Last updated May 2, 2018 at 12:37 pm
On this day, Virgil “Gus” Grissom and John Young completed three orbits of Earth during Gemini III. Take a look back at how it was reported in the news at the time.
On 23 March 1965 two astronauts, Grissom and Young, completed three orbits of Earth in the Gemini III spacecraft Molly Brown.
After launching from Cape Canaveral, the spacecraft splashed down nearly 5 hours later north of The Bahamas. After realising they had landed around 84 kilometres short of their intended target, the astronauts had to wait half an hour for rescue in a spacecraft not designed to be a boat. With the temperature inside rising and Molly Brown being pitched around by waves, the astronauts were worse for wear when finally collected.
The error had arisen after wind tunnel testing had miscalculated how much lift the spacecraft would produce during reentry, causing it to drop faster than expected.
Gemini III was the first US mission to feature multiple astronauts, and the first ever piloted mission to change its orbit while in space. While previous missions flew on a continuous path, Grissom and Young completed a a 1 minute 14 second burn of the engines, cutting spacecraft speed by 15 meters per second and moving into a lower altitude orbit. A later burn altered the orbital inclination by 0.02 degrees.
While a seemingly minor achievement, this paved the way for all future controlled spacecraft.
The mission also featured the first corned beef sandwich in space. During orbit, Young reached into a pocket on his space suit to reveal a contraband corned beef sandwich he had smuggled on board. With the risk of crumbs affecting the electronics in the capsule, astronauts were expressly forbidden to take their own food into space. Grissom and Young each took several bites of the sandwich, before it was secreted back into his spacesuit.
Grissom later said, “After the flight our superiors at NASA let us know in no uncertain terms that non-man-rated corned beef sandwiches were out for future space missions. But John’s deadpan offer of this strictly non-regulation goodie remains one of the highlights of our flight for me.”
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The News, 24 March 1965
The News talked of the crew being “icy calm” during their mission, even while completing their “breathtaking” orbital manoeuvres.
The article also covered the experimental systems used by the crew to maintain radio communications with ground control during reentry. In previous missions a period of radio blackout occurred while the spacecraft reentered Earth’s atmosphere. Gemini 3 successfully tested a water spray system to avoid the blackout.
At the bottom of the page, it was reported heavy clouds prevented the astronauts from seeing a massive bonfire lit in their honour at Carnarvon.
The Advertiser, 24 March 1965
The Advertiser reported that during launch, Grissom could only laugh in response to radio messages due to the gravitational forces on his body. However, once the spacecraft was released from the second stage rocket, Grissom told mission control “Molly Brown says she is happy about ‘go’.”