Gemini 12 - The NASA Mission Reports - edited by Robert Godwin

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In late 1966 the United States space program had surged into the lead in the race for the moon. In great part this success was attributable to the astonishing reliability of the two-man Gemini spacecraft. Originally conceived in early 1961 as an advanced follow-up to the Mercury program, Gemini proved to be a program unto itself. New technologies were devised and the brilliant modular design of Jim Chamberlin allowed Gemini the flexibility to perform almost everything that Apollo was designed for, with the exception of the ability of landing on the moon. The last Gemini flight would be flown by veteran Commander James Lovell and a brilliant rookie called Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. Lovell's experience gained on Gemini 6 would prove the perfect foundation on which the newcomer Aldrin would be able to build a near-perfect science mission. The task of space-walking had proven arduous and dangerous on previous Gemini flights but after months of rigorous training underwater Aldrin was ready to prove that men could actually work comfortably in space. It was a critical exercise which would determine whether a moonwalking astronaut could survive the experience. After two scrubbed launches the final Gemini-Titan stack soared into low earth orbit and docked with its Agena target vehicle, placed aloft only an hour and a half earlier. Aldrin then spent over five hours working outside the spacecraft. His experience as a scuba diver gave him the edge needed to get the work done without exhausting himself as some of his predecessors had done. After 94½ hours in space Lovell and Aldrin splashed into the Pacific Ocean within three miles of the recovery ship. The stage was now set for the final push for the moon. Bonus: As early as 1961, engineer Jim Chamberlin had wanted to send Gemini to the moon. For the first time details of this audacious plan are revealed in a rare document from 1965.