Chapter 7

The Darkest Hour

[139] The easing of Gemini's managerial problems by mid-1963 opened the way for a concerted attack on Gemini's technical problems. Even under new management, however, the last half of the year saw Project Gemini at its lowest ebb. The Gemini spacecraft, the Agena target vehicle, and, most seriously, the Titan II launch vehicle - each raised problems that threatened to overwhelm the program. This was to be Gemini's darkest hour, and it began with another dual flight that raised new fears of a Soviet victory in the race for first space rendezvous. On 14 June, Lieutenant Colonel V. F. Bykovsky orbited aboard Vostok V. Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova followed two days later in Vostok VI. The two passed within five kilometers of each other. Once again, however, there was a crumb of hope in the Vostok's lack of maneuvering capability. It was a faint hope.1

1 Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1963: Chronology on Science, Technology, and Policy, NASA SP-4004 (Washington, 1964), pp. 241, 244; Henry Tanner, "Record in Space Set by Bykovsky," The New York Times, 19 June 1963; Jonathan Spivak, "U.S. Scientists Believe Launching Error Aborted Soviet Plan for Space Rendezvous," The Wall Street Journal, 19 June 1963.

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