Friday, August 1, 2008

Gemini 8 Heatshield 1966 Lucite Display

Here is a very rare vintage lucite that contains a piece of the Gemini 8 heatshield. This was 1 of 50 made by a gentleman who worked on the Gemini 8 spacecraft wiring harness at the McDonnell Douglas plant in St. Louis. The front was broken off by this guys kids playing with it back in the 60's. What's really cool are the small windows that were part of the mold and they're located just below the broken nose. The mold used was not nearly as professional as the North American Aviation resin & lucite displays of the same vintage.

Gemini 8 was Dave Scott & Neil Armstrongs first spaceflight. It was the first docking of 2 spacecraft in space in history. Shortly after the Gemini 8 spacecraft docked with the Agena vehicle, both of them started a slow tumbling motion. Thinking that the Agena was the reason for the spinning, Armstrong & Scott undocked from the Agena, only to discover that it was the Gemini with a misfiring RCS thruster.

The flight had to be aborted when one of the Gemini's RCS thrusters malfunctioned, sending the spacecraft into a 1 RPS spin. The astronauts came within 10-20 seconds of passing out while tumbling on all 3 axis and they came closer to losing their lives in space, than any other crew, with the exception of the Apollo 13 astronauts. It took both pilots about 20-30 minutes to bring the spacecraft under control using their re-entry RCS thrusters, all while being out of touch from mission control.

There seems to be more heatshield material available from the Gemini 8 spacecraft, than any other Gemini mission. This is probably due to the GT-8 was the only Gemini spacecraft to have the entire heatshield removed, after returning to earth. This was done to reach the wiring harness, in an attempt to determine what caused the electric short in the RCS system. I've heard a few stories about the piles of broken GT-8 heatshield material being offered to anyone who wanted it. If only there really was a time machine !!!!

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