Gemini 7
Gemini 7 was a 1965 manned spaceflight in NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's Gemini program. It was the 4th manned Gemini
Project Gemini
Project Gemini was the second human spaceflight program of NASA, the civilian space agency of the United States government. Project Gemini was conducted between projects Mercury and Apollo, with ten manned flights occurring in 1965 and 1966....

 flight, the 12th manned American flight and the 20th spaceflight of all time (includes X-15 flights over 100 kilometres (328,084 ft)). The crew of Frank F. Borman, II and James A. Lovell, Jr spent nearly 13 2/3 days
in space for a total of 206 orbits, and were joined on orbit by the Gemini-6A flight
which performed the first rendezvous maneuver of manned spacecraft.


Backup crew

Mission parameters

  • Mass
    Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

    8080 pounds (3,665 kg)
  • Perigee
    Perigee is the point at which an object makes its closest approach to the Earth.. Often the term is used in a broader sense to define the point in an orbit where the orbiting body is closest to the body it orbits. The opposite is the apogee, the farthest or highest point.The Greek prefix "peri"...

    87.3 nautical miles (161.7 km)
  • Apogee: 177.2 nautical miles (328.2 km)
  • Inclination
    Inclination in general is the angle between a reference plane and another plane or axis of direction.-Orbits:The inclination is one of the six orbital parameters describing the shape and orientation of a celestial orbit...

  • Period
    Orbital period
    The orbital period is the time taken for a given object to make one complete orbit about another object.When mentioned without further qualification in astronomy this refers to the sidereal period of an astronomical object, which is calculated with respect to the stars.There are several kinds of...

    89.39 min

Stationkeeping with GT-6A

  • Start: December 15, 1965 19:33 UTC
  • End: December 16, 1965 00:52 UTC
  • Gemini 6 and 7


Gemini 7 was originally intended to fly after Gemini 6, but the original Gemini 6 mission was cancelled after the failure during launch of the Agena Target Vehicle
Agena Target Vehicle
The Agena Target Vehicle was an unmanned spacecraft used by NASA during its Gemini program to develop and practice orbital space rendezvous and docking techniques and to perform large orbital changes, in preparation for the Apollo program lunar missions.-Operations:Each ATV consisted of an Agena-D...

 with which it was meant to rendezvous and dock. The objective of rendezvous was so important, that it was decided to fly Gemini 6 at the same time as Gemini 7, using the latter as the rendezvous target.

The original mission of Gemini 7 changed little with these new plans. It was always planned to be a long duration flight, investigating the effects of fourteen days in space on the human body
Human body
The human body is the entire structure of a human organism, and consists of a head, neck, torso, two arms and two legs.By the time the human reaches adulthood, the body consists of close to 100 trillion cells, the basic unit of life...

. This doubled the length of time that anyone had been in space and stood as the longest spaceflight duration record for five years.

This 14 day mission required NASA to solve problems of long-duration space flight, not the least of which was stowage (the crew had practiced stuffing waste paper behind their seats before the flight). Timing their workday to match that of ground crews, both men worked and slept at the same time. Gemini VII flew the most experiments – 20 – of any Gemini mission, including studies of nutrition in space. The astronauts also evaluated a new lightweight spacesuit, which proved uncomfortable if worn for a long time in Gemini's hot, cramped quarters. The high point of the mission was the rendezvous with Gemini VI. But the three days that followed were something of an endurance test, and both astronauts, heeding Pete Conrad
Pete Conrad
Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr. was an American naval officer, astronaut and engineer, and the third person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 12 mission. He set an eight-day space endurance record along with command pilot Gordon Cooper on the Gemini 5 mission, and commanded the Gemini 11 mission...

's Gemini V advice, brought books along. Gemini VII was the longest space flight in U.S. history until the Skylab
Skylab was a space station launched and operated by NASA, the space agency of the United States. Skylab orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems. It was launched unmanned by a modified Saturn V rocket, with a mass of...

 missions of the 1970s.


Their launch and ascent was nominal. After separating from the spent rocket stage, they turned the spacecraft around and proceeded to station keep
Orbital stationkeeping
In astrodynamics orbital station-keeping is a term used to describe the orbital maneuvers made by thruster burns that are needed to keep a spacecraft in a particular assigned orbit.For many Earth satellites the effects of the non-Keplerian forces, i.e...

 with the rocket stage. They spent fifteen minutes formation flying with the stage, but Borman felt they were using too much fuel and the rocket stage was acting erratically as it vented its own fuel.

They spent the rest of their first day in space doing some experiments and eating their first meal. Their sleep periods were scheduled at the same time unlike previous missions and they were able to get some sleep. The next morning they woke at 9:06 am EST and found out the day's news which included the fact that two airliners had collided over New York
1965 Carmel mid-air collision
The 1965 Carmel mid-air collision occurred on December 4, 1965 when Eastern Air Lines Flight 853 , a Lockheed Super Constellation en route from Boston Logan International Airport to Newark International Airport, collided in mid-air with Trans World Airlines Flight 42 , a Boeing 707-131B en route...

. For the first time during a flight, one of the crew was allowed to take off his suit. Borman and Lovell had planned to both take them off two days into the mission when they were satisfied that the environmental system was working properly. The NASA managers did not like this idea and said that at least one crew member had to be wearing a suit at all times. Borman was wearing his suit and was sweating profusely, but agreed to let Lovell stay out his suit as Lovell was the larger of the two and it required a lot of effort to get in and out of a suit in little more space than the front seat of a car.

In the end, the flight controllers ordered Lovell to don his suit and Borman to get out of his. This was because the doctors wanted to see the effects of being suited and unsuited on the crewmembers. So 148 hours into the flight, Borman got his chance to cool down. In the end, the NASA managers decided that there was little benefit in having the crew members suited and so relented after a couple of days.

After five days, they had performed four orbital adjustment burns that put them in a circular 162 nautical miles (300 km) orbit. This meant that the Gemini 7 spacecraft could stay in orbit for at least 100 days without its orbit degrading, more than stable enough for the passive target during a space rendezvous
Space rendezvous
A space rendezvous is an orbital maneuver during which two spacecraft, one of which is often a space station, arrive at the same orbit and approach to a very close distance . Rendezvous requires a precise match of the orbital velocities of the two spacecraft, allowing them to remain at a constant...


On their 31st orbit Gemini 7 observed the underwater launch, missile and exhaust trail of a Polaris Missile from the submarine USS Benjamin Franklin
USS Benjamin Franklin (SSBN-640)

 off Florida.


Gemini 6A
Gemini 6A
-Backup crew:-Mission parameters:* Mass: * Perigee: * Apogee: * Inclination: 28.97°* Period: 88.7 min-Stationkeeping with GT-7:* Start: December 15, 1965 19:33 UTC* End: December 16, 1965 00:52 UTC-Objectives:...

 launched December 15, after a three-day-long delay due to a malfunction and engine shutdown immediately after ignition. It entered into an 87 by orbit, and was briefly visible from Gemini 7 just after launch. Borman and Lovell were also able to see the contrail
Contrails or vapour trails are artificial clouds that are the visible trails of condensed water vapour made by the exhaust of aircraft engines...

 from the launch.

The plan called for the rendezvous to take place on the fourth orbit of Gemini 6A. Their first burn came 94 minutes after launch when they increased their velocity by 16.5 ft/sec (5m/sec). Due to their lower orbit they were gaining on Gemini 7 and were 634 nautical miles (1,174.2 km) behind. The next burn was at 2 hours and 18 minutes when Gemini 6A made a phase adjustment to put them on the same orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

al inclination as Gemini 7. They now only trailed by 261 nautical miles (483.4 km).

The radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 on Gemini 6A first made contact with Gemini 7 at 3 hours and 15 minutes when they were 234 nautical miles (433.4 km) away. A third burn put them into a 146 by orbit. As they slowly gained, Walter Schirra put Gemini 6A's computer in charge of the rendezvous, and at 5 hours and 4 minutes, he saw a bright object that he at first thought was the star Sirius
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name "Sirius" is derived from the Ancient Greek: Seirios . The star has the Bayer designation Alpha Canis Majoris...

, but was in fact Gemini 7.

After several more burns the two spacecraft were only 130 feet (39.6 m) apart. The burns had only used 110 pounds (49.9 kg) of fuel on Gemini 6A, leaving plenty of fuel. During the next 270 minutes the crews moved as close as 1 feet (30.5 cm), talking over the radio. At one stage the spacecraft were station-keeping so well that neither crew had to make any burns for 20 minutes.

As the sleep periods approached, Gemini 6A made a separation burn and slowly drifted out to 16 kilometers, to prevent an accidental collision in the night. Gemini 6A reentered the next day, landing within 9.7 nautical miles (18 km) of the planned site, the first truly accurate atmospheric reentry
Atmospheric reentry
Atmospheric entry is the movement of human-made or natural objects as they enter the atmosphere of a celestial body from outer space—in the case of Earth from an altitude above the Kármán Line,...


Last few days

By this time the novelty of spaceflight had worn off for the crew of Gemini 7. They had spent 11 days in space already and had three more to go. They were doing little more than drifting around the Earth and the incentive of the rendezvous had gone. Borman read Roughing It
Roughing It
Roughing It is a book of semi-autobiographical travel literature written by American humorist Mark Twain. It was written during 1870–71 and published in 1872 as a prequel to his first book Innocents Abroad...

by Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

 and Lovell Drums along the Mohawk
Drums Along the Mohawk (novel)
Drums Along the Mohawk is a novel by American author Walter D. Edmonds which follows the lives of fictional Gil and Lana Martin, settlers in the Mohawk Valley of the New York frontier during the American Revolution...

by Walter D. Edmonds
Walter D. Edmonds
Walter "Walt" Dumaux Edmonds was an American author noted for his historical novels, including the popular Drums Along the Mohawk , which was successfully made into a Technicolor feature film in 1939 directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert.-Life:In 1919 he entered The...


Malfunctions began to start. Some of the thrusters stopped working. After the flight this was traced to the fact that they had an old type of laminate in the thrust chamber. Also on the 12th day the fuel cell
Fuel cell
A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. Hydrogen is the most common fuel, but hydrocarbons such as natural gas and alcohols like methanol are sometimes used...

s started to give only a partial amount of power. But the manufacturers of the Gemini spacecraft decided that the spacecraft could survive by battery power alone for the next couple of days.

Finally the last day of the mission arrived and the crew stored everything for re-entry. The retro-rockets
A retrorocket is a rocket engine providing thrust opposing the motion of a spacecraft, thereby causing it to decelerate.-History:...

 worked perfectly, even after 14 days in space. They landed within 6.4 nautical miles (11.9 km) of the targeted landing point.

The crew were somewhat weakened by their time in space, but both were in good health and were up and about after a good night's sleep on the recovery ship USS Wasp
USS Wasp (CV-18)
USS Wasp was one of 24 s built during World War II for the United States Navy. The ship, the ninth US Navy ship to bear the name, was originally named Oriskany, but was renamed while under construction in honor of the previous , which was sunk 15 September 1942...

. They were also in good spirits: during recovery, they joked to Mission Control about getting married after having spent so long together in space.

The Gemini 7 & 6A missions were supported by the following U.S. Department of Defense resources: 10,125 personnel, 125 aircraft and 16 ships.


The patch features an Olympic torch, symbolizing the marathon-like length of the mission. There is a small stylized image of a Gemini spacecraft and the roman numerals
Roman numerals
The numeral system of ancient Rome, or Roman numerals, uses combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet to signify values. The numbers 1 to 10 can be expressed in Roman numerals as:...

 VII for seven. The crew did not put its names on the patch, although souvenir versions did include the flight and crew names. The crew patch was designed by Houston Artist and animator, Bill Bradley.

As with some other missions, the backup crew did a spoof of the patch, featuring an unlit torch, a lighter and the words "NEED A LIGHT - FRANK? JIM?"

Spacecraft location

The spacecraft is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum 's annex at Washington Dulles International Airport in the Chantilly area of Fairfax County, Virginia, United States....

, Chantilly, Virginia
Chantilly, Virginia
Chantilly is an unincorporated community located in western Fairfax County and southeastern Loudoun County of Northern Virginia. Recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau as a census designated place , the community population was 23,039 as of the 2010 census -- down from 41,041 in 2000, due to the...


See also

  • Space capsule
    Space capsule
    A space capsule is an often manned spacecraft which has a simple shape for the main section, without any wings or other features to create lift during atmospheric reentry....

  • Space exploration
    Space exploration
    Space exploration is the use of space technology to explore outer space. Physical exploration of space is conducted both by human spaceflights and by robotic spacecraft....

  • Space suit
    Space suit
    A space suit is a garment worn to keep an astronaut alive in the harsh environment of outer space. Space suits are often worn inside spacecraft as a safety precaution in case of loss of cabin pressure, and are necessary for extra-vehicular activity , work done outside spacecraft...

  • Splashdown
    Splashdown (spacecraft landing)
    Splashdown is the method of landing a spacecraft by parachute in a body of water. It was used by American manned spacecraft prior to the Space Shuttle program. It is also possible for the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to land in water, though this is only a contingency...

  • U.S. space exploration history on U.S. stamps
    U.S. space exploration history on U.S. stamps
    With the advent of unmanned and manned space flight a whole new era of American history had presented itself. Keeping with the tradition of honoring the country's history on the face of U.S. postage stamps, the U.S. Post Office began honoring the various events with its commemorative postage stamp...

External links

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