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Gemini VIII

Kuiper demonstrates pitch โ†•๏ธ, yaw โ†”๏ธ, and roll. ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ˜‚

Much like dogs, spacecraft have three possible axes of rotation. They can tilt up and down, turn left and right, and they can roll over sideways. Both Mercury and Gemini astronauts were able to rotate their craft on all 3 axes, but Gemini crew were also able to move their craft up and down, forward and backward and side to side.

On March 16, 1966, Neil Armstrong and David Scott made heckin’ space history. After some minor disappointment with their space food (Neil’s space chicken casserole did not fully reconstitute, and his space brownies were far too crumbly*), they managed to catch up and dock with an unmanned Agena vehicle. Hooray!! The first ever space docking!! Scott said that he “bet those Lockheed guys are just jumping up and down.” ๐Ÿ˜

And then they started spinning.

The two connected spacecraft began to unexpectedly roll. Armstrong and Scott couldn’t be sure whether the problem was with their capsule or with the Agena, so they decided to undock. Unfortunately, because physics (they dumped a bunch of mass), this made the spinning worse.

The capsule proceeded to start rolling AND yawing uncontrollably, with the roll approaching 1 full turn per second. ๐Ÿคข Armstrong would later recount, “We realized that physiological limits were being approached, and that we were going to have to do something immediately, in order to salvage the situation.” They SHUT DOWN EVERYTHING like President Madagascar in Pandemic II, but they kept spinning faster. ๐ŸŒช๏ธ

Fortunately, Neil’s quick thinking โšก saved them before they passed out. He managed to get their spacecraft under control by firing the Re-entry Control System. Unfortunately, according to mission rules firing RCS meant “go directly to Earth. Do not pass go.” Therefore Gemini 8 was cut short to a little over 10 hours, but everyone came back safe. ๐Ÿ˜…

NASA later determined that one of the 16 Orbit Attitude and Maneuvering System thrusters had stuck open, most likely due to an electrical short. This led to a redesign before Gemini 9. (Warning: 9 will be a sad one. โ˜น๏ธ)

* (Source: Gemini VIII Technical Debriefing, p. 23-24)

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