Sunday, August 27, 2006
It is often claimed that the Space Shuttle is the worlds first reusable spacecraft and that STS-2 was the first time a manned spacecraft flew twice into orbit. While that is technically true, this Gemini spacecraft was actually the first to fly into space twice. It's first mission was the last test flight of the Gemini-Titan series before Gus Grissom and John Young flew GT-3 into orbit. Later, this same Gemini capsule was refurbished and used to test the MOL (Manned Orbiting Laboratory) military program. MOL was to use Gemini spacecraft to launch and man a laboratory attached behind the Gemini. In order to get into the lab however, without doing a spacewalk, the plan was to have a hatch that passed through the heat shield into the lab! This Gemini spacecraft proved the concept and survived its re-entry with the modified heatshield. It was launched aboard a Titan IIIC on November 3, 1966 and completed its mission flawlessly. It is now displayed in the Air Force Museum at the Titan launch complex on Cape Canaveral and can be seen on the Cape Canaveral tour from the KSC visitors center. A photograph of its MOL launch aboard the Titan IIIC is visible on the wall to the left of the spacecraft. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/40 seconds at f/3.5, ISO 1600.