The Voskhods were adaptations of the single place Vostok spacecraft meant to conduct flights with up to three crew and for space walks in advance of US Gemini program. Work on the 3KV (three crew) and 3KD (two crew plus inflatable airlock) versions of the basic Vostok spacecraft began with the decree issued on 13 April 1964. In order to accommodate more than one crew, the seats were mounted perpendicular to the Vostok ejection seat position, so the crew had to crane their necks to read instruments, still mounted in their original orientation. The Elburs soft landing system replaced the ejection seat and allowed the crew to stay in the capsule. It consisted of probes that dangled from the parachute lines. Contact with the earth triggered a solid rocket engine in the parachute which resulted in a zero velocity landing.
The U.S.S.R. launched the world's first multi-manned spacecraft, Voskhod I, the first to carry a scientist and a physician into space. The crew were Col. Vladimir Komarov, pilot; Konstantin Feoktistov, scientist; and Boris Yegorov, physician. Potentially dangerous modification of Vostok to upstage American Gemini flights; no spacesuits, ejection seats, or escape tower. One concession was backup solid retrorocket package mounted on nose of spacecraft. Tested the new multi-seat space ship; investigated the in-flight work potential and co-operation of a group of cosmonauts consisting of specialists in different branches of science and technology; conducted scientific physico-technical and medico-biological research. The mission featured television pictures of the crew from space.
Coming before the two-man Gemini flights, Voskhod 1 had a significant worldwide impact. In the United States, the "space race" was again running under the green flag. NASA Administrator James E. Webb, commenting on the spectacular, called it a "significant space accomplishment." It was, he said, "a clear indication that the Russians are continuing a large space program for the achievement of national power and prestige."
First spacewalk, with a two man crew of Colonel Pavel Belyayev and Lt. Colonel Aleksey Leonov. During Voskhod 2's second orbit, Leonov stepped from the vehicle and performed mankind's first "walk in space." After 10 min of extravehicular activity, he returned safely to the spacecraft through an inflatable airlock.
This mission was the original raison d'etre of the Voskhod series, with the original name 'Advance'. It almost ended in disaster when Leonov was unable to reenter the airlock due to stiffness of the inflated spacesuit. He had to bleed air from the suit in order to get into the airlock. After Leonov finally managed to get back into the spacecraft cabin, the primary hatch would not seal completely. The environmental control system compensated by flooding the cabin with oxygen, creating a serious fire hazard in a craft only qualified for sea level nitrogen-oxygen gas mixes (Cosmonaut Bondarenko had burned to death in a ground accident in such circumstances, preceding the Apollo 204 disaster by many years). On re-entry the primary retrorockets failed. A manually controlled retrofire was accomplished one orbit later (perhaps with the backup solid rocket retropack on the nose of spacecraft - which did not exist on Vostok). The service module failed to separate completely, leading to wild gyrations of the joined reentry sphere - service module before connecting wires burned through. Vostok 2 finally landed near Perm in the Ural mountains in heavy forest at 59:34 N 55:28 E on March 19, 1965 9:02 GMT. The crew spent the night in the woods, surrounded by wolves, before being located. Recovery crew had to chop down trees to clear a landing zone for helicopter recovery of the crew, who had to ski to the clearing from the spacecraft. Only some days later could the capsule itself be removed.
Although trumpeted to the world as a triumph (with suspect TV pictures and film of the spacewalk which did not match), this was the swan song of the Soviet space program and for Korolev. Further Voskhod missions were planned for 1966 and beyond, but they were cancelled in order that work could be concentrated on developing and building Soyuz. A Voskhod spacecraft re-fitted to carry two dogs took them on a flight which carried them into the lower layers of the van Allen radiation belts which surround the Earth. This was the Cosmos 110 mission of 1966. Another Voskhod objective, a two-week stay in orbit, was eventually achieved by Soyuz 9 in 1970.
On 1965's one rouble sheet, the picture is drawn cartoon style but the antennae are drawn almost correctly and one porthole is in the right place! Leonov 'swims' serenely in space while Pavel Belyaev looks as though he is driving a motor car. Belyaev (on the left) and Leonov are depicted in photographs.
The 1980 version is based on a painting by Leonov - a substitute for photographs which were not taken because of the difficulties Leonov had with his spacesuit. It shows the spherical heat-shielded cabin and the inflatable airlock which he used to exit from and re-enter the cabin. The inset 50 kopeck stamp shows the cosmonaut in his spacesuit as he would have been viewed by the camera which can be seen mounted on the rim of the open airlock.
After Mercury, questions of rendezvous and extravehicular activity still had to be answered. So on 3 January 1962 NASA announced a new manned spaceflight project, Gemini. Its two-man crew gave it its name, Gemini, for the third constellation of the Zodiac and its twin stars, Castor and Pollux. Gemini involved 12 flights, including two unmanned flight tests of the equipment.
Like Mercury's, its major objectives were clear-cut:
Using the basic configuration of the Mercury capsule enlarged to hold a two-man crew, Gemini was to fit between Mercury and Apollo and provide early answers to assist the design work on Apollo. The launch vehicle would be the Titan II missile being developed by the Air Force. More powerful than Atlas and Titan I, it would have the thrust to put the larger spacecraft into Earth orbit. For a target vehicle with which Gemini could rendezvous, NASA chose the Air Force's Agena; launched by an Atlas, the second-stage Agena had a restartable engine that enabled it to have both passive and active roles. Gemini would be managed by the same Space Task Group that was operating Mercury; the project director would be James A. Chamberlin,an early advocate of an enlarged Mercury capsule.
Gemini began as a Mark II Mercury, a "quick and dirty" program. The only major engineering change aside from scale-up was to modularize the various electrical and control assemblies and place them outside the inner shell of the spacecraft to simplify maintenance. But perhaps not an engineer alive could have left it at that. After all, Gemini was supposed to bridge to Apollo. Here was a chance to try out ideas. If they worked, they would be available for Apollo. There was the paraglider, for example, that Francis Rogallo had been experimenting with at Langley. If that worked, Gemini could forget parachutes and water landings with half the Navy out there; with a paraglider Gemini could land routinely on land. The spacecraft should be designed to have more aerodynamic lift than Mercury, so the pilot could have more landing control; fuel cells (instead of batteries) with enough electric power to support longer duration flights; and fighter plane-type ejection seats for crew abort, to supersede the launch escape rocket that perched on top of Mercury.
All these innovations were cranked into the program, and contracts and subcontracts were let for their design and fabrication. Soon the monthly bills for Gemini were running far beyond what had been budgeted. In every area, it seemed, there were costly problems. The paraglider and ejection seats would not stabilize in flight; the fuel cell leaked; Titan II had longitudinal oscillations --the dreaded "pogo" effect-- too severe for manned flights; Agena had reconfiguration problems. Cost overruns had become severe by late 1962; by March 1963 they were critical. The original program cost of $350 million had zoomed to over $1 billion --$200 million higher than the figures Associate Administrator Seamans had used in Congress a few days before! Charles W. Mathews, the new program manager, cracked down. Flight schedules were stretched out; the paraglider gradually slid out of the program. By early 1964 most of the engineering problems were responding to treatment.
As 1964 dawned, the worst of Gemini's troubles were behind. The spacecraft for the first flight was already at the Kennedy Space Center (Launch Operations Center, renamed in November 1963 by President Lyndon B. Johnson) being minutely checked out for the flight. Too minutely, too time-consumingly. Not until 8 April did Gemini I lift off unmanned into an orbit which confirmed the launch vehicle-spacecraft combination in the rigors of launch. The excessive checkout time of Gemini I generated a new procedure. Beginning with the next spacecraft, a contingent from the launch crew would work at the factory (McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis) to check out the spacecraft there. When it arrived at the Cape, it would be ready to be mated with its Titan II, have the pyrotechnics installed, and be launched. Only in this way could one hope to achieve the three-month launch cycle planned for Gemini.
The new system delayed the arrival of the second Gemini spacecraft at the Cape. There the curse set in. Once on the pad the spacecraft was struck by lightning, threatened by not one but two hurricanes, and forced to undergo check after check. And when launch day finally came in December, the engines ignited and then shut down. More rework.
Finally on 19 January 1965, Gemini 2 rose from the launch pad on the tail of almost colorless flame from Titan II's hypergolic propellants, and in a 19-minute flight confirmed the readiness of a fully equipped Gemini spacecraft and the integrity of the heatshield during reentry. Gemini was man-rated.
The final test flight, a manned, three-orbit qualification flight, was conducted on 23 March without incident. Now the diversified flight program could continue. One program objective was to orbit men in space for at least the week that it would take an Apollo flight to go to the Moon, land, and return. Gemini 4 (3-7 June) stayed aloft four days; Gemini 5 (21-29 August) doubled that time and surpassed the Soviet long-duration record; Gemini 7 (4-18 December) provided the clincher with 14 days (330 hours, 35 minutes). Of more lasting importance than the durability of the equipment was the encouraging medical news that no harmful effects were found from several weeks exposure to weightlessness. There were temporary effects, of course: heartbeat slowed down, blood tended to pool in the legs, the bones lost calcium, and other conditions appeared, but things seemed to stabilize after a few days in weightlessness and to return to normal after a few days back on Earth. So far there seemed to be no physiological time limit for humans living in space.
A crucial question for Apollo was whether the three rendezvous and docking maneuvers planned for every lunar flight were feasible. Gemini 3 made the tentative beginning by testing the new thruster rockets with shortburst firings that changed the height and shape of orbit, and one maneuver that for the first time shifted the plane of the flight path of a spacecraft. Gemini 4 tried to rejoin its discarded second-stage booster but faulty techniques burned up too much maneuvering fuel and the pursuit had to be abandoned --a valuable lesson; back to the computers for better techniques! Gemini 5 tested out the techniques and verified the performance of the rendezvous radar and rendezvous display in the cockpit.
Then came what is still referred to by NASA control room people with pride but also with slight shudders as "Gemini 76." The original mission plan called for a target Agena stage to be placed in orbit and for Gemini to launch in pursuit of it. But the Agena fell short of orbit and splashed into the Atlantic. The Gemini spacecraft suddenly had no mission. Round-the-clock debate and recomputation produced a seemingly bizarre solution, which within three days of the Agena failure was approved by Administrator Webb and President Johnson: remove the Gemini 6 spacecraft-launch vehicle combination intact from the launch pad and store it carefully to preserve the integrity of checkout; erect Gemini 7 on the launch pad, check it out and launch it; bring Gemini 6 out and launch it to rendezvous with the long-duration Gemini 7. It happened. Gemini 7 was launched 4 December 1965; Gemini 6 was back on the pad for launch by 12 December. On launch day the engines ignited, burned for four seconds, and shut off automatically when a trouble light lit up. On top of the fueled booster Astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., sat with his hand on the lanyard of the ejection seat while the control checked out the condition of the fueled booster. But the potential bomb did not explode. On 15 December Gemini 6 lifted off to join its sister ship in orbit. On his fourth orbit Schirra caught up to Gemini 7 and maneuvered to within 33 feet; in subsequent maneuvers he moved to within six inches. Rendezvous was feasible; was docking?
On 16 March 1966, Gemini 8 on its third orbit docked with its Agena target. Docking too was feasible, though in this case not for long. Less than half an hour after docking for an intended full night in the docked position, the two spacecraft unaccountably began to spin, faster and faster. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong could not stabilize the joined spacecraft, so he fired his Gemini thrusters to undock and maneuver away from the Agena. Still he could not control his single spacecraft with the thrusters; lives seemed in jeopardy. Finally he fired the reentry rockets, which did the job. By then ground control had figured out that one thruster had stuck in the firing position. Armstrong made an emergency landing off Okinawa. Despite hardware problems, docking had been established as feasible.
Rendezvous was new and difficult, so experimentation continued. Gemini 9 (3-6 June 1966) tried three kinds of rendezvous maneuvers with a special target stage as its passive partner, but docking was not possible because the shroud covering the target's docking mechanism had not separated. The shroud did not prevent simulation of an Apollo lunar orbit rendezvous. Gemini 10 (18-21 July 1966) did dock with its Agena target and used the powerful Agena engine to soar to a height of 474 miles, the highest in space man had ventured. It rendezvoused with the derelict Agena left in orbit by Gemini 8 four months earlier, using only optical methods and thereby demonstrating the feasibility of rendezvous with passive satellites for purpose of repairing them.
On the next flight Gemini 11 caught up with its target in its first orbit, demonstrating the possibility of quick rendezvous if necessary for rescue or other reasons. Each astronaut practiced docking twice. Using Agena propulsion, they rocketed out to 850 miles above the Earth, another record. The final Gemini flight, Gemini 12 (11 November 1966), rendezvoused with its target Agena on the third orbit and kept station with it.
Would astronauts be able to perform useful work outside their spacecraft when in orbit or on the Moon? This was the question extravehicular activity (EVA) was designed to answer. The answers proved to be various and more difficult than had been envisioned.
Gemini 4 began EVA when Edward H. White II floated outside his spacecraft for 23 minutes. Protected by his spacesuit and attached to Gemini by a 26 foot umbilical cord, White used a handheld maneuvering unit to move about, took photographs, and in general had such an exhilarating experience that he had to be ordered back into the spacecraft. Because he had no specific work tasks to perform, his EVA seemed deceptively easy.
That illusion was rudely shattered by the experience of Gemini 9, when Eugene A. Cernan spent 2 hours in EVA; he had tasks to perform in several areas on the spacecraft. His major assignment was to go behind the spacecraft into the adapter area, put on the 165-pound astronaut maneuvering unit --a more powerful individual flight propulsion system the Air Force had built-- and try it out. The effort to get the unit harnessed to his back was so intense that excessive perspiration within his spacesuit overtaxed the system and fogged his visor. The experiment was abandoned and he was ordered back into the spacecraft.
Much more pleasant was the experience of Michael Collins on Gemini 10. He tried two kinds of EVA: the first time he stood in the open hatch for 45 minutes and made visual observations and took pictures; the second time he went out on a 33-foot long tether, maneuvering for 55 minutes with the handheld maneuvering unit and even propelled himself over to the station-keeping Agena and removed a micrometeoroid-impact experiment which had been in space for four months. But reality raised its ugly head again during Gemini 11 when Richard F. Gordon, Jr., was assigned a full schedule of work tasks along the spacecraft but had to terminate after 33 minutes because of fatigue. He had battled himself to exhaustion trying to control his bodily movements and fight against the opposite torque that any simple motion set in train. It was Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion in pure form.
NASA had learned its lesson. When Gemini 12 went up, many additional body restraints and hand and footholds had been added. Astronauts had trained for the strange floating sensation by doing the same assignments in water tanks on Earth. Results were gratifying; in a 2 hour 6 minute tethered EVA (aside from two standup EVAs) Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., successfully performed 19 separate tasks. Total EVA on this flight added up to 5 hours 28 minutes.
On the last seven flights, Gemini experimented with the aerodynamic lift of the spacecraft to ensure pinpoint landings on Earth's surface; with the dispersions possible when Apollo came in from 230,000 miles away, tired astronauts would need this. The inertial guidance system provided inputs to the computer, which solved the guidance equations. On flights 6-10 the reentry was controlled by the crew. On the last two flights the data were fed into the automatic system. Results were promising. The average navigational accuracy of the seven flights was within 2 miles of the aiming point, much better than previous flights.
Gemini was primarily a technological learning experience. So it is not surprising that of the 52 experiments in the program, more than half (27) were technological, exploring the limits of the equipment. But there were also 17 scientific experiments and 8 medical ones. An important one was the 1400 color photographs taken of Earth from various altitudes. This provided the investigators the first large corpus of color photographs from which to learn more about the planet on which we live.
Probably the most valuable management payoff from Gemini was the operational one: how to live and maneuver in space; next was how to handle a variety of situations in space by exploiting the versatility and depth of the vast NASA-contractor team that stood by during flights. Finally there were valuable fiscal lessons: an advanced technology program had a "best path" between too slow and too fast. Deviation on either side, as had occurred in the early days of Gemini, could cost appalling amounts of money. But once on track, even economies were possible. Once Gemini flights were on track, for example, associate administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller (successor to Holmes) had won agreement from his principal contractors to cut the three-month period between launches to two months. This was primarily to get Gemini out of the way before Apollo launches started, but it paid off financially, too; where total program costs for Gemini were estimated in 1964 to be $1.35 billion, the actual cost closed out at $1.29 billion.
This, then, was Gemini, a versatile, flexible spacecraft system that wound up exploring many more nooks and crannies of spaceflight than its originators ever foresaw--which is as it should be. Major lessons were transmitted to Apollo; rendezvous, yes; docking, yes; EVA, yes; manned flights up to two weeks in duration, yes. Equally important, there was now a big experience factor for the astronauts and for the people on the ground, in the control room, around the tracking network, in industry. The system had proved itself in the pit; it had evolved a total team that had solved realtime problems in space with men's lives at stake. This was no mean legacy to Apollo.
Some of the technological payoff had come too late. With the increasing sophistication of Gemini and the consequent slippage of both financial and engineering schedules, the Apollo designers and engineers sometimes had to invent their own wheel. But the state of the art had been advanced: thrusters, fuel cells, environmental control systems, space navigation, spacesuits, and other equipment. In the development stage of Apollo the bank of knowledge from Gemini paid off in hundreds of subtle ways. The bridge had been built.
FLIGHTS Gemini III, MOLLY BROWN March 23, 1965 Virgil I. Grissom, John W. Young 04 hours, 52 minutes 31 seconds First manned Gemini flight, three orbits. Gemini IV June 03-07, 1965 James A. McDivitt, Edward H. White II 4 days 1 hour 56min 12 seconds Included first extravehicular activity (EVA) by an American; White's "space walk" was a 22 minute EVA exercise. Gemini V August 21-29, 1965 L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., Charles Conrad, Jr. 7 days 22 hours 55 min 14 seconds First use of fuel cells for electrical power; evaluated guidance and navigation system for future rendezvous missions. Completed 120 orbits. Gemini VII December 04-18, 1965 Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr. 13 days, 18 hours, 35 minutes 1 seconds When the Gemini VI mission was scrubbed because its Agena target for rendezvous and docking failed, Gemini VII was used for the rendezvous instead. Primary objective was to determine whether humans could live in space for 14 days. Gemini VI December 15-16, 1965 Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Thomas P. Stafford 1 Day 1 hour 51 min 24 seconds First space rendezvous accomplished with Gemini VII, station-keeping for over five hours at distances from 0.3 to 90 m (1 to 295 ft). Gemini VIII March 16, 1966 Neil A. Armstrong, David R. Scott 10 hours, 41 minutes 26 seconds Accomplished first docking with another space vehicle, an unmanned Agena stage. A malfunction caused uncontrollable spinning of the craft; the crew undocked and effected the first emergency landing of a manned U.S. space mission. Gemini IX June 03-06, 1966 Thomas P. Stafford, Eugene A. Cernan 3 days, 21 hours Rescheduled from May to rendezvous and dock with augmented target docking adapter (ATDA) after original Agena target vehicle failed to orbit. ATDA shroud did not completely separate, making docking impossible. Three different types of rendezvous, two hours of EVA, and 44 orbits were completed. Gemini X July 18-21, 1966 John W. Young, Michael Collins 2 days 22 hours 46 min 39 seconds First use of Agena target vehicle's propulsion systems. Spacecraft also rendezvoused with Gemini VIII target vehicle. Collins had 49 minutes of EVA standing in the hatch and 39 minutes of EVA to retrieve experiment from Agena stage. 43 orbits completed. Gemini XI September 12-15, 1966 Charles Conrad, Jr., Richard F. Gordon, Jr. 2 days 23 hours 17 min 8 seconds Gemini record altitude, 1,189.3 km (739.2 mi) reached using Agena propulsion system after first orbit rendezvous and docking. Gordon made 33-minute EVA and two-hour standup EVA. 44 orbits. Gemini XII November 11-15, 1966 James A. Lovell, Jr., Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. 3 days, 22 hours, 34 minutes 31 seconds Final Gemini flight. Rendezvoused and docked with its target Agena and kept station with it during EVA. Aldrin set an EVA record of 5 hours, 30 minutes for one space walk and two stand-up exercises.