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In January of 1962, after the Mercury Program, NASA announced its latest project and foray into space—Project Gemini. Cleverly named after the Latin root for twins and based on the third constellation of the Zodiak and it’s twin stars Castor and Pollux, Gemini would serve to denote that the 10 manned Gemini flights would contain “twin” (two) astronauts. Overall, Project Gemini included 12 journey’s into space to develop certain spaceflight capabilities.
On April 8, 1964, the first of 12 launches made it off the ground from Cape Kennedy. Pictured below is the actual launch of Gemini I and Titan II, followed by the Project Gemini launch vehicles.
According to NASA, the objective goals of Project Gemini were well defined and mission critical to a future moon-landing which would eventually occur with Apollo 11. One of the objectives was to subject man and equipment to space flight for a minimum duration of two weeks.
Another goal was to perfect the rendezvous and docking of orbiting vehicles and to maneuver the docked combination by using the target vehicle’s propulsion system as depicted below.
Project Gemini also eyed perfecting methods of entering the atmosphere and landing at a pre-selected point on land. These goals were also met, with the exception of a land landing, which was cancelled in 1964. Prior to the cancellation however, many concepts were tried and tested including the parawing, also known as the Rogallo Wing seen below.
Below is a 1960 NASA-Langley film showing some early testing of the parawing concept.
Another mission objective was to demonstrate what is called “Extra-Vehicular Activity” (EVA for short), or space-“walks” outside the protection of the spacecraft, and to evaluate the astronauts’ ability to perform tasks there.
From my very earliest memories, I can remember stories about my Grandfather’s work on Project Gemini. I think just about every boy dreams of space travel and knowing that my Grandfather’s contributions made the Gemini launches a series of successes made me further fall in love with the dream of space exploration. Two of his many hats were as an Electrical and Chemical Engineer and had a keen gift for architecture and technical detail. My Grandfather received two Presidential Commendations from President Johnson for his work, particularly for Gemini I and Gemini II.
I can fondly remember visiting Kennedy Space Center as a child and seeing my Grandfather’s name on multiple bronze plaques next to what I now understand were replicas of the actual crafts that my Grandfather had helped build.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech called, “Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs,” before a joint session of Congress. In this speech, JFK stated that the United States should set as a goal the “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” by the end of the decade. I am proud to remember that Project Gemini was a necessary and integral link in that chain of events…as was my dear and brilliant Grandfather, Jack Zulumian.