Gemini VI-A (foreground) and Gemini VII make the first rendezvous in orbit between two manned spacecraft

The Gemini astronauts were 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. Sixteen astronauts flew on these missions, with four flying 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:

  • Every Apollo mission commander, including Gus Grissom and with the exception of Alan Shepard, was a Gemini veteran.
  • All three crew members of Apollo 11, the first lunar landing-Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin-were Gemini veterans.
  • All three of the men who flew to the Moon twice-Jim Lovell, John Young and Gene Cernan-were Gemini veterans.
  • With the exception of Elliot See, every member of NASA's second Astronaut Group—the class of nine men selected following the Mercury Seven—flew as a Gemini astronaut.
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 Gemini3 crew.jpg John Young First of six 2 USN
Gemini 4 James McDivitt First of two 2 USAF Gemini 4 crew portrait.jpg Ed White First and only 2 USAF
Gemini 5 Gordon Cooper Second and last 1 USAF S65-46990.jpg Pete Conrad First of four 2 USN
Gemini 7 Frank Borman First of two 2 USAF Gemini 7 Crew (Lovell und Borman).jpg Jim Lovell First of four 2 USN
Gemini 6A Wally Schirra Second of three 1 USN Gemini 6 prime crew.jpg Tom Stafford First of four 2 USAF
Gemini 8 Neil Armstrong First of two 2 USN Portrait of the Gemini 8 prime crew.jpg David Scott First of three 3 USAF
Gemini 9A Tom Stafford Second of four 2 USAF Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene A. Cernan – Gemini 9 Crew (S66-15621).jpg Gene Cernan First of three 3 USN
Gemini 10 John Young Second of six 2 USN Gemini 10 prime crew (Young and Collins).jpg Michael Collins First of two 3 USAF
Gemini 11 Pete Conrad Second of four 2 USN Gemini 11 prime crew (Gordon and Conrad).jpg Richard Gordon First of two 3 USN
Gemini 12 Jim Lovell Second of four 2 USN Gemini 12 prime crew (Aldrin and Lovell).jpg 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 Command Pilots on the program's last four missions.

References

  1. ^ Williams, David (December 30, 2004). "The Gemini Program (1962-1966)". NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive. NASA.
  2. ^ "Gemini". Astronautix. Wade, Mark. 2017.
  3. ^ Clark, Amy (March 14, 1993). "Activities Honor Gemini Astronauts". Florida Today. Cocoa, Florida. p. 41 – via Newspapers.com.