A Clouded Future

In the aftermath of reprogramming, Gemini was buffeted by new crises. An offhand Defense Department bid to take over the program flustered NASA's top echelons briefly, but technical problems began taking on fearsome proportions early in 1963, with paraglider and Titan II looming as the greatest question marks. When the first months of 1963 also revealed that Gemini's money troubles had not been settled, the stage was set for a change of project managers. Charles Mathews replaced James Chamberlin as head of a faltering program. The framework was solid enough, a tribute to Chamberlin's engineering efforts, but costs, schedules, and administration were not. Mathews moved swiftly and smoothly to take these problems in hand. In short order, the status of the program was reviewed; its schedules, budgets, and objectives reassessed; and its revision outlined. By mid-1963, Gemini's managerial worries, both internal and external, had been at least temporarily resolved by a tightened organization, a lengthened schedule, and a modified program. But the major technical problems persisted and even worsened.

With many of the Gemini launch vehicle's parts still short of flight [138] status and with BSD firmly opposed to risking its own program to solve Gemini's problems, the prospect of meeting the December 1963 deadline for the first Gemini launch was dimming. NASA was no longer concerned simply with the status of the vehicle and the effect of specific problems like Pogo and unstable combustion on its chances of being ready in time. Although its promise had been great, Titan II's flight record was so poor that NASA was beginning to wonder whether it belonged in Project Gemini at all.72

72 Purser, "Minutes of Project Gemini Management Panel Meeting . . . , June 27, 1963," pp. 4-5; Low memo, 5 July 1963, with handwritten annotation by Low; Mathews, activity report, 30 June - 6 July 1963, p. 2; letter, Holmes to Osmond J. Ritland, 11 July 1963; memo, Pendley to Chief, Flight Operations Div., "Titan II Coordination Meeting of July 12, 1963," 15 July 1963; "Aerospace Annual Report, Fiscal 1962-1963."

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