Monday, July 11, 2011

Recovering Gemini 11-1965/1966

One of the advantages of the modern-day Space Shuttle is its ability to land at the same place it took off and be reused for a future flight. Before the invention and perfection of this technology, the modules carrying American astronauts in the Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury programs had to splash down in the ocean. This required the mobilization of a large task force of warships to be on standby, ready to pick up the astronauts.

In 1965, NASA and the Navy tasked the Atlantic Fleet to recover Gemini 11 and astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad and Richard Gordon (more about the mission and its many accomplishments can be read here at NASA's website). Shown here are two images of the ship's company of the Norfolk-based USS La Salle (LPD-3/AGF-3) rehearsing the recovery of a Gemini space craft off the coast of Ascension Island.




Gemini 11 began reentry on September 15, 1966. Splashdown in the western Atlantic Ocean some 700 miles east of Cape Kennedy occurred at 8:59:35 a.m. EST. The crew was picked up by helicopter and brought to the Norfolk-based USS Guam (LPH-9) at 9:23 a.m. and the spacecraft was recovered at 9:58 a.m.


1 comment:

Pete Beck said...

I was a US Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd class back in the mid 1960's. Quoting verbatim from my notes in the back of my Navy Bluejackets Manual:
"October 17, 1966- I was transferred temporarily to the USS LaSalle (LPD-3) to cover splashdown of unmanned "Gemini-like" capsule, south of Ascension Island off western coast of Africa. Capsule was sent aloft from Cape Kennedy by Air Force Titan IIIC missile."
I still have a piece of volcanic rock from Ascension Island. I was lucky enough to hitch a ride on the ship's Huey to take pictures.
Peter Beck
1414 Airport Lane
Accokeek, MD 20607
H- 301-292-5758