Gemini VI-A (foreground) and Gemini VII make the first rendezvous in orbit between two crewed spacecraft, December 15, 1965
Gemini VI-A (foreground) and Gemini VII make the first rendezvous in orbit between two crewed spacecraft, December 15, 1965

The Gemini astronauts were sixteen pilots who flew in Project Gemini, NASA's second human spaceflight program, between projects Mercury and Apollo. Carrying two astronauts at a time, a senior Command Pilot and a junior Pilot, the Gemini spacecraft was used for ten crewed missions. Four of the sixteen astronauts flew twice.[1][2]

Gemini was the second phase in the United States space program's larger goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" before the end of the 1960s, as proposed by president John F. Kennedy. As an intermediary step, Gemini afforded its astronauts the opportunity to gain critical spaceflight experience, performing tasks required in the later Apollo program which fulfilled this objective. Such tasks included rendezvous or station-keeping with other craft, docking, habitation in space over the course of several days, and flying spacecraft with more than one crew member. Importantly, most individuals who flew as Gemini astronauts returned to space as key personnel in the Apollo program, bringing with them their first-hand experience of the operations carried out during Gemini. Among the Gemini astronauts, six later walked on the Moon, another five flew to the Moon without landing, and two participated in Low Earth orbit Apollo missions. Gus Grissom and Ed White were killed in the Apollo 1 disaster, and former Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper did not perform any further spaceflights.

All Gemini astronauts–excluding the Mercury Seven astronauts already included–were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1993.[3]

Astronaut participation in Project Gemini was also a strong predictor for future achievement during the Apollo Program:

The Gemini Astronauts[a]
Mission Command Pilot Crew Portrait Pilot
Name Spaceflight AG Service Name Spaceflight AG Service
Gemini 3 Gus Grissom Second and last 1 USAF John Young First of six 2 USN
Gemini 4 James McDivitt First of two 2 USAF Ed White First and only 2 USAF
Gemini 5 Gordon Cooper Second and last 1 USAF Pete Conrad First of four 2 USN
Gemini 7 Frank Borman First of two 2 USAF Jim Lovell First of four 2 USN
Gemini 6A Wally Schirra Second of three 1 USN Tom Stafford First of four 2 USAF
Gemini 8 Neil Armstrong First of two 2 Civilian[b] David Scott First of three 3 USAF
Gemini 9A Tom Stafford Second of four 2 USAF Gene Cernan First of three 3 USN
Gemini 10 John Young Second of six 2 USN Michael Collins First of two 3 USAF
Gemini 11 Pete Conrad Second of four 2 USN Richard Gordon First of two 3 USN
Gemini 12 Jim Lovell Second of four 2 USN Buzz Aldrin First of two 3 USAF

Key

Later walked on the Moon as an Apollo astronaut
Later flew to the Moon as an Apollo astronaut, without landing
Later flew a low-Earth orbit mission as an Apollo astronaut
Performed no later spaceflights
Later killed in the Apollo 1 disaster

Notes

  1. ^ Sixteen astronauts filled twenty crew positions, over ten two-man missions. Young, Conrad, Lovell and Stafford each made their first spaceflights as junior Pilots before being promoted to Command Pilots on the program's last four missions.
  2. ^ Armstrong had served in the US Navy and United States Navy Reserve from 1949 to 1960, but was retired from active duty when he became a NASA astronaut.[4]

References

  1. ^ Williams, David (December 30, 2004). "The Gemini Program (1962–1966)". NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive. NASA.
  2. ^ "Gemini". Astronautix. Wade, Mark. Retrieved November 11, 2022.
  3. ^ Clark, Amy (March 14, 1993). "Activities Honor Gemini Astronauts". Florida Today. Cocoa, Florida. p. 41 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ "Ex-Lieutenant (junior grade) Neil Alden Armstrong, U.S. Naval Reserve, Transcript of Naval Service" (PDF). United States Navy. March 27, 1967. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 6, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2018.