Chapter 5

Expansion and Crisis

[95]As summer gave way to fall in 1962, the smooth progress that Project Gemini had enjoyed during its first half year roughened. Concern mounted over the steady expansion and rising costs of the project as a whole. Hopes for using much of Mercury's technology in Gemini eroded. One system after another became the subject of full-scale development, rather than modification or simple transfer from Mercury. The scope of launch vehicle development likewise grew far beyond first expectations. Costs kept climbing until they collided with an unexpectedly restricted budget toward the year's end.

These concerns were virtually unknown outside NASA. But the striking dual mission launched by the Soviet Union in August led some to wonder if the United States had any hope of flying the first rendezvous mission. Vostok III, piloted by Major A. G. Nikolayev, lifted off on 11 August, followed a day later by Lieutenant Colonel P. R. Popovich in Vostok IV. The two spacecraft came close enough to each other to spur some talk of rendezvous. With no means of maneuvering their spacecraft, however, the two cosmonauts could not match orbits or speeds. The Soviet Union had shown only that it could launch two spacecraft in quick succession, so there was still hope for the maneuverable Gemini spacecraft to achieve the first rendezvous, if it survived its troubles.1

1 U.S. Congress, Committee on Science and Astronautics, Astronautical and Aeronautical Events of 1962: Report, 88th Cong., 1st sess., 12 June 1963, pp. 146-47, 148.

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