Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spacecraft of the Week #17

Gemini VIII is this weeks featured spacecraft. Commanded by Neil Armstrong and piloted by David Scott, this spacecraft successfully launched to and docked with an Agena target vehicle in 1966.

Shortly after docking, the spacecraft began rolling on its long access access. The Agena was shut down, but the problem persisted. Scott noticed the ships fuel supply was dropping, indicating the problem was with the Gemini. The astronauts undocked the two spacecraft and began to move away.

However, just like an ice skater who accelerates her spin by bringing in her arms (the conservation of angular momentum), the Gemini began to rapidly roll, reaching a rate of one revolution per second. This threatened the astronauts who risked losing their visual acuity and or consciousness. Armstrong reacted quickly by disabling the Gemini's system of thrusters, and, using the backup reentry thrusters, regained control of the ship. This act would cut short their mission to just 10 hours.

Though many mission objectives remained unfulfilled, Armstrong's quick reaction and presence of mind would be a factor in his selection to command Americas first mission to the lunar surface. Launched this week in 1966, and now on display at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, the 17th Spacecraft of the Week, Gemini VIII.

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