Fifty years ago, on May 18, 1969, Apollo 10 was poised to be the final dress rehearsal for the Moon landing. Their mission was to test the full process of a moon landing, without actually landing on it! They brought the LEM, Snoopy to within 9 miles of the lunar surface, then separating from the decent stage, and bringing the ascent stage back to the command module, Charlie Brown.
The crew of Ten were all veterans of the Gemini program as had been previously mentioned. John W. Young had flown on Gemini 3 and Gemini 10, and Thomas P. Stafford had flown on Gemini 6 and Gemini 9 the latter with Eugene A. Cernan. The two man spacecraft was named after the constellation of the Twins.
The Gemini was a remarkable spacecraft and its design was versatile with the potential of expanding its use to other possible applications. Besides powering Gemini into space, its Titan II booster could carry nuclear warheads and so were used as a deterrent during the cold war.
An extension to the Gemini missions was proposed that would have it circumnavigate around the moon and/or possibly land on the moon at lower costs than Apollo.
Another advanced concept, “Big G” a 12-man spacecraft, having the same exterior geometry of Gemini but with new, state-of-the-art subsystems and could have been used to shuttle up to 12 astronauts to a planned space station. These ideas were abandoned by NASA, feeling the program met its objectives, amassing practical experience for project Apollo.
The Air Force considered using Gemini for military missions. Called project Blue Gemini, it was to be launched into space on a Titan IIIC booster. It could have its astronauts make ground observations from an orbital platform and practice making rendezvous with suspicious satellites. It was intended eventually to use an airfoil and land on three skids on land, rather than have the Navy get involved with recovery.
For the record, project Blue Gemini never took flight publicly. But who knows? Maybe it could have been used secretly by the military. I like to imagine that besides being used for secret terrestrial military adventures, it could have been used for extraterrestrial reconnaissance and defense. (a Project SHADO of sorts a.k.a. Gerry Anderson’s 1970 British-Sci-Fi television series, UFO.)
The Gemini program had its fair share of danger and excitement. Its many objectives of space-walks as well as rendezvous and docking were completed paving the way for Apollo to go from the Earth to the Moon.
Gemini and the Saying of Names
Gemini did not seem to garner the romantic appeal that the Mercury Seven did or the Apollo moon-walkers did. It was like the middle step child of space programs. Maybe because newscasters covering the program had trouble with the pronunciation of Gemini or jem-in-knee or others might say jem-in-eye, which I like to say. NASA always pronounced it jem-in-knee as seen in these news broadcasts: Here and Here. Vintage Space even addressed it in an episode here.
There are other examples of astronomical [mis]pronunciations: Betelgeuse – bee-tell-juice but more appropriately bet-el-gooz; Chiron – sometimes called care -ron but more appropriately chi’-ron; Procyon – pro-see-yarn but more appropriately pro-Cyon, etc.
Gemini, the constellation of heavenly twins claim a unique distinction of having been part of a planet discovered with a troublesome name, that being Uranus. Some say it: U-ra-nus, or Your-ran-us but most notable it is called U- Rain-Us. And if you drop that “r” well then, oh boy.