course. Although the Gemini was supposed to be able to produce enough lift to overcome this deviation, it turned out that it could produce less than the wind tunnel had predicted. In the end it landed 84 kilometres short of the intended splashdown point.

When the capsule shifted from a vertical to horizontal position under the parachutes, the change was so sudden that Grissom cracked his faceplate on the control panel in front of him. When he realised that they were so far away from the recovery craft he decided to stay in the spacecraft, not wanting to open the hatch. As such the crew spent an uncomfortable half an hour in a spacecraft not really designed to be a boat.

The capsule is on display at the Grissom Memorial, Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell, Indiana.

  • On The Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4203/cover.htm
  • Spaceflight Mission Patches: http://www.genedorr.com/patches/Intro.html

Originally written for wikipedia by myself

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