Category Archives: Space Flight

15 December 1965

Gemini 7, as seen from Gemini 6A, 15 December 1965. (NASA)
Gemini 7, as seen from Gemini 6A, 15 December 1965. (Thomas P. Stafford/NASA)

15 December 1965: At 13:37:26 UTC, Gemini 6A, with NASA astronauts Captain Walter M. Schirra, Jr., United States Navy and Major Thomas P. Stafford, United States Air Force, on board, lifted off from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Cape Kennedy, Florida. During its fourth orbit, Gemini 6A rendezvoused with Gemini 7, carrying Major Frank F. Borman II, USAF, and LCDR James A. Lovell, Jr., USN.

This was the first time that two manned space vehicles had rendezvoused in Earth orbit.

The two spacecraft remained together for 5 hours, 19 minutes before separating to a distance of approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers).

Gemini 7 as seen from Gemini 6A, 15 December 1965. (NASA)
Gemini 7 as seen from Gemini 6A, 15 December 1965. (NASA)

Gemini 7 had been in orbit since 4 December. Gemini 6, then 6A, had been postponed several times before finally launching on 15 December. It would return to Earth the following day, landing in the North Atlantic Ocean. Gemini 7 remained in orbit until 18 December.

The two-man Gemini spacecraft was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri, the same company that built the earlier Mercury space capsule. The spacecraft consisted of a series of cone-shaped segments forming a reentry module and an adapter section. It had an overall length of 18 feet, 9.84 inches (5.736 meters) and a maximum diameter of 10 feet, 0.00 inches (3.048 meters) at the base of the equipment section. The reentry module was 11 feet (3.353 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 6.00 inches (2.347 meters). The Gemini re-entry heat shield was a spherical section with a radius of 12 feet, 0.00 inches (3.658 meters). The weight of the Gemini spacecraft varied from ship to ship. Gemini VII had a gross weight of 8,076.10 pounds (3,663.26 kilograms) at launch. It was shipped from St. Louis to Cape Kennedy in early October 1965.

The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin Marietta Corporation SM-68B intercontinental ballistic missile. It was assembled at Martin’s Middle River, Maryland, plant so as not to interfere with the production of the ICBM at Denver, Colorado. Twelve GLVs were ordered by the Air Force for the Gemini Program. The GLV-7 first and second stages were shipped from Middle River to Cape Kennedy on 9 October 1965.

The Titan II GLV was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket. The first stage was 70 feet, 2.31 inches (21.395 meters) long with a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters). It was powered by an Aerojet Engineering Corporation LR87-7 engine which combined two combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles with a single turbopump unit. The engine was fueled by Aerozine 50, a hypergolic 51/47/2 blend of hydrazine, unsymetrical-dimethyl hydrazine, and water. Ignition occurred spontaneously as the components were combined in the combustion chambers. The LR87-7 produced approximately 430,000 pounds of thrust (1,912.74 kilonewtons). It was not throttled and could not be shut down and restarted. Post flight analysis indicated that the first stage engine of GLV-7 had produced an average of 462,433 pounds of thrust (2,057.0 kilonewtons). The second stage was 25 feet, 6.375 inches (7.031 meters) long, with the same diameter, and used an Aerojet LR91 engine which produced approximately 100,000 pounds of thrust (444.82 kilonewtons), also burning Aerozine 50. GLV-7’s LR91 produced an average of 102,584 pounds of thrust (456.3 kilonewtons).

The Gemini/Titan II GLV-7 combination had a total height of 107 feet, 7.33 inches (32.795 meters) and weighed 346,228 pounds (157,046 kilograms) at ignition.

Gemini 7 as seen from Gemini 6A, 15 December 1965. (NASA)
Gemini 7 as seen from Gemini 6A, 15 December 1965. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 December 1972 22:54:36 UTC, T plus 188:01:36

Apollo 17 lunar lander and lunar rover on the surface of the moon. (NASA)

14 December 1972: At 4:54:36 p.m., CST (Houston time), the Ascent Stage of the Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger lifted off from the landing site in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. On board were Mission Commander Eugene A. Cernan and the LM Pilot, Harrison H. Schmitt.

The two Astronauts had been on the surface of the Moon for 3 days, 2 hours, 59 minutes, 40 seconds. During that time they made three excursions outside the lunar lander, totaling 22 hours, 3 minutes 57 seconds.

Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the Moon in the Twentieth Century. Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon.

The Apollo 17 ascent stage lifts off from the Taurus-Littrow Valley at 2254 UTC, 14 December 1972. The takeoff was captured by a television camera which had been left on the surface of the Moon. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 December 1972

Eugene A. Cernan at the Taurus-Littrow Valley during the third EVA of the Apollo 17 mission. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)
Eugene A. Cernan at the Taurus-Littrow Valley during the third EVA of the Apollo 17 mission. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)

13 December 1972: At approximately 22:26 UTC, NASA Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt began the last of three moon walks, or EVAs, on the surface of the Moon at the Taurus-Littrow Valley.

“Bob, [Robert A.P. Parker, Astronaut, Houston Mission Control Cap Com]  this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

— Astronaut Eugene Andrew Cernan, Captain, USN, at the Taurus Littrow Valley, The Moon, at Mission Time 170:40:00

Eugene A. Cernan, Mission Commander, inside the Lunar Module Challenger after the third EVA, 13 December 1972. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)
Eugene A. Cernan, Mission Commander, inside the Lunar Module Challenger after the third EVA, 13 December 1972. (Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)

This was the final EVA of the Apollo Program, lasting approximately 7 hours, 15 minutes. Then Harrison H. Schmitt and Gene Cernan climbed up into the Lunar Module Challenger to prepare to lift off the following day.

Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon.

Harrison H. Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot, inside the LM after the final EVA of teh Apollo Program, 13 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Harrison H. Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot, inside the LM after the final EVA of the Apollo Program, 13 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 December 1972 19:54:58 UTC, T plus 110:21:58

Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands in front of the lunar lander Challenger (LM-12) and the lunar rover, 01:13:58 UTC, 12 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands in front of the lunar lander Challenger (LM-12) and the lunar rover, 01:13:58 UTC, 12 December 1972. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

11 December 1972, 19:54:58 UTC: Apollo 17 lunar module Challenger with astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt landed at the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon.

Apollo 17 was the last manned moon mission.

Gene Cernan was the last human to stand on the lunar surface.

Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt and the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)
Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt and the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, The Moon. (Eugene A. Cernan/NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 December 2006, 01:47:35 UTC, T minus Zero

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-116) lifts off from Launch Complex 39B, 8:47 p.m., 9 December 2006, Eastern Standard Time. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) STS-116 flight crew: Front row, left to right: William Anthony Oefelein, pilot; Joan Elizabeth Higginbotham, mission specialist; and Mark Lewis Polansky, commander. On the back row (from the left) are astronauts Robert Lee Curbeam, Jr.; Nicholas J.M. Patrick, Ph.D.; Sunita Lyn Williams and the European Space Agency’s Arne Christer Fuglesang; all mission specialists. (NASA)
Astronaut Robert L. Curbeam, Jr., (left) and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Christer Fuglesang, both STS-116 mission specialists, participate in the mission’s first of three planned sessions of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction resumes on the International Space Station. The landmasses depicted are the South Island (left) and North Island (right) of New Zealand. (NASA)
The International Space Station after the installation of a P5 spacer truss segment and fully retracted P6 solar array wing. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) STS-116 landing at the Space Shuttle Landing Facility, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 22:32:00 UTC, 22 December 2006. Mission Elapsed Time: 12 days, 20 hours, 44 minutes, 16 seconds. (NASA)
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