Paving the Path for Apollo
Jan. 16, 2012 -- The 1960s were an amazing time for American space exploration. Major milestones were being reached nearly every year, from Alan Shepard's first manned flight into space in 1961 to John Glenn's historic first orbit the following year, while energetic programs like Mercury, Gemini and Apollo culminated with a successful lunar landing on July 20, 1969.
These missions pushed the boundaries of technology, created heroes, and continue to inspire millions around the world.
Of particular importance were the Gemini missions, which prepared engineers and astronauts for the specific challenges of a full-scale lunar mission. Extravehicular activities, spacecraft docking, and orbit adjustments were all perfected during Gemini missions... often by men who would continue on to become Apollo astronauts.
Researchers at Arizona State University and Johnson Space Center have compiled a new online database of rescanned photographs taken by Gemini astronauts during their time in orbit.
Shown here are some of my favorites, cropped to fit the format of this page. I strongly suggest you visit the site for many more wonderfully restored images from an amazing era in NASA's history.
On June 3, 1965, Gemini IV astronaut Ed White became the first American to "walk" in space. He's seen here tethered by a 25-foot gold foil-wrapped umbilical line high above the California coast.
Cottony clouds float above the rugged Atlas Mountains of North Africa in this photo, taken by Gemini V pilot Charles Conrad on Aug. 27, 1965.
A full moon hovers over a sea of clouds above the western Pacific Ocean in this photo, taken on Dec. 8, 1965 by Gemini VII pilot Jim Lovell.
On July 18, 1966, Gemini X astronauts John Young and Michael Collins successfully docked with two Agena booster rockets while in orbit. This is one of the Agena boosters seen from the Gemini window at a range of 62 feet (19m).
During the final flight of the program, Gemini XII approaches the western coast of Florida on Nov. 12, 1966 while docked to an Agena booster. Aboard were astronauts Jim Lovell and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.
An intriguing portrait of Gemini X Commander John Young while in orbit on July 18, 1966.
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