Postscripts and Prospects

So bright, in fact, did the future seem that the long dormant idea of using the Gemini spacecraft for a lunar mission stirred again. George Mueller, NASA's Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, had some reason to be concerned about the outlook for Project Apollo in the spring of 1964. Only a few months earlier, plans for manned flights using Saturn I had been canceled, leaving Gemini as the only possible system for manned orbital flights during the next two years or more. Mueller wanted to know if a Gemini lunar mission could be flown. If it could, then a contingency plan was to be prepared for a Gemini flight around the Moon in case Apollo suffered a serious setback. A review of past studies strongly suggested that the idea was feasible and that McDonnell should be asked to conduct a more detailed study.* 17

But that was not to be. During a tour of the plant in Louisiana where Saturn rockets were built, Wernher von Braun, Director of Marshall Space Flight Center, told a journalist that Gemini might be able to fly around the Moon, but only as "a possible project to salvage this country's prestige if the manned lunar goal proves impossible." Whether this was intended to squelch an Apollo rival, the effect might have been predicted. The same factors that had blocked the idea before still held. NASA had too much invested in Apollo - too much money, time, and prestige - to really think about Gemini to the Moon. Funds, in any case, were tight. On 8 June, Seamans told Mueller there would be no money for study contracts. "Any circumlunar mission [201] studies relating to the use of Gemini will be confined to in-house study efforts."** 18

But that was never more than a side issue. In mid-1964, the first task was still Project Gemini, however attractive the prospects of a more ambitious program might seem. The outstanding performance of Gemini-Titan 1 and the qualification of the Gemini launch vehicle were most cheering portents. When the Gemini Management Panel met a week after the mission, on 15 April, a comfortable optimism suffused the group. The current work schedule called for the second flight toward the end of August and the third in mid-November, with almost a four-week cushion in each instance to handle unforeseen problems.19

This bright outlook darkened in the late summer before a series of natural disasters. First lightning, then hurricanes, conspired to abuse the second Gemini launch vehicle on complex 19 at Cape Kennedy and to delay its flight long past the scheduled time. Even had the weather been perfect, however, McDonnell's difficulties in getting Spacecraft 2 ready to fly might have compromised the schedule.

Late deliveries - notably of thruster systems from Rocketdyne and fuel-cell stacks from General Electric - had slowed construction of the spacecraft during 1963. Parts had failed tests that had to be passed before they could be installed in the spacecraft; modifications meant further delays. Spacecraft 2 could not begin its systems tests until 13 January 1964.20

The Spacecraft 2 Design Engineering Inspection (DEI), earlier set for November 1963, had been postponed in the face of these delays until February 1964. MSC formed a permanent DEI board 31 January 1964 to make sure that the spacecraft as a whole and each of its parts would do what they were intended to that the spacecraft could, in fact, be expected to achieve its assigned objectives. Normally, the DEI for each spacecraft would fall between the end of manufacturing and the start of systems testing, but the DEI for Spacecraft 2 was a little late. The nine-member board convened at the McDonnell plant on 12 February.*** Also present for the two-day meeting were 50 experts from [202] GPO and McDonnell, as well as another 50 observers from other MSC offices, NASA Headquarters, and the Air Force. The board looked over the hardware and studied the records to see that each part either matched design specifications or was the subject of a proper waiver. A long list of minor discrepancies ended up as 22 mandatory changes, 4 conditional, and 10 to be studied.21

The first phase of spacecraft systems tests went slowly, as problem after problem turned up; troubleshooting them, working out the required changes, and testing the results all took time, adding to the delays. By mid-April 1964, Spacecraft 2 had become the "pacing item" for the second Gemini mission, a dubious honor held by the launch vehicle before the first flight. Getting the spacecraft ready was now the crucial factor in meeting the scheduled launch date.22 This was not altogether a surprise. Spacecraft 1 had been little more than an instrumented shell, but GLV-1 had been a launch vehicle in every sense of the term. The Martin crews working on GLV-2 were going over ground they had already surveyed, but Spacecraft 2 was the first fully equipped ship to go through the McDonnell plant and its slow progress reflected its novel status.

After the modules of the spacecraft had been mated, the second phase of systems tests began, on 3 July. Further problems hampered testing into the next month.23 Whatever delay might have resulted, however, became purely academic after mid-August, when Florida weather dealt the first of a series of time-consuming blows to GLV-2.


* The review was done by William B. Taylor and John L. Hammersmith, of Mueller's Gemini and Advanced Manned Missions offices, respectively.

** The in-house studies did continue, culminating in a paper in July 1964 by Calvin C. Guild, enumerating 16 different missions that could be classified as "advanced" (beyond the 12 then scheduled for Gemini) and that used the Gemini spacecraft or techniques derived from the Gemini program. Among them were the demonstration of land landing with either paraglider or parasail, a combined launch in which Gemini would rendezvous with Apollo and check out ship-to-ship communications, a minimum rotating space station experiment to provide experience in artificial gravity for long-duration space travel, space assembly and repair missions, and a lifeboat rescue mission.

*** Chairman and vice chairman of the permanent DEI board were to be the head of reliability and flight safety and the manager of the Gemini program. The other five would come from the GPO spacecraft office, three directorates (Engineering and Development, Flight Operations, and Flight Crew Operations), and Florida Operations. Members for the Spacecraft 2 DEI were F. John Bailey, Mathews, Homer Dotts, Aleck C. Bond, John D. Hodge, Virgil I. Grissom, John Williams, and Walter Williams, with Robert T. Everline as recording secretary.


17 NASA News Release 63-246, "NASA Announces Changes in Saturn Missions," 30 Oct. 1963; memo, George M. Low to Assoc. Adm., Manned Space Flight, "Gemini Missions," 27 Nov. 1963; letter, Mathews to NASA Hq., Attn: Low, "Evaluation of Gemini Missions," GPO-01060-M, 9 Sept. 1963; memo, Mathews to Asst. Dir., Engineering and Development, "Advanced Mission Planning in Support of the Gemini Program," GPO-01063-M, 17 Sept. 1963; memo, Maxime A. Faget to Mgr., GPO, "Advance mission planning in support of the Gemini program," 30 Dec. 1963; Project Gemini Quarterly Status Report No. 8, for period ending 29 Feb. 1964, p. 74; memo, Edward Z. Gray to Dir., Gemini Program, "Gemini Lunar Mission Studies," 30 April 1964, with enclosure, memo, William B. Taylor to Dir., Adv. Manned Missions, subject as above, 21 April 1964, with enclosures; Simpkinson, interview, Houston, 18 Jan. 1967.

18 "Gemini Circumlunar Flight Feasible," Missiles and Rockets, 18 May 1964, p. 17; memo, Seamans to Assoc. Dir., Manned Space Flight, "Proposed Gemini Circumlunar Mission Study," 12 June 1964; letter, Mathews to NASA Hq., Attn: Schneider, "Advanced Gemini Missions," GV-02312, 18 Sept. 1964, with enclosure, [Calvin C. Guild], "Notes on Advanced Gemini Missions, Conceptual Study July 30, 1964."

19 Purser, "Minutes of Project Gemini Management Panel Meeting . . . , April 15, 1964," p. 2, Figs. A-2-9, A-2-12.

20 MSC Weekly Activity Report for Office of the Dir., Manned Space Flight, 18-24 Aug. 1963, pp. 1-2; Quarterly Status Report No. 7, pp. 1-2.

21 André J. Meyer, Jr., notes on GPO staff meeting, 11 Sept. 1963, p. 1; Zavasky, "Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting, September 13, 1963," p. 5; memo, Paul M. Sturtevant to Security Div., Public Affairs Office, and Offices Services Div., "Preliminary Review for Design Engineering Inspection (DEI) Spacecraft No. 2," GPO-01077-M, October 1964; TWX, Mathews to Dineen et al., "Postponement of the Formal Design Engineering Inspection of Spacecraft No. 2," GPO-54359-A, 13 Nov. 1963; TWX, Mathews to Dineen et al., "Rescheduling of the Formal Development Engineering Inspection of Gemini Spacecraft No. 2," GPO-54480-A, 3 Jan. 1964; memo, James C. Elms for dist., "Establishment of Development Engineering Inspection Board," GP-03426, 31 Jan.1964; MSC Consolidated Activity Report for Office of the Assoc. Adm., Manned Space Flight, 19 Jan. - 15 Feb. 1964, p. 18; memo, Mathews for dist., "Report on the Gemini Spacecraft No. 2 Development Engineering Inspection," GP-03541, 30 April 1964, with enclosure, "Gemini Spacecraft No. 2 Development Engineering Inspection Report"; memo, LeRoy E. Day to Dep. Dir., Gemini Program, "Spacecraft Schedule Status," 1 May 1964.

22 Quarterly Status Report No. 9, for period ending 31 May 1964, pp. 1-2; Purser, "Management Panel Meeting, April 15, 1964," Fig. A-1-4.

23 "Gemini Program Mission Report, GT-2, Gemini 2," MSC-G-R-65-1, February 1965, pp. 12- 2, -3.


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