A Vote of Confidence

On Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours after the launch of Gemini 2, the program received another vote of confidence. Although the second launch had been long delayed, the nature of the delays in no way cast doubts on Gemini itself; NASA and its contractors decided that Gemini missions should he launched at two-month intervals, instead of the three-month cycle then planned.

In September 1964, the Air Force had not only convinced NASA that GLV-2 ought to fly, but also proposed to speed up the program by launching every two months. Although the Vertical Test Facility [217] at Martin-Baltimore had been designed to handle two launch vehicles at once, only one of these test cells was working. The Air Force suggested opening the second cell to speed up launch vehicle deliveries. SSD Commander Funk assured his Gemini colleagues that the Cape crew could handle launches only 60 days apart.

LeRoy E. Day, Headquarters Gemini Test Director, took charge of a task force to canvass spacecraft, launch vehicle, and target vehicle contractors about the practicality of the plan. A two-month study convinced Day and his group that it could be done. Although NASA's checkout crew at Cape Kennedy expressed a measure of skepticism based on their experiences in Project Mercury and the opening stages of Gemini, the Gemini Program Office had more faith. GPO had, in fact, been thinking of less time between launches when it imposed revised test and checkout procedures in St. Louis and at the Cape early in 1964. When Day presented his findings to Gemini's top echelon on 19 January 1965, they bought the plan and wanted it put into effect by the fifth mission. This vote of confidence in Gemini was founded on a technological judgment, and in that sense it was fully justified. Later events were to show that fitting astronaut training into the shorter schedule was a harder task, although it produced no problems that could not he surmounted.68

As 1965 dawned, Project Gemini had cleared most of the hurdles in its path. The past year had seen its last serious development problems overcome. Agena was perhaps not as far along as it should be, but there was plenty of talent at hand to put that in order. The repeated setbacks suffered by GLV-2 could only be seen as acts of God, not defects in technology. That could not be said of its failure on 9 December, but little more than a month of hard work was needed to put matters right. The second Gemini mission, on 19 January 1965, almost matched the first, on 8 April 1964, in the quality of performance. Gemini's spacecraft and launch vehicle had been proved. All that remained, the last hurdle, was sending men aloft. Although the publicly scheduled date for Gemini 3 was the second quarter of 1965, Charles Mathews told the Gemini Management Panel shortly after the flight of Gemini 2 that late March looked like a good bet.69


68 Day, interview, Washington, 25 Jan. 1967; Lt. Col. W. A. Cobb, "Acceleration of Launch Plan to Two Months Centers," reprogramming presentation, 18 Sept. 1964; letter, John A. Edwards to Kraft, 3 Dec. 1964; memo, Charles W. McGuire to Dir., Gemini Test, "GLV Two-month Launch Interval," 28 Dec. 1964, with enclosure, memo, Col. Robert R. Hull for record, "Test Philosophy Conference," 16 Dec. 1964; memo, Robert F. Freitag to William D. Putnam, "Two-Month Launch Interval Study," 26 July 1967, with enclosure, subject as above, 14 Jan.1965; Lt. Col. Alexander C. Kuras and Col. John G. Albert, "Gemini-Titan Technical Summary," 24 Jan. 1967, p. 138; memo, Day to MSC, Attn: Historical Office, "Comments re . . . Gemini History," 11 March 1969; Funk, interview, Sunnyvale, Calif., 12 May 1967; note, Schneider to Mueller, "Second Launch Pad for Gemini," 17 Sept. 1964; note, Simpkinson for James M. Grimwood, 14 May 1971; letter, Day to MSC, Attn: Grimwood, "Comments on the Final Manuscript of the Gemini History," 23 June 1971; Mathews, "Gemini Summary," pp. G-3, -4.

69 Purser, "Minutes of Project Gemini Management Panel Meeting . . . , February 4, 1965," p. 3, Fig. A-3-1; M. Scott Carpenter, recorder, "Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting, February 12, 1965," p. 2.


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