Review: Gemini Flies!
by Jeff Foust
|Shayler notes that the rocket, which used a mixture of toxic propellants, formed a distinctive cloud at the base of the launch pad at liftoff known as the BFRC, or Big F***ing Red Cloud. “Clearly, anything related to Titan in the Gemini program was memorable,” he writes.|
Gemini was, at one point in its development, conceived as a workhorse vehicle for human spaceflight rather than an interim stepping stone to Apollo. At one point in planning for Gemini, NASA considered flying “deep space excursions” and circumlunar missions with Gemini by using a Centaur upper stage. Those plans didn’t last long, and other innovations, like the use of a paraglider “Rogallo Wing” to allow the capsule to glide back to a land landing, also fell by the wayside so that Gemini could focus on its core objectives of developing capabilities needed for Apollo lunar missions.
First, though, Gemini needed to fly. Shayler uses the book to examine the development of Gemini, as well as the man-rating of the Titan II, with the occasional colorful anecdote. Shayler notes that the rocket, which used a mixture of toxic propellants, formed a distinctive cloud at the base of the launch pad at liftoff known as the BFRC, or Big F***ing Red Cloud. “Clearly, anything related to Titan in the Gemini program was memorable,” he writes.
Shayler provides a high level of detail about not just Gemini’s development, but its uncrewed test launches and, then, the flight of Gemini 3 with Gus Grissom and John Young on board. The three-orbit flight of the spacecraft gets three chapters in the book, one for each orbit, plus coverage of the launch itself and the splashdown and recovery in other chapters. That level of detail is far more than what the casual spaceflight enthusiast might expect, or even want, in a book, but historians and Gemini devotees will appreciate the attention to detail that Shayler provides about the mission in the book.
Shayler, who wrote a single-volume history of Gemini, Gemini: Steps to the Moon, nearly 20 years ago, says in the books’ preface he was inspired to return to Gemini after a series of books by Colin Burgess on the six Mercury missions. Gemini Flies! is the beginning of a similar series of books, with one volume planned per mission (although Geminis 6 and 7 will be combined into a single book.) That detail, he says, is needed to give the program its full historical due: “The story needs to be told, step by step, mission by mission, of a program that followed in the wake of the pioneering missions of Mercury and created the confidence to embark upon Apollo and beyond.” This book is a confident first step in that endeavor.
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