The Prospect for 1963

With reprogramming completed, Gemini's prospects looked reasonably bright as 1962 gave way to 1963. The crisis through which the program passed in the last quarter of 1962 was monetary, not technical. That crisis weathered, the technical problems looked less menacing as well. In his report to the Management Council on 18 December, Gilruth noted that Gemini still had a number of technical problems, but all, he judged, "are being actively pursued and none appear to be unresolvable."108

Gemini had lost time, though. The new Gemini program was chiefly a response to budget limits imposed from outside, compounded by sharply rising costs. Its immediate goal was cutting back expenses during the current fiscal year, and this meant slowing down the program. But a longer program, despite the curtailed and streamlined development that emerged from Gemini's fall crisis, was likely to cost more in the long run. Whether the total cost of the program would really rise, and how much, could only be answered with the passage of time.

[116] The effects of reprogramming on Gemini schedules were easier to define. Gemini was going to lose four months. The new date for the first launch was December instead of August 1963. It was now an unmanned suborbital qualification test. McDonnell had proposed in July 1962 an extra mission that it called Flight No. 0, a suborbital shot to precede the first planned mission. On 20 July, Burke and Chamberlin agreed to replace the planned unmanned orbital flight with the suborbital flight as the first mission (a slightly revised version of the Mission 0 plan). It was to be a ballistic test to investigate spacecraft heat protection, to integrate launch vehicle and spacecraft preflight and launch operations, and to obtain data on spacecraft structure and systems.109 All other launch dates were set back four months. The second flight - manned orbital qualification followed the first by three months, in March 1964, with the rest of the missions coming every two months until the 12th and last, now scheduled for November 1965.110

By December 1962, everything seemed to be under control again. But while the project office and MSC were wrestling with the hard tasks of fitting development work to the limited money available, NASA Headquarters found itself fending off quite a different threat - perhaps the least expected of all. The Department of Defense was making gestures toward taking over Project Gemini.


108 "Gemini Spacecraft Status, December 13, 1962," prepared for presentation by Gilruth at the 13th meeting of the Management Council, 18 Dec. 1962.

109 "Project Gemini: Mission 0 Plan," McDonnell, 12 July 1962; TWX, John Brown to MSC, Attn: Bailey, "Contract NAS 9-170, Gemini, Mission Assignment for Spacecraft No. 1," 16-DAH-1067, 24 July 1962; "Project Gemini Mission Plan: Spacecraft No. 1," McDonnell, 14 Sept. 1962; "Abstract of Meeting[s] on Mission Planning and Guidance, September 14, 1962," 26 Sept. 1962; "Electrical Systems, September 18, 1962," 26 Sept. 1962, and "Mechanical Systems, September 19, 1962," 21 Sept. 1962; "Resume of Outstanding Events in the Gemini Project for the Past Month (November 23, 1962)," prepared for Gilruth's presentation to the l2th meeting of the Management Council, 27 Nov. 1962; Quarterly Status Report No. 3, p. 39.

110 "Official Flight Schedule," NASA Office of Management Reports, approved by Seamans 20 Dec. 1962; Purser, "Minutes of Project Gemini Management Panel Meeting . . . , December 20, 1962," p. 1; "Gilruth Sees Gemini Shot Delayed 3 to 4 Months," The Washington Post, 17 Nov. 1962.


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