Gemini 3
Gemini 3 was the first manned mission in NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's Gemini program, the second American manned space program. On March 23, 1965, the spacecraft, nicknamed The Molly Brown, performed the seventh manned US spaceflight, and the 17th manned spaceflight overall (including X-15 flights over 100 kilometers). It was also the final manned flight controlled from Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an installation of the United States Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing, headquartered at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Located on Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida, CCAFS is the primary launch head of America's Eastern Range with four launch pads...

, Florida before mission control functions were shifted to the Manned Spacecraft Center
Mission Control Center (NASA)
NASA's Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. Mission Control Center , also known by its radio callsign, Houston, at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, manages all American human space flight; including US portions of the International Space Station . The center is named after Christopher C...

 in Houston, Texas.


Backup crew

Original crew

The crew of Gemini 3 was changed after Shepard was grounded with an inner ear disorder in late 1964.

Mission parameters

  • Mass
    Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

    3,236.9 kg
  • Perigee
    Perigee is the point at which an object makes its closest approach to the Earth.. Often the term is used in a broader sense to define the point in an orbit where the orbiting body is closest to the body it orbits. The opposite is the apogee, the farthest or highest point.The Greek prefix "peri"...

    161.2 kilometres (100.2 mi)
  • Apogee: 224.2 kilometres (139.3 mi)
  • Inclination
    Inclination in general is the angle between a reference plane and another plane or axis of direction.-Orbits:The inclination is one of the six orbital parameters describing the shape and orientation of a celestial orbit...

    32.6 degrees
  • Period
    Orbital period
    The orbital period is the time taken for a given object to make one complete orbit about another object.When mentioned without further qualification in astronomy this refers to the sidereal period of an astronomical object, which is calculated with respect to the stars.There are several kinds of...

    88.3 minutes

First orbital maneuver by manned spacecraft

On March 23, 1965 at 15:57:00 UTC
Coordinated Universal Time
Coordinated Universal Time is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is one of several closely related successors to Greenwich Mean Time. Computer servers, online services and other entities that rely on having a universally accepted time use UTC for that purpose...

, at the end of the first orbit, over Corpus Christi, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas
Corpus Christi is a coastal city in the South Texas region of the U.S. state of Texas. The county seat of Nueces County, it also extends into Aransas, Kleberg, and San Patricio counties. The MSA population in 2008 was 416,376. The population was 305,215 at the 2010 census making it the...

, a 1 minute 14 second burn of the orbit attitude and maneuvering system
Orbit attitude and maneuvering system
The orbit attitude and maneuvering system was a propulsion system used in orbit by the Gemini spacecraft.-Operations:Besides providing rotation control to let a pilot steer the spacecraft, the OAMS provided translation control for the Gemini spacecraft, moving it linearly up, down, sideways,...

 (OAMS) engines gave a delta-V
In astrodynamics a Δv or delta-v is a scalar which takes units of speed. It is a measure of the amount of "effort" that is needed to change from one trajectory to another by making an orbital maneuver....

 of 15.5 meters per second; which was the first orbital maneuver by any manned spacecraft. The orbit was changed from 161.2 kilometres (100.2 mi) x 224.2 kilometres (139.3 mi), period 88.3 minutes to an orbit of 158 kilometres (98.2 mi) x 169 kilometres (105 mi), period 87.8 minutes.


This first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft was very much a test flight. In a playful reference to the Broadway hit The Unsinkable Molly Brown
The Unsinkable Molly Brown (musical)
The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a musical with music and lyrics by Meredith Willson and book by Richard Morris. The plot is a fictionalized account of the life of Margaret Brown, who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic, and her wealthy miner-husband....

, Grissom nicknamed the Gemini 3 spacecraft The Molly Brown hoping that it would not duplicate his experience with Liberty Bell 7, the Mercury mission that saw Grissom's capsule sink after splashdown
Splashdown (spacecraft landing)
Splashdown is the method of landing a spacecraft by parachute in a body of water. It was used by American manned spacecraft prior to the Space Shuttle program. It is also possible for the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to land in water, though this is only a contingency...

. It was the last Gemini to be named; all subsequent flights in the program were designated by a Roman numeral.

The mission's primary goal was to test the new, maneuverable Gemini spacecraft. In space, the crew fired thrusters to change the shape of their orbit, shift their orbital plane slightly, and drop to a lower altitude. Other firsts were achieved on Gemini 3: two people flew aboard an American spacecraft (the Soviet Union launched a three-man crew on Voskhod 1
Voskhod 1
Voskhod 1 was the seventh manned Soviet space flight. It achieved a number of "firsts" in the history of manned spaceflight, being the first space flight to carry more than one crewman into orbit, the first flight without the use of spacesuits, and the first to carry either an engineer or a...

in 1964 and a two-man crew just a few days earlier on Voskhod 2
Voskhod 2
Voskhod 2 was a Soviet manned space mission in March 1965. Vostok-based Voskhod 3KD spacecraft with two crew members on board, Pavel Belyaev and Alexei Leonov, was equipped with an inflatable airlock...

, upstaging the two-man Gemini and three-man Apollo programs), and the first manned reentry where the spacecraft was able to produce lift to change its touchdown point.


The only major incident during the orbital phase involved a contraband corned beef sandwich
Corned beef sandwich
A corned beef sandwich is a sandwich prepared with corned beef.In the United States of America, this sandwich is often served with mustard and a pickle....

 that Young had snuck on board (though Director of Flight Crew Operations Deke Slayton
Deke Slayton
Donald Kent Slayton , better known as Deke Slayton, was an American World War II pilot and later, one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts....

 wrote in his autobiography that he gave Young permission to do so). Grissom found this to be highly amusing, saying later, "After the flight our superiors at NASA let us know in no uncertain terms that non-man-rated corned beef sandwiches were out for future space missions. But John's deadpan offer of this strictly non-regulation goodie remains one of the highlights of our flight for me."

The crewmen each took a few bites before the sandwich was restowed. The crumbs it released could have wreaked havoc with the craft's electronics, so the crewmen were reprimanded when they returned to Earth. Other crews were warned not to pull the same type of stunt.
Two small failures occurred in-flight. The first was an experiment testing the Synergistic Effect of Zero Gravity on Sea Urchin
Sea urchin
Sea urchins or urchins are small, spiny, globular animals which, with their close kin, such as sand dollars, constitute the class Echinoidea of the echinoderm phylum. They inhabit all oceans. Their shell, or "test", is round and spiny, typically from across. Common colors include black and dull...

 Eggs. A lever essential to the experiment broke off when pulled. The second involved the photographic coverage objective. It was only partially successful due to an improper lens setting on the 16 mm camera.

Early in the flight, the crew noticed the craft gradually yawing left:
00 18 41 (Command Pilot) I seem to have a leak. There must be a leak in one of the thrusters, because I get a continuous yaw left.
00 18 53 (CapCom) Roger. Understand that you get a continuous yaw left.
00 18 57 (Command Pilot) Very slight. Very slow drift.

Although sometimes linked to a stuck thruster experienced in Gemini VIII, this problem was eventually traced to a venting water boiler.

The crewmen made their first orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

 change an hour and a half into the flight. The burn lasted 75 seconds and moved them from a 122 by 175 kilometer orbit to a nearly circular one with a drop in speed of 15 metres per second. The second burn was 45 minutes later when the orbital inclination was changed by 0.02 degrees. The last burn came during the third orbit when the perigee was lowered to 72 kilometers. This meant that even if retrorockets had failed, they would still have reentered. When reentry finally occurred, crew commented that even the colors matched ground simulations.

On descent, the capsule shifted from a vertical to horizontal attitude under its parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...

s. The change was so sudden that Grissom cracked his faceplate (made of acrylic) on the control panel in front of him. Later Gemini spacesuits and all Apollo and Space Shuttle (both launch-entry and EVA suits) used polycarbonate
PolycarbonatePhysical PropertiesDensity 1.20–1.22 g/cm3Abbe number 34.0Refractive index 1.584–1.586FlammabilityV0-V2Limiting oxygen index25–27%Water absorption – Equilibrium0.16–0.35%Water absorption – over 24 hours0.1%...


The craft landed 84 kilometers short of its intended splashdown
Splashdown (spacecraft landing)
Splashdown is the method of landing a spacecraft by parachute in a body of water. It was used by American manned spacecraft prior to the Space Shuttle program. It is also possible for the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to land in water, though this is only a contingency...

 point. Wind tunnel
Wind tunnel
A wind tunnel is a research tool used in aerodynamic research to study the effects of air moving past solid objects.-Theory of operation:Wind tunnels were first proposed as a means of studying vehicles in free flight...

 testing had incorrectly predicted the craft's ability to compensate for course deviation. When the crewmen discovered the error, they decided to stay in the capsule, not wanting to open the hatch before the arrival of the recovery ship. The crew spent an uncomfortable half-hour in a spacecraft, not designed to be a boat. Due to unexpected smoke from the thrusters, the astronauts decided to deviate from the post landing checklist and to keep their helmets on with the face plates closed for some time after splashdown. The USS Intrepid
USS Intrepid (CV-11)
USS Intrepid , also known as The Fighting "I", is one of 24 s built during World War II for the United States Navy. She is the fourth US Navy ship to bear the name. Commissioned in August 1943, Intrepid participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, most notably the Battle...

 recovered the craft and crew. The Gemini III mission was supported by the following United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 resources: 10,185 personnel, 126 aircraft and 27 ships.


The mission insignia was not worn by the flight crew as a patch, like those from Gemini 5 onwards. The Gemini 3 The Molly Brown emblem was designed and minted on gold-plated, sterling silver, 1-inch (25-mm) medallions. The crew carried a number of these medallions into space to give to their families and friends. The same design was printed on the cover of Gus Grissom's book GEMINI. John Young was seen wearing the The Molly Brown emblem as a patch, produced post-flight, on his flightsuit as late as 1981.

Spacecraft location

The spacecraft is on display within the Grissom Memorial of Spring Mill State Park
Spring Mill State Park
Spring Mill State Park is a state park in the state of Indiana. The park is located to the south of Bloomington, about east of the town of Mitchell on Indiana Highway 60....

, two miles east of Grissom's hometown of Mitchell, Indiana
Mitchell, Indiana
Mitchell is a city in Lawrence County, Indiana, United States. The population was 4,567 as of the 2000 census.It is the birthplace of astronaut Gus Grissom, who flew on Liberty Bell 7, Gemini 3, and died in a launch pad fire at Kennedy Space Center in 1967....


See also

  • Space exploration
    Space exploration
    Space exploration is the use of space technology to explore outer space. Physical exploration of space is conducted both by human spaceflights and by robotic spacecraft....

  • U.S. space exploration history on U.S. stamps
    U.S. space exploration history on U.S. stamps
    With the advent of unmanned and manned space flight a whole new era of American history had presented itself. Keeping with the tradition of honoring the country's history on the face of U.S. postage stamps, the U.S. Post Office began honoring the various events with its commemorative postage stamp...

  • Splashdown (spacecraft landing)
    Splashdown (spacecraft landing)
    Splashdown is the method of landing a spacecraft by parachute in a body of water. It was used by American manned spacecraft prior to the Space Shuttle program. It is also possible for the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to land in water, though this is only a contingency...

External links

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