50 years ago: The fog of spaceflight


Gemini 9


Exhausting.  From the start.  And now this.  So much to do on short 72-hour Gemini missions.  On launch day, not one but two rendezvous with what proved an “angry alligator,” the ATDA, the stubby Augmented Target Docking Adapter, the make-shift replacement for the Agena target stage.  Only no docking with this ATDA, the clamshell launch shroud still clamped to the nose, partially open like a grinning alligator.  On Flight Day 2, we make yet a third rendezvous with the angry alligator, this time from above, simulating the rescue of a lunar module by the Apollo command ship.  The effort leaves us exhausted, with a spacewalk yet to do.  We tell the ground, we’re postposing the EVA until morning, June 5.

And now this — what is supposed to be a 2.5-hour spacewalk, donning the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit backpack housed in the base of the Gemini, flying it, a human satellite connected only by a long safety tether.  This ambitious plan, after just 20-minutes of spacewalking experience by the U.S.  Minutes into the walk, everything is proving a struggle.  Attempting control using the thick umbilical causes us to tumble out of control, grabbing a few quick pictures looking back at the spacecraft.  Inching to the back of the spacecraft, handholds using Velcro don’t hold.  Handrails are inadequate.  And now this — setting up the maneuvering unit.  Footbars don’t hold us in place.  We keep floundering out of position, everything requiring more time than planned.  We’re taxing the suit’s cooling system, heart rate soaring.  Faceplate fogging.  It’s fogged over.  We’re blind.

We could die out here.


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