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Gemini IX prime

Kuiper stands in moon prints at Chabot Space and Science Center

Kuiper honors the original crew of Gemini 9, who sadly never made it to space. 😢 Content warning: plane crash.

Thanks again to Chabot Space & Science Center for allowing Kuiper to make a special visit.

On February 28, 1966, Elliot See, Charles Bassett, Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernan flew in two separate jets to St. Louis for Gemini 9 training. Visibility was really bad that day, with fog 🌫️, rain 🌧️ and snow ❄️, and cloud layers at both 800 and 1500 feet. Both planes overshot the runway on their initial approach.

Elliott See decided to circle around and try a visual landing, while Tom Stafford decided on a more cautious instrument approach. Tom and Eugene were able to land their jet safely, but Elliott and Charles were not. They died instantly when their plane crashed into a building. 🙁 Theirs were the 2nd and 3rd deaths of American astronauts; Ted Freeman had also passed away in a plane crash on October 31, 1964.

NASA launched an investigation headed by Alan Shepard. According to the report, “It was concluded by the Investigation Board that the primary cause of the accident was the inability of the pilot to maintain visual reference for a landing during local weather conditions that were irregular and deteriorating rapidly….Because of the weather conditions, See was forced to maneuver at low altitude and inadvertently developed a rate of descent from which recovery was impossible.” 🙁

After the crash, NASA had to shift the astronaut schedule around to fill in the gaps. Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernan were assigned as the new primary crew for 9, and Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell were bumped up from primary on 10 to be the new backups for 9. As a result of how the rotation worked, Buzz then ended up flying on Gemini 12.

That ended up changing the course of history. As Deke Slayton would later note, “Without flying GT-12, it was very unlikely that Buzz would have been in any position to be lunar module pilot on the first lunar landing attempt.” Thus without this tragedy, Buzz likely wouldn’t have been on Apollo 11, and likely wouldn’t have been the 2nd person to step foot on the Moon. 🤯

Isn’t history pretty wild?

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw21Ql2BNY7/

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