Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Space Available's Newest Feature - Mission Reviews, Part 1: Gemini 6A - 7 (1965)


I can smell them from almost 46 years back. Gemini 7 returns from spending two weeks in a floating toilet, December 18, 1965. Life magazine photo.

So, I've decided to start reviewing missions on a five-star scale now, because obviously astronauts know a whole freakin' lot about stars. Anyways, I've decided to start with Gemini 6A and Gemini 7.

Let's start with the "pros" about these missions. First, Gemini 6A and Gemini 7 accomplished the first manned spaceflight rendezvous ever; also, one of the first occasions of one crew blatantly trolling another crew occurred during these missions (Wally Schirra placed a "Beat Army" sign in Gemini 6A's window to mess with Gemini 7's Frank Borman's most likely already rage-filled mind). 

Gemini 7 also produced a lot of interesting "data" during its then-unsurpassed 14 days (14 days inside THE INSIDE OF A VW RABBIT, if you get my drift) in Earth's orbit. Gemini 7 proved to flight surgeons that:
  1. Frank Borman was more than capable of not smacking a crew member around in space, if and only if said crew member happened to be Jim Lovell, Official Nicest Guy Ever At NASA, 1965; 
  2. It really stank after 14 days in space, and next time they really should have allowed crews to bring some aftershave or mints or something "fresh" up in those capsules, because really...it got kind of gross; 
  3. Frank Borman and Jim Lovell were quite tone-deaf (in all seriousness, both astronauts passed some time during their hostage situation mission by singing Nat King Cole ditties);
  4. Frank Borman looked pretty silly with EEG leads all over various bald spots on his fuzzy square head; and
  5. Basically the whole mission was devised to make Frank Borman mad, which NASA probably succeeded in doing, but Jim Lovell made the entire situation a lot more bearable for everyone involved. 

"'Gemini 7 was a medical mission,' says Dr. Charles A. Berry, flight surgeon." NO REALLY? THANKS FOR INFORMING ME! From NASA's Gemini 6A - 7 film, mid-1960s.

Also, Gemini 6A boasted Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra looking crazy in their crew portrait, which I've already discussed at length.

Some cons about these missions: Gemini 6A had a launchpad abort, which was kind of terrifying for everyone involved since there was legitimate worry about the spacecraft's Titan II rocket exploding on the pad. (Thank God, this did not happen.) Command pilot Wally Schirra wisely opted not to eject from the capsule, and the mission was back on track within three days. Also...the smell inside Gemini 7. Frank Borman allegedly lost his toothbrush, and had to borrow Jim Lovell's for the remainder of the two-week long claustrophobia nightmare. I am sure Lovell was a pretty clean, healthy guy, but still...sharing toothbrushes. When those two poor guys emerged from their long ordeal onto the flight deck of the USS Wasp, they walked sort of like your octogenarian next-door neighbor coming home from a tequila bender (a.k.a. NOT well). 

Yeah, so even with all of those cons, I'm going to have to give Gemini 6A - 7 a resounding five stars, because damn that sounds like a mess. Those guys did it first so we didn't have to. 
Command Pilot - Wally Schirra
Pilot - Thomas P. Stafford
Command Pilot - Frank "Guinea Pig" Borman
Pilot -  James A. Lovell













FIVE RESOUNDING STARS!