This month’s image is a NASA diagram of the classic 1960s Gemini spacecraft.  Ten of these craft carried twenty astronauts into orbit between March 1965 and November 1966, filling the gap between the pioneering Mercury flights and the Moon-focused Apollo missions. These were essential to investigate just how to perform orbital rendezvous, docking and EVAs.

Image of gemini spacecraft

Gemini Spacecraft: The red and gold spheres in the Equipment Module are propellant tanks and the red cylinder in the nose is the parachute pack. Originally this vehicle was to have glided back to Earth on a hangglider-style parawing. (Image credit: NASA)


Essentially enlarged derivatives of the single seat Mercury capsule, Geminis were launched on top of Titan II boosters (converted from ICBMs). The crew sat side by side in a cosy cockpit in the black-painted Re-entry Module, behind this was the white Equipment Module which housed the fuel cells and propulsion system.

Gemini was a fine vehicle and the project met all of the major objectives set for it during its brief career. Modified Gemini craft were to have continued to fly into the 1970’s as military vehicles (Blue Gemini), space station supply craft (Big Gemini) and as the return capsule of the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory. None of these were built. Amazingly in 2011, an outfit called Space Operations Inc proposed launching updated Geminis (rebadged as Eclipse spacecraft) for commercial clients!


Peter · October 10, 2011 at 23:23

That picture (how did you find that?) with what looks like a single seat would explain why I had memories of this thing as a mercury capsule – must have been about 1979/80. I suppose back then the Gemini and Apollo era was little over 10-15 years ago!

    admin · October 12, 2011 at 09:14

    It just took a Google Image search for “you only live twice gemini space capsule”. Weirdly I remembered it as having two seats, I thought my brother was able to clamber in beside me in the ’70s!

Peter · October 8, 2011 at 20:15

Whatever did happen to that capsule – I remember not being able to get into it due to the queue – some sort of film extra. Someone in the Planetarium must know where it is? I wonder how many other people remember it as the highlight of their school trip! Would be nice to see something similar back again.

    admin · October 10, 2011 at 10:06

    Hi Peter, there have been many changes of personnel here over the years and in fact we have only one staff member who was here when the Gemini left. His recollection is that it was not actually “our’s” but had been on long term loan from the Science Museum and was returned to it. We believe that it was originally contructed for the Bond movie “You Only Live Twice”, if so it was apparently on display in Portsmouth in 1998 (see image half way down ).

    Anyone out there know where it is today?

David Jones · October 6, 2011 at 19:55

There were also (never implemented) plans to use Gemini as a Saturn V based direct lunar lander, and also as a rescue craft for a stranded Apollo.

    admin · October 6, 2011 at 20:27

    Yes I’d heard of those but this article was just an extended picture caption, to be honest Gemini deserves a much longer article than this. Sometime in the next few months I’ll have to do one on the missions which flew and time-permitting another on the unbuilt variants. Thanks for the interest!

Paul Evans · September 30, 2011 at 17:09

Marvellous picture! Having seen a Gemini capsule at KSC I’d say “cosy” is a massive understatement as a description of the cockpit – it was positively cramped, indeed the early astronauts were recruited on the basis of being “compact” folk!


UFOs, Astronauts and aeroplanes | Astronotes · October 15, 2013 at 03:03

[…] White and James McDivitt reported sighting an object they could not identify during the Gemini 4 mission in June 1965. At the time NORAD was unable to find the object in their catalogue of […]

Apollo 16 : 40 years on | Astronotes · October 15, 2013 at 02:57

[…] W. Young operated a flight computer on Gemini 3 in March 1965, was commander on Gemini 10, and was Command Module pilot of the Apollo 10 Mission.  He was also on the backup space flight […]

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