Friday, December 5, 2008

Gemini VII in orbit

The Gemini program concentrated on answering some basic questions that needed to be resolved before the moon landing missions could be attempted. One of these was, can people live in space for 14 days, the maximum length for a moon mission? To find out, Gemini VII was launched on December 4, 1965 for a 14-day mission.

Command Pilot Frank Borman and Pilot Jim Lovell lived for two weeks in an enclosure the size of the front seat of a Volkswagen Beetle - most of the time wearing pressure suits! This is another one of those scenarios that's difficult for me to imagine. Lovell said that he could either stretch his legs or straighten his back, but not at the same time. I just can't picture how they could remove their suits, and where they could put them once they had come off. To top off the ordeal, a urine sample bag ruptured the first day of the mission, which made the capsule smell like a public restroom for the remainder of the two weeks.

When the crew emerged on December 18, the crew jokingly remarked that they were now engaged to be married.

I recently took this photo of the Gemini VII capsule at the NASM Udvar-Hazy Center. You can see the headrest and part of Borman's seat in the foreground, and the bottom of Lovell's seat on the other side of the flight control grip.

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