12 November 1981, 15:09:59 UTC, T minus Zero: At 10:09:59 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) lifted of from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
On board were two NASA astronauts, Colonel Joe Henry Engle,¹ United States Air Force, the mission commander, and Captain Richard Harrison Truly, United States Navy, shuttle pilot.
This was the very first time that a manned spacecraft had returned to space on a second mission.
Columbia entered a Low Earth Orbit at an altitude of 157 nautical miles (181 statute miles/291 kilometers).
At liftoff the vehicle weighed 2,030,250 kilograms (4,475,943 pounds).
STS-2 was planned as a five-day mission. In addition to continued testing of the orbital vehicle, on this flight the Remote Manipulator System (the “robot arm”) would be operated for the first time in space. A number of other experiments were carried in the cargo bay. However, when one of the three fuel cells producing electrical power and water failed, the mission was cut short.
Columbia landed on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California, at 1:23 p.m. PST, 14 November 1981. The shuttle completed 37 orbits. The total duration of the flight was 2 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes, 13 seconds.
¹ Joe Engle qualified as an astronaut during the X-15 Program, when he flew the # 3 rocketpane, 56-6672, to 280,600 feet (85,527 meters), 29 June 1965, and he is the only person to have done so prior to entering NASA’s manned space flight program.
11 November 1966: Gemini 12 lifted off from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 3:36.33.419 p.m., Eastern Standard Time. Two NASA Astronauts, Captain James A Lovell, Jr., United States Navy, and Major Edwin E. (“Buzz”) Aldrin, Jr., United States Air Force, were the crew. This was the second space flight for Lovell, who had previously flown on Gemini VII, and would later serve as Command Module Pilot on Apollo 8 and Mission Commander on Apollo 13. It was Aldrin’s first space flight. He would later be the Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 11, and was the second human to set foot of the surface of the Moon.
The Gemini 12 mission was to rendezvous and docking with an Agena Target Vehicle, which had been launched from Launch Complex 14, 1 hour, 38 minutes, 34.731 seconds earlier by an Atlas Standard Launch Vehicle (SLV-3), and placed in a nearly circular orbit with a perigee of 163 nautical miles (187.6 statute miles/301.9 kilometers) and apogee of 156 nautical miles (179.5 statute miles/288.9 kilometers).
The two-man Gemini spacecraft was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, the same company that built the earlier Mercury space capsule. The spacecraft consisted of a reentry module and an adapter section. It had an overall length of 19 feet (5.791 meters) and a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters) at the base of the adapter section. The reentry module was 11 feet (3.353 meters) long with a diameter of 7.5 feet (2.347 meters). The weight of the Gemini varied from ship to ship, but Spacecraft 12 weighed 8,296.47 pounds (3,763.22 kilograms) at liftoff.
The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin SM-68B intercontinental ballistic missile. It was assembled at Martin Marietta’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 Titan II GLV was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket. The first stage was 63 feet (19.202 meters) long with a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters). The second stage was 27 feet (8.230 meters) long, with the same diameter. The 1st stage was powered by an Aerojet Engineering Corporation LR-87-7 engine which combined two combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles with a single turbopump unit. The engine was fueled by a hypergolic combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. Ignition occurred spontaneously as the two components were combined in the combustion chambers. The LR-87-7 produced 430,000 pounds of thrust (1,912.74 kilonewtons).¹ It was not throttled and could not be shut down and restarted. The 2nd stage used an Aerojet LR-91 engine which produced 100,000 pounds of thrust (444.82 kilonewtons).²
The Gemini/Titan II GLV combination had a total height of 109 feet (33.223 meters) and weighed approximately 340,000 pounds (154,220 kilograms) when fueled.³
Gemini XII was the tenth and last flight of the Gemini program. The purpose of this mission was to test rendezvous and docking with an orbiting Agena Target Docking Vehicle and to test extravehicular activity (“EVA,” or “space walk”) procedures. Both of these were crucial parts of the upcoming Apollo program and previous problems would have to be resolved before the manned space flight projects could move to the next phase.
Buzz Aldrin had made a special study of EVA factors, and his three “space walks,” totaling 5 hours, 30 minutes, were highly successful. The rendezvous and docking was flown manually because of a computer problem, but was successful. In addition to these primary objectives, a number of scientific experiments were performed by the two astronauts.
Gemini XII reentered Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, just 3.8 nautical miles (4.4 statute miles/7.0 kilometers) from the planned target point. Lovell and Aldrin were hoisted aboard a Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King helicopter and transported to the primary recovery ship, USS Wasp (CVS-18). The total duration of the flight was 3 days, 22 hours, 34 minutes, 31 seconds.
¹ Post-flight analysis gave the total average thrust of GLV-12’s first stage as 458,905 pounds of thrust (2,041.31 kilonewtons)
² Post-flight analysis gave the total average thrust of GLV-12’s second stage as 99,296 pounds of thrust (441.69 kilonewtons)
³ Gemini XII/Titan II GLV (GLV-12) weighed 345,710 pounds (156,811 kilograms) at Stage I ignition.
31 October 1964: Captain Theodore Cordy Freeman, United States Air Force, was a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps. He was one of fourteen pilots who had been selected for the third group of candidates in October 1963.
At 10:01 a.m., Saturday morning, Captain Freeman took off at 10:01 a.m. from Ellington Air Force Base, Houston, Texas. He was on the first of two planned training flights, flying a Northrop T-38A-50-NO Talon, 63-8188, Northrop serial number N.5535. The weather was reported as scattered clouds at 2,000 feet (607 meters), with visibility 7 miles (11.3 kilometers) in haze. He returned to the airfield at 10:38 for touch and goes, but was instructed to exit traffic pattern because of arriving aircraft.
At 10:46, Freeman called Ellington Tower, reporting that he was 5 miles (8 kilometers) southwest, inbound. He received no response and 30 seconds later, reported that he was breaking out to the east. The tower acknowledged this transmission and instructed Freeman to make another approach. At 10:47, Freeman called, “Roger, be about two minutes.” There were no further transmissions.
Ted Freeman’s T-38 struck a Lesser Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) in the vicinity of the airport. These birds weigh between 4½ to 6 pounds (2.1–2.7 kilograms). The impact resulted in damage to the left side of the airplane’s forward canopy. Both engines flamed out.
Unable to reach runway at Ellington, Freeman turned away from the airfield to avoid buildings, lowered the landing gear and headed for an open field. At approximately 100 feet (30 meters), he fired his ejection seat. The altitude was too low to allow his parachute to open and Freeman was killed when he struck the ground.
The T-38 crashed at 10:48 a.m., 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) south of Ellington Air Force Base, between Highway 3 and the Gulf Freeway.)
Investigators found blood and feathers in the cockpit. Suspecting a bird strike, a search was carried out and on 12 November, the remains of a snow goose along with fragments of the T-38’s canopy were found approximately 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) southeast of Ellington AFB, and about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from the crash site.
At 10:58 a.m., Charles Alden Berry, M.D., Chief of the Manned Space Flight Center Medical Operations Office, declared Captain Freeman dead at the scene. The Chief of the Astronaut Office, Deke Slayton, and Dr. Berry went to the Freeman home and made the formal notification to Mrs. Freeman.
Following an autopsy, Captain Freeman’s remains were transported to the Arlington National Cemetery, at Arlington, Virginia, for burial.
Theodore Cordy Freeman was born 18 February 1930 at Haverford, Pennsylvania. He was the fourth child of John T. Freeman, a carpenter, and Catherine Thomas Wilson Freeman. Ted Freeman attended Lewes High School, in Lewes, Delaware. He graduated in 1948, and was ranked academically third in his class. While still in high school, Freeman qualified for a private pilot’s license. He then studied at the University of Delaware at Newark.
While at the University of Delaware, Freeman received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and entered as a midshipman, United States Navy, 17 June 1949. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree on 5 June 1953. Along with 129 of his classmates, Midshipman Freeman elected to be commissioned as a second lieutenant, United States Air Force.
Later that same afternoon, Second Lieutenant Theodore Cordy Freeman, United States Air Force, married Miss Faith Dudley Clark of Orange, Connecticut, at the First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis. They would have a daughter, Faith Huntington Freeman, born at Bryan, Texas, 18 July 1954.
Second Lieutenant Freeman trained as an Air Force pilot at Hondo and Bryan Air Bases in Texas. He was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant in February 1955 and awarded his pilot’s wings. Freeman was then sent for fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1955, Lieutenant Freeman was stationed in Okinawa. On his return to the United States, he was assigned to George Air Force Base in California.
In 1960, Freeman earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. While there, he was promoted to the rank of captain.
Captain Freeman entered the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on 3 January 1962 and graduated 17 August 1962. Next he attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School. After completing that course, Freeman remained at the school as an instructor and served as a flight test engineer at Edwards. By this time, Ted Freeman was an experienced pilot with over 3,300 flight hours.
In October 1963, Captain Freeman was selected as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Group Three. The Group was announced to the public on 18 October. Ted Freeman arrived at the Manned Space Flight Center, Houston, Texas, on 15 January 1964. He and his family resided on Blanchmont Lane in Nassau Bay, southeast of Houston.
Freeman was not assigned to a specific flight, but Group Three was intended for the Apollo Program. Ten of the fourteen astronauts went to The Moon.
The T-38 was the world’s first supersonic flight trainer. The Northrop T-38A Talon is a pressurized, two-place, twin-engine, jet trainer. Its fuselage is very aerodynamically clean and uses the “area-rule” (“coked”) to improve its supersonic capability. It is 46 feet, 4.5 inches (14.135 meters) long with a wingspan of 25 feet, 3 inches (7.696 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 10.5 inches (3.924 meters). The one-piece wing has an area of 170 square feet (15.79 square meters). The leading edge is swept 32º. The airplane’s empty weight is 7,200 pounds (3,266 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight is approximately 12,700 pounds (5,761 kilograms).
The T-38A is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines. The J85 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with an 8-stage compressor section and 2-stage turbine. The J85-GE-5 is rated at 2,680 pounds of thrust (11.921 kilonewtons), and 3,850 pounds (17.126 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 108.1 inches (2.746 meters) long, 22.0 inches (0.559 meters) in diameter and weighs 584 pounds (265 kilograms).
The T-38A has a maximum speed of Mach 1.08 (822 miles per hour/1,323 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and Mach 1.3 (882 miles per hour/1,419 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). It has a rate of climb of 33,600 feet per minute (171 meters per second) and a service ceiling of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters). Its range is 1,140 miles (1,835 kilometers).
Between 1959 and 1972, 1,187 T-38s were built at Northrop’s Hawthorne, California, factory. As of 4 September 2018, 546 T-38s remained in the U.S. Air Force active inventory. The U.S. Navy has 10, and as of 30 October 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration reports 29 T-38s registered to NASA.
29 October 1998: Senator John Herschel Glenn, Jr., the first American to orbit the Earth, returned to space as a member of the Discovery STS-95 crew. At the age of 77, John Glenn was the oldest human to fly into space.
The STS-95 mission elapsed time was 8 days, 21 hours, 44 minutes, 2 seconds. Combined with Senator Glenn’s orbital flight of 20 February 1961 aboard the Mercury space vehicle, Friendship 7, his total space mission time is 9 days, 2 hours, 39 minutes, 49 seconds. He has completed 137 orbits of the Earth.
3 October 1962: At 08:15:12 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, Commander Walter M. Schirra, Jr., United States Navy, lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8). This was the fifth U.S. manned space flight and the third orbital flight.
The spacecraft, which Wally Schirra had named Sigma 7, entered a low earth orbit with the altitude varying from 84 nautical miles (156 kilometers) to 154 nautical miles (285 kilometers). Each orbit took 88 minutes, 54.6 seconds.
Schirra experimented with the manual flight control systems, took photographs and performed spatial-orientation exercises. There were some difficulties with the cooling of his pressure suit.
Sigma 7 completed 6 orbits and at T+8:52, fired the retro rockets to de-orbit. Reentry was successful and Sigma 7 landed within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of the primary recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge (CVS-33).
The Mercury spacecraft, named Sigma 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. It was the 16th Mercury capsule built. Designed to carry one pilot, it could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by thrusters. It was 9 feet, 7.72 inches (2.939 meters) long, and, bell-shaped, had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.5 inches (1.885 meters). The spacecraft weighed 2,700 pounds (1,224.7 kilograms) at launch.
The rocket, a “1-½ stage”, liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 113-D, was built by Convair at San Diego, California. It was developed from a U.S. Air Force Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile, modified for use as a “man-rated” orbital launch vehicle. The LV-3B was 94.3 feet (28.7 meters) tall with a maximum diameter of 10.0 feet (3.05 meters). When ready for launch it weighed 260,000 pounds (120,000 kilograms) and could place a 1,360 kilogram payload into Low Earth orbit. The Atlas’ three engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Canoga Park, California. The XLR89 booster had two 150,000 pound thrust chambers, and the LR105 sustainer engine produced 57,000 pounds of thrust. The rocket was fueled by a highly-refined kerosene, RP-1, with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.
Schirra was the first astronaut to wear an Omega Speedmaster chronograph during spaceflight. (Omega Reference No. CK2998). The Speedmaster would become flight-qualified by NASA, and the Speedmaster Professional is known as the “moon watch.”
Sigma 7 is on display at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Titusville, Florida, near the Kennedy Space Center.
Wally Schirra commanded Gemini 6A during the orbital rendezvous mission with Gemini 7. Later, he commanded Apollo 7, an 11-day orbital mission.
Captain Walter M. Schirra, Jr., USN, died 3 May 2007 at the age of 84 years.