March 23, 1965 – Gemini III Mission, The First U.S. Manned Gemini Mission
The Gemini III mission was the first manned flight of the Gemini program. Astronauts Grissom and Young flew into orbit from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 19 atop a Titan rocket in their Gemini capsule Molly Brown (“unsinkable,” a play on the fact that Grissom’s first spaceflight resulted in his Liberty Bell 7 Mercury capsule sinking).
At the time, the NASA space program was in high gear. The Mercury program was over and it had accomplished its goal of manned orbital spaceflight. Now it was time to move to the next step towards the Moon. The object of Gemini was three-fold:
- Long-duration flight, to ensure Astronauts could endure in space for the time it would take to fly to the Moon and back,
- Rendezvous and docking, which was critical since the Lunar Module would need to dock in Lunar orbit, and
- Extra-Vehicular Activity – Spacewalk. The suits that would protect human in the vacuum of space needed to be tested and proven before going to the Moon.
Although the Gemini program would achieve all three of its objectives, today we remember the very first manned flight, Gemini 3. Grissom and Young would test out the new maneuverable Gemini capsule and its systems for a mere three orbits before returning to Earth.
John Young would go on to fly aboard Apollo 10, walk on the Moon as commander of Apollo 16, and the commander of the first Space Shuttle mission. In 1967 Gus Grissom was the commander of the first Apollo mission, Apollo 1. He died on-pad at Launch Complex 34 during a test of his Apollo 1 capsule. All three Astronauts (Grissom, Chaffee, and White) perished in the fire that day.
Leadership lesson taken from Abandon in Place – the Seven Forgotten Leadership Lessons of the Space Race