Suitcase for a Fortnight

Frank Borman and James Lovell had put in long hours getting ready to spend two weeks in space. Working directly with the Gemini IV [277] pilots and talking with the crew of Gemini V, Borman and Lovell learned much about what to take with them and how to prepare themselves physically and psychologically. They already knew the spacecraft systems, but they needed to figure out how to live in such confined quarters for so long and still perform useful work. As successful as the preceding missions had been, they still wondered if six extra days could be safely added to the flight. Edward White and James McDivitt had been fatigued; Cooper and Conrad tired and bored. Both crews stressed the impossibility of sleeping alternately. Borman and Lovell resolved to sleep and work together.

The astronauts and mission planners had learned another lesson from Gemini IV and V. Prescribing tasks for assigned times during a flight was useless. So Borman and Lovell would take off with what was, in essence, a flight plan outline. Experiments and other tasks would be carried out only when the flight controllers and crew could fit the job to the opportunity. The only prescheduled tasks fell between launch and stationkeeping, the first four hours of a 330-hour mission.

Another innovation that the crew welcomed was adjusting the sleep-eat-work-relax cycle to their more normal, Earthbound habits. Borman and Lovell had two work periods each day, coinciding with morning and afternoon in the United States Central Standard Time zone. This schedule also fitted the specialized activities of the three flight controller shifts - to execute the flight plan, to analyze systems performance and the supply of consumables, and to keep up with what had been done and plan the next segment of activities.35

Stowage of food and gear was a special problem on a two-week flight. Unfinished meals and food wrappers could quickly clutter up the spacecraft, as Cooper and Conrad had learned in the eight day mission. Extra storage space in the small cabin had to be found before the 14-day trip. GPO Deputy Manager Kenneth Kleinknecht went with Borman and Lovell to St. Louis, where Spacecraft 7 was going through its test phases, to help them hunt for more space. The search for an extra garbage dump was successful: waste paper from their meals could go behind Borman's seat for the first seven days and behind Lovell's for the next seven. After working out procedures, the crew practiced stowing for launch, orbit, and reentry, until they were sure they knew where to put every scrap of paper.36

Tailoring flight and stowage plans for a 14-day mission was important, but even more significant was a newly tailored space suit to make Gemini VII more livable. In early June 1965, McDonnell started a test program to see if astronauts could ride almost suitless in space. Gordon Cooper and Elliot See, wearing standard Air Force flight suits (with medical monitoring plugs, helmets wired for Gemini communications [278] fittings, and oxygen masks connected to emergency bottles), flew in the altitude (vacuum) chamber in St. Louis to simulated heights of 36,000 meters. Both astronauts were elated over the results, but McDonnell personnel were uneasy - in actual flight, the cabin temperature might go too high. At an MSC-McDonnell management meeting the next month, McDonnell was asked to study another possibility. James V. Correale of the Crew Systems Division had suggested using a lightweight pressure garment similar in operation to a G3C intravehicular suit. Although this soft suit would not allow pilots to complete a mission if the cabin lost oxygen pressure, it would provide them enough margin of safety to get to a recovery area.

Test results at McDonnell showed that the spacecraft environmental system actually operated more efficiently with suits off, but NASA and McDonnell engineers did not like the idea of the crew being so vulnerable. The best way to extinguish a fire in space, for example, was by cabin depressurization, which was out of the question if the men were suitless. And they needed protection if they had to use the ejection seats. Therefore, NASA officials snapped quickly at Correale's idea for a lightweight suit. This decision - in August 1965 - was too late to benefit the crew of Gemini V, but there was enough time to get the suit ready for Gemini VII.

To produce a more comfortable suit, the David Clark Company removed as much corsetry as possible from the 10.7-kilogram (23 1/2- pound) Gemini pressure suit. The suit was designed to be removed during flight without requiring too much energy or space. A soft cloth hood - which used zippers, as opposed to a neck ring, for fastening to the torso portion - replaced the fiber glass shell helmet. The contractor, working with MSC's Crew Systems Division, managed to cut suit weight by a third, but the 7.3-kilogram (16-pound) suit was still somewhat heavy. In evaluation and training sessions, however, Borman and Lovell found the new garment handy. The soft hood could be zipped open, and the complete suit could be removed and laid on the side of the seats, without having to be stowed away.

If the spacecraft systems were performing properly, the crew would take the suits off after the second day in space. The garments would then be worn only for such critical phases of the mission as rendezvous, reentry, and landing. Use of the lightweight suit, designated G5C, was approved in August; by November, qualification was completed.37

Gemini VII carried more experiments than any other flight in the program. Because it was the last long-duration mission, its medical experiments were particularly important in assessing man's capabilities for the lunar landing program. Of 20 experiments, eight were medical, a higher ratio than in any other Gemini flight (see Appendix D).38

[279] Two of the medical experiments - calcium balance study and inflight sleep analysis - were better suited to a clinic than to a small spacecraft cabin and were viewed with something less than enthusiasm by the crew. Even the name of the "Inflight Electroencephalogram" (EEG) experiment made the astronauts a little nervous. Although it was merely a study of sleeping habits in Gemini, the EEG was normally used to diagnose subtle disturbances such as incipient epilepsy and brain tumors. But some specialists believed brain wave recording could offer more information, and the astronauts were understandably wary of how the results might be interpreted. Changing the name to "Inflight Sleep Analysis" solved only half their problem. Since normal hair growth would dislodge the scalp sensors after 48 hours, the information had to be gathered at the worst possible time the first night, when most people have difficulty sleeping in a new environment, anyway.39 Borman and Lovell also turned a jaundiced eye on the calcium balance study. It was a nuisance because they had to keep a complete record of body intake and wastes for 9 days before the flight, 14 days during it, and 4 days afterward. Before and after the mission, a nutritionist from the National Institutes of Health limited the items they could eat and drink and weighed out their meals in grams. Almost a month of this regimen did not appeal to the crew.40

The only other medical experiment making its space flight debut was "Bioassays of Body Fluids."* Its purpose was to study the effect of space flight on body fluid chemistries that might be affected by physical and mental stresses. The experimenters hoped to draw some conclusions about the physiological costs of space flight by analysis of urine samples.41

In categories other than medical - scientific, technological, and defense - only three experiments were being flown for the first time. The other nine were repeated from Gemini IV and V. Two of the new experiments were technological: an in-flight laser transmitter to be aimed at a laser beacon at the White Sands Test Facility, New Mexico, to establish optical communications from space; and landmark contrast measurements of selected areas around the world (primarily coastlines), which might be useful to Apollo for guidance and navigation. The third was a Defense experiment to determine the value of star occultation measurements for spacecraft navigation.42

The Gemini VII/VI-A decision made Borman's and Lovell's flight more than an endurance test. It changed the amount of fuel they could spend for experiments and stationkeeping with the booster and forced modifications to turn their spacecraft into a target vehicle. [280] Over an early-November weekend, target acquisition and orientation lights, a radar transponder, a spiral antenna, and a voltage booster were installed on Spacecraft 7.43


1 This experiment had been part of the Gemini VI mission until the flight was canceled on 25 October 1965.


35 James A. Lovell, Jr., interview, Houston, 15 April 1967; memo, D. Owen Coons to Dep. Dir., "Medical Operations Directive GT-6," 27 Sept. 1965; Guillory, "Gemini VII Preliminary Flight Plan"; Guillory, "Gemini VII Flight Plan," Final, 15 Nov. 1965; Gemini 7/6 News Center Release No. 10, "Gemini 7/6 Flight Controllers," 2 Dec. 1965.

36 Borman and Lovell interviews; "Gemini VII Flight Crew Press Conference," 1 Nov. 1965; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, "Spacecraft 7 Stowage Review," GP-51766, 25 Feb.1965; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, "Contract NAS 9-170, Gemini Spacecraft 7 Crew Station Stowage Inspection," GP-7235, 17 June 1965; memo, Mathews to dist., "Gemini Spacecraft 7 Crew Station Stowage Review, Phase I, June 29-30, 1965," GS-64044, 8 July 1965; memo, Mathews to dist., "Gemini Spacecraft 7 Crew Station Stowage Review, Phase II, July 15, 1965," GS-64054, 28 July 1965.

37 "Gemini Suit Requirements: NASA visit - September 26, 1962," unsigned report [probably Forrest R. Poole]; "National Aeronautics & Space Administration Conference, Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas, January 30-31, 1963," 21 Feb. 1963; Borman and Lovell interviews; L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., interview, Houston, 11 April 1967; Charles Conrad, Jr., interview, Houston, 31 March 1967; Poole, interview, Houston, 1 May 1968; Meyer, notes on NASA/MAC management meeting, 16 July 1965, p. 1; "NASA/MAC Management Meeting 11 July 1965, Preliminary," p. 1; "Evaluation of Modified Flight Suit (Shirt Sleeve) configuration for the Gemini VII Mission," McDonnell report No. B948, 9 Aug. 1965, pp. 1-3, 14-16, 19, 31, 50, 52, 53; memo, James V. Correale to Historical Office, "Comments to draft chapter of Gemini narrative history . . . ," EC11BE-69-098, 3 Oct. 1969; memo, Mathews to dist., "Suit configuration for Gemini VII," GS-64055, 27 July 1965; John B. Lee, recorder, "Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting, August 6, 1965," p. 1; "NASA MAC Management Meeting 12 August 1965," p. 2; Meyer, notes on NASA MAC management meeting, 12 Aug. 1965, p. 3; Richard S. Johnston, James V. Correale, and Mathew I. Radnofsky, Space Suit Development Status, NASA TN D- 3291 (Langley, Va., February 1966), pp. 2-16; TWX, Vogel to MSC, Attn: Gilruth, AO-628N, 15 Sept.1965; letter, Gilruth to NASA Hq., Attn: Seamans, "Gemini space suit development," 22 Sept. 1965, with enclosures; letter, Mueller to Gilruth, 23 Oct. 1965; "Light Weight Suit Briefing," 4 Nov. 1965; TWX, Mathews to NASA Hq., Attn: Day, GP-7405, 18 Nov. 1965; letter, Mathews to NASA Hq., Attn: Mueller, "Light-weight suit evaluation," GT-65490, 19 Nov. 1965, with enclosure, "Design Certification Report on the Lightweight Space Suit, G-5C, for Gemini VII Mission," 19 Nov. 1965.

38 Letter, Mueller to Gilruth, 23 Sept. 1965; "Gemini VII Medical Experiments Briefing," 1 Nov. 1965; memo, Robert O. Piland to Asst. Dir., Flight Ops., "Gemini VII Experiment Priorities," EX1365- 0239, 18 Nov. 1965, with enclosures, "Experiments Priority - Gemini VII" and "GT-7 Experiment Activities Priorities"; NASA Release No. 65-362, "Project: Gemini 7/6," press kit, n.d. (for release 29 Nov. 1965), pp. 7-20; TWX, Mueller to MSC, Attn: Mathews, "Conduct of Experiments and Operational Test on Gemini VII and Gemini VIA Missions," MGO-30, 1 Dec. 1965.

39 Borman interview; Russell A. Schweickart, interview, Houston, 1 May 1967; memo, Schneider to dist., "Transmittal of Report on GEMINI Experiments," 12 May 1964, with enclosure, "Description of Gemini Experiments: Flights GT-3 through GT-7," OMSF, 13 April 1964, pp. 5, 20-23; Peter Kellaway, "Experiment M-8, Inflight Sleep Analysis," in Gemini Midprogram Conference, Including Experiment Results, NASA SP-121 (Washington, 1966), pp. 423-29.

40 Borman interview; G. D. Whedon et al., "Experiment M-7, Calcium and Nitrogen Balance," in Gemini Midprogram Conference, pp. 417-21.

41 Lawrence F. Dietlein and E[lliott] S. Harris, "Experiment M-5, Bioassays of Body Fluids," in Gemini Midprogram Conference, pp. 403-406; "Abstract of Meeting on [sic] Gemini VI Experiments Board, September 15, 1965," 30 Sept. 1965; Gemini VI press kit, pp. 17-18; memo, Mathews to Asst. Dir., Flight Ops., "Gemini VI experiments and associated equipment," EX1365-0223, 17 Nov. 1965.

42 "Gemini 7 Communications Experiment (Laser)," 8 July 1965; letter, John M. Walker to Langley, Attn: George B. Graves, Jr., "Optical communication experiments using MSC-4 experiment on GT-7," 1 July 1965; letter, Floyd L. Thompson to NASA, Attn: Walker, "Manned Spacecraft Center optical communications experiment on GT-7," 2 Sept. 1965; DeFrance to MSC, Attn: Douglas S. Lilly, "Requirements for support on Ames participation in MSC-4 experiment," 12 Oct. 1965; DeFrance to MSC, "Request for astronaut training for participation in MSC-4 laser communications experiment on GT-7," 12 Oct. 1965; letter, Thompson to Ralph Hicks, "Range support for forthcoming MSC Gemini- Titan 7 Laser Experiment," 20 Oct.1965, with enclosure; letter, Russell G. Robinson to MSC, Attn: Edward O. Zeitler, "Gemini MSC-4 Experiment," 29 Dec. 1965; memo, Robert L. Jones to Mgr, Experiments Program Office (EPO), "Launch Azimuth for Gemini VII," 8 Sept. 1965; memo, Mathews to Mgr., EPO, "Launch Azimuth for Gemini VII," GV-66192, 14 Sept. 1965; "Gemini VII Flight Crew Press Conference," tape 2, p. 5; Gemini VII press kit, pp. 12-14, 16-18; TWX, Mathews to NASA Hq., Attn: Day, GV-12277, 26 Nov. 1965; R[obert] O. Piland and P[aul] R. Penrod, "Experiments Program Summary," in Gemini Midprogram Conference, pp. 305-12; Wilbur A. Ballentine, "DOD/NASA Gemini Experiments Summary," ibid., pp. 307-17; Charles E. Manry, telephone interview, 22 May 1973.

43 Memo, Mathews to dist., "Gemini VII Mission Planning," GV-66188, 21 Sept. 1965; memo, Mathews to dist., "Mission Planning," GV-66198, 25 Sept. 1965; memo, Mathews to dist., "Mission Planning for Gemini VI through XII," GV-66208, 1 Oct.1965; "Gemini VII Flight Crew Press Conference," tape I, pp. 1-3; TWX, Day to MSC, Attn: Piland, MGS-421, 9 Nov. 1965; memo, Piland to Asst. Dirs., Flight Ops., Flight Crew Ops., and Mgr., GPO, "Gemini VII Experiments, Final Flight Plan," EX4/M36-65, 29 Nov. 1965; memo, Piland to Dep. Dir., no subject, 30 Nov. 1965; memo, Mathews to Asst. Dir., Flight Crew Ops., "Gemini VI and VII Flight Plans," GV-66282, 30 Nov. 1965; TWX, Mathews to NASA, Attn: Day, "Gemini VII Experiments," EX1365-98, 30 Nov. 1965; Richard T. Hamm, "Description of the Gemini VII Station Keeping Hybrid Simulation," McDonnell, Gemini Guidance and Control Design Note No. 388, 13 July 1966; Meyer notes, 27 Oct. 1965, p. 3; memo, Simpkinson to MSC Historical Office, Attn: Grimwood, "Review of Gemini narrative history . . . ," 19 Aug. 1969.


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