Prelude to Gemini V

Although Gemini IV chalked up a success, rendezvous remained a question mark. Seamans asked Langley Research Center to study orbital mechanics, especially the complex decisions on attitude and velocity changes and probable fuel usage both with and without computers. Langley engineers reviewed the Gemini IV mission results and concluded that the fuel allotted seemed ample for stationkeeping but that the crew had simply not been adequately trained for the job. As Paul Purser later remarked, "no one was 'adequately trained' in that the differences between motions on earth and motions in orbit were not intuitively realized or 'second-nature' to anyone."61

Another postflight concern was the computer failure. IBM, the subcontractor, was unable to duplicate the failure on a test computer, and the Gemini IV computer itself worked perfectly through 500 tests in St. Louis. Since the trouble remained a mystery, IBM modified the Gemini V computer with a manual switch that allowed areas that might have caused the problem to be bypassed.62

A number of other questions also had to be answered for Gemini V. Should a fail-safe reentry be flown? Should there be an EVA? What type of suits should the crew wear? Could the crew be trained soon enough to shorten the launch intervals from three to two months? Could the scientists get their experiments ready in time for them to be integrated into crew training?

Fail-safe orbits had been planned for all manned Gemini flights. Missions not slated for rendezvous would use spacecraft thrusters to bring the vehicle into the atmosphere. Other flights would depend on the Agena to push the spacecraft into the atmospheric fringes. NASA Headquarters had imposed this precaution on Gemini III, whose crew later had little to say about it. But Gemini IV's McDivitt and White lambasted it; saving fuel for the fail-safe reentry had forced them to limit both operations and experiments. With Gemini V slated for 8 days and 17 experiments, Houston wanted to scrub the maneuver. Since the retrorockets had fired as advertised, even after soaking four days in space, Mueller agreed.63

White's successful EVA was going to be a hard act to follow. There was little to be gained from merely repeating it, but the environmental system was not ready for anything more advanced. And there were other reasons for skipping EVA in the next several missions. [255] McDivitt and White had trouble stowing even reentry; the 8- and 14-day missions coming up would produce even more garbage. As for Gemini VI, that crew wanted to stress only rendezvous and docking.Then, too, the Gemini V pilots had been campaigning vigorously for more comfort in orbit - wearing their helmets, goggles, and oxygen masks but not their suits. They lost that battle and later wore the G4C extravehicular suits that had been bought for them before the decision to fly EVA on Gemini IV. With no reason for repeating the standup EVA, Mueller and William Schneider decided there would be no EVA on the next three missions.64

Shortening the intervals between missions was part of the problem in getting the crew ready to fly. In September 1964, when plans for speeding up the flight schedule were first being studied, flight operations and crew training had emerged as the most likely stumbling blocks. When the study was completed and accepted in January 1965, Gemini V still did not have a crew and training time was getting short. Cooper and Conrad were finally named on 8 February, with Neil A. Armstrong and Elliot M. See, Jr., as backups.65 Now there were 12 men (crews for missions 3, 4, and 5) lining up for the trainers and simulators. By the end of June, the Gemini V training program was in trouble. That was eased somewhat when the Houston simulator, which had been used chiefly to familiarize new crews with Gemini systems in general, was refitted more specifically for Gemini V.66

One of Gemini V's chief objectives, the practice rendezvous with the evaluation pod, became more urgent after the doubts raised in Gemini IV. Cooper and Conrad devoted a large part of their training time to preparing for this exercise, which now seemed a crucial prelude to Gemini VI. It was being planned to simulate, as closely as possible, the terminal phase of a rendezvous with an Agena.

Another requirement for the first rendezvous flight that Cooper and Conrad rehearsed was a simultaneous launch countdown, which involved their Titan II and spacecraft on pad 19 and an Atlas-Agena on pad 14, to give the launch crew and flight controllers some experience in launching two vehicles at precise times. On 22 July, the Gemini V crew went through the motions of a double launch, including five holds - for propellant tanking, a faulty command panel switch, spacecraft problems, erratic range sequencer performance, and spurious pulses received at Lockheed's ground stations. The demonstration lasted 867 minutes instead of the scheduled 505 minutes, but it did give the needed practice. When the test ended, the lowered erector could not be raised. The crew had to be rescued with the "cherry picker," a cabin on the tip of a crane that had been used in Mercury and that Cooper had insisted be included in the Gemini program. Riding it down gave him a sense of vindication.67

Although Cooper and Conrad were putting in some very long days, [256] the scheduled launch of 9 August was simply too soon. Astronaut Chief Donald K. Slayton flew to Washington to try to argue Mueller into delaying the date. On 21 July, Mueller reluctantly agreed to postpone the launch until 19 August.68

The usual reviews started on 29 July with the spacecraft readiness review, followed by launch vehicle readiness, 16 August; mission, 17 August; and flight safety, 18 August. On 19 August, Everett E. Christensen of NASA Headquarters assumed the role of mission director.69

Although thunderstorms threatened that morning, the operations crew decided to push on and launch, if possible. But the predicted storm welled over the pad area, and - shades of Gemini 2! - a lightning strike near the power facilities caused the spacecraft computer to waver. Finally, the erector was raised and the crew was helped out of the craft. Propellants were drained, pyrotechnics removed or defused, and a 48-hour recycle begun.70

61 Memo, Seamans to Assoc. Adm., Advanced Research and Technology, "Orbital Mechanics," 9 June 1965; letter, Floyd L. Thompson to NASA, Attn: Alfred J. Eggers, Jr., "Rendezvous and station-keeping studies," 6 Oct. 1965, with enclosure, memo, W. Hewitt Phillips to Assoc. Dir., "Orbital mechanics associated with Gemini flights," 30 Sept. 1965. Enclosed with Phillips memo are papers presented to MSC on 11 Aug. 1965: Gary P. Beasley, "Digital Computer Analysis in Support of GT-5 Mission"; Kenneth R. Garren, "Use of Visual Cues for Determining Range (with Optical Aids) and Direction of Motion of a Flashing Light"; Jack E. Pennington, "Range Estimation Studies Using Only Apparent Object Size;" Alfred J. Meintel, Edward R. Long, and Pennington, "GT-5 Piloted Simulation"; Purser, comments on draft chapter, 13 Feb. 1969.

62 Memo, Simpkinson to Mgr., GPO, "Failure analysis of the spacecraft 4 IGS malfunction and corrective action for spacecraft 5," GT-62576, 6 Aug. 1965; letter, Mathews to NASA Hq., Attn: Mueller, "Analysis and corrective action for the computer power-down failure and the possible eye irritation problem experienced during the Gemini IV mission," GT-62580, 9 Aug. 1965; Conrad D. Babb and Charles E. Dunn, interview, Owego, New York,25 April 1968; John F. Yardley, "Spacecraft Check-Out," in "Gemini/Apollo Executives Meeting," 27-28 Jan. 1967, p. F-36.

63 See chap. X, pp. 228-29, McDivitt interview; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn Burke, "Contract NAS 9-170, Gemini V Mission Plan," GV-12129, 13 July 1965; memo, Everett E. Christensen to dist., "GT-5 Operations Readiness Review," 13 July 1965.

64 "GT-4 Flight Crew Report," Tape 5, p. 1; "GT-4 Air-to-Ground," pp. 318, 340; "NASA/MAC Management Meeting 18 September 1964,"p. 2; "NASA/MAC Management Meeting 18 December 1964," p. 3; memo, Collins to Mgr., GPO, "Status of space suits for GT-5, GT-6, and GT-7," GS-64059, 11 Aug. 1965; Quarterly Status Report No. 14, for period ending 31 Aug.1965, p. 9; memo, Mathews to Chief, Crew Systems Div., "Delivery of Gemini space suits for Spacecraft 5 altitude chamber tests," GS- 64003, 18 March 1965; TWX, Schneider to Mathews, "Deletion of EVA," MG-595, 12 July 1965.

65 LeRoy E. Day, interview, Washington, 25 Jan. 1967; Meyer, notes on GPO staff meeting, 6 Jan. 1965; "News Conference, GT-5 Crew Selection," 8 Feb. 1965.

66 Riley D. McCafferty, interview, Cape Kennedy, Fla., 25 May 1967; Meyer, notes on GPO staff meeting, 29 June 1965; Meyer comments, 28 Feb. 1969.

67 TWX, Mathews to SSD, Attn: Lt. Col. Mark E. Rivers, GT-55372, 3 Feb. 1965; memo, Mathews to dist., "Simultaneous launch demonstration between the Gemini Atlas Agena Target Vehicle and the Gemini Launch Vehicle/Spacecraft on F-10 days for the GT-5 mission," GT-05346, 19 Feb. 1965; TWX, Mathews to SSD, Attn: Rivers, GT-55388, 23 Feb. 1965; "Abstract of Meeting on GT-5 Simultaneous Launch Demonstration, March 2, 1965," 8 March 1965; "Abstract of Meeting on Rendezvous and GT-5 Simultaneous Launch Demonstration, May 18, 1965," 25 May 1965; TWX, Mathews to SSD, Attn: Dineen, GP-7182, 26 May 1965; TWX, Mathews to KSC, Attn: Paul C. Donnelly, "Launch Preparation Schedule - Spacecraft 5," GP-7222, 9 June 1965; "Abstract of Meeting on Atlas/Agena Coordination, June 16, 1965," 29 June 1965; Quarterly Status Report No. 14, p. 18; "GAATV Launch Demonstration with GT-5 GLV," Lockheed Missiles & Space Go., LMSC-273407, 3 Sept. 1965, pp. iii, 7-2; TWX, Mathews to Dineen, GP-54516, 23 Jan.1964; TWX, Mathews to SSD, Attn: Dineen, GV-12146, 23 July 1965; Albert interview; "Abstract of Meeting on Trajectories and Orbits, December 4, 1964," 23 Dec. 1964; Bobby K. Culpepper, "Partial Proposed Mission Plan for the GT-5 Gemini Flight, REP Plan IV," MSC Internal Note No. 64-FM-87, 1 Dec. 1964; memo, Mathews to Mgr., Florida Ops., Attn: J. T. Garofalo, Jr., "Cherry Picker Modification for Gemini Egress," GV-02263, 25 May 1964; Schneider letter, 10 July 1964; letter, Mathews to NASA Hq., Attn: Schneider, "Gemini Mission Assignments," GV-02183, 13 March 1964.

68 Weiss, "Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting, June 18, 1965,"p. 2; Meyer notes, 29 June 1965, p. 1; Neil A. Armstrong, interview, Houston, 6 April 1967; Weiss, "Minutes of Senior Staff Meeting, July 2, 1965," p. 2; "Manned Space Flight Schedules," Vol. I, "Level 1 Schedules and Resources Summary," April, pp. 1-3, -6, June, p. 1-6, and July 1965, p. 1-6.

69 TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, "Contract NAS 9-170, Gemini, Flight Readiness Review for Spacecraft 5," GP-7274, 13 July 1965; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, "Contract NAS 9-170, Gemini, Spacecraft 5 Flight Readiness Review Data Requirements," GP-7283, 20 July 1965; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, "Contract NAS 9-170, Gemini, Revision of Agenda for Flight Readiness Review for Spacecraft 5," GP-7295, 27 July 1965; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, "Contract NAS 9-170, Spacecraft 5 Flight Readiness Review Action Items," GP-7304, 4 Aug.1965; "Gemini Program Mission Report, Gemini V," MSC-G-R-65-4, October 1965, p. 12-19; TWX, Mathews to McDonnell, Attn: Burke, "Contract NAS170, Gemini V Mission Review," GA-6017, 6 Aug. 1965; TWX, Mathews to SSD, Attn: Dineen and Lt. Col. Fountain M. Hutchison, GP-7309, 11 Aug.1965; Gemini News Center Release No. 9, 17 Aug. 1965; [Gemini News Center Release], "Air Force OKs Gemini Booster for Cooper-Conrad Flight," 18 Aug. 1965.

70 Ernest A. Amman, interview, Cape Kennedy, Fla., 24 May 1967; "Gemini V Preliminary Scrub Press Conference," 19 Aug. 1965; "3:00 P.M. Cape Press Briefing," 19 Aug. 1965; Gemini News Center Release No. 17, 20 Aug. 1965.

Previous Next Index