NASA's Gemini programme started in 1962 shortly after president Kennedy announced the United States' plan to land astronauts on the Moon. The missions were an important step in achieving this goal.
Gemini engineers and scientists studied the effects of longer spaceflights on astronauts and their equipment and practiced docking spacecraft in orbit and landing. The Gemini spacecraft carried two astronauts - an improvement on the single-seat Mercury capsules used to take the first Americans into space.
Manned Gemini flights started in 1965 and there were 10 in total.
Photo: Ed White makes the first US spacewalk during Gemini 4 (NASA/James McDivitt)
Astronauts and engineers prepare for manned Moon landings.
Aldrin exited the Gemini 12 capsule in 1966.
Buzz Aldrin describes what it was like to leave the Gemini 12 capsule while orbiting above the Earth in 1966, three years before he set foot on the Moon.
Astronaut Jim Lovell describes returning to the Earth.
Before the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing, astronaut Jim Lovell describes what it was like to return to the Earth in a space capsule. Lovell flew into space aboard Gemini 7 and 12 and Apollo 8 and 13.
Apollo 13's Jim Lovell and his fellow astronauts tell James Burke how it was done.
Jim Lovell and his fellow astronauts tell the BBC's James Burke what happened when nature called during the Apollo and Gemini missions.
Project Gemini was NASA's second human spaceflight program. It was a United States government civilian space program started in 1961 and concluded in 1966. Project Gemini was conducted between projects Mercury and Apollo. The Gemini spacecraft carried a two-astronaut crew. Ten crews flew low Earth orbit (LEO) missions between 1965 and 1966. It put the United States in the lead during the Cold War Space Race with the Soviet Union.
Its objective was to develop space travel techniques to support Apollo's mission to land astronauts on the Moon. Gemini achieved missions long enough for a trip to the Moon and back; perfected working outside the spacecraft with extra-vehicular activity (EVA); and pioneered the orbital maneuvers necessary to achieve rendezvous and docking. With these new techniques proven in Gemini, Apollo could pursue its prime mission without doing these fundamental exploratory operations.
All Gemini flights were launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 19 (LC-19), in Florida. Its launch vehicle was the Gemini–Titan II, a modified Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).[Note 1] Project Gemini was the first program to use Houston as the Mission Control for its flights.[Note 2]
The astronaut corps that supported Project Gemini included the "Mercury Seven," "The New Nine" and the 1963 astronaut class. During the program, three astronauts died in air crashes during training, including the prime crew for Gemini 9. This mission was performed by the backup crew, the only time that has happened in NASA's history.
Gemini was robust enough that the United States Air Force planned to use it for the Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) program, which was later canceled. Gemini's chief designer, Jim Chamberlin, also made detailed plans for cislunar and lunar landing missions in late 1961. He believed Gemini could perform lunar operations before Project Apollo, and cost less. NASA's administration did not approve those plans. In 1969, McDonnell-Douglas proposed a "Big Gemini" that could have been used to shuttle up to 12 astronauts to the planned space stations in the Apollo Applications Project (AAP). The only AAP project funded was Skylab – which used existing spacecraft and hardware – thereby eliminating the need for Big Gemini.