Today marks the 49th anniversary of the launch of Gemini XII, the last Gemini space mission. Here are five fun facts to ponder as you celebrate.
The crew was Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin. Lovell would go on to fly Apollo 8 and Apollo 13, and Aldrin was the second man to set foot on the Moon during Apollo 11. We’ve seen both astronauts in person.
The backup crew was Gordon Cooper and Gene Cernan. Cooper would not go to space again, but Cernan became the last man to have his boots on the Moon’s surface. In a bit of serendipity, we met Cernan at BWI airport.
The Gemini capsule docked with the Agena target vehicle, which had launched before Gemini XII. The rendezvous radar was working properly, so the astronauts had to do some extra work to dock. Then, the Agena had a problem with its booster so climbing to a higher orbit was canceled. Still, the rendezvous was considered a success, and the prior Gemini mission had docked with an Agena as well.
During the course of the mission, Aldrin made three EVAs—spacewalks—totaling more than three hours. He trained for this work under water.
The three CapComs—capsule communicators—were Stuart Roosa, Pete Conrad, and Bill Anders. Roosa flew on Apollo 14, Conrad flew on Apollo 12, and Anders flew on Apollo 8 and is credited with the famous Moon Rise photograph.