Chapter 14

Charting New Space Lanes

[323] In October 1965, Elliot See and Charles A. Bassett II learned that they would fly Gemini IX. Chief Astronaut Donald Slayton also told them that their backups would be Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan.1 Stafford was, at that time, copilot for Gemini VI. When that mission failed to go and plans brewed for VI-A to rendezvous with VII, See, Bassett, and Cernan wondered whether Stafford could finish in time to get ready for IX.

But they could not wait for him; the three men started training in November, sandwiching their simulations between those of other crews. They followed Spacecraft 9 through its building and testing, familiarized themselves with Gemini systems, and helped shape a tentative flight plan. Bassett and Cernan focused on extravehicular activities because one of them would go outside the spacecraft and ride the Air Force's Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU).

The trio interrupted their routine early in December to work as communicators in the Houston Mission Control Center during the VII/VI-A mission. They then returned to flight training. Stafford, however, had to go through his postmission debriefing before he joined them in February 1966.2

1 Eugene A. Cernan, interview, Houston, 1 May 1967.

2 Gemini News Center Release No. 10, "Gemini 76 Flight Controllers," 2 Dec. 1965; Cernan interview.

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