The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced December 7, 1961, a plan to extend the existing manned space flight program by development of a two-man spacecraft. The program was officially designated Gemini on January 3, 1962. It was named after the third constellation of the zodiac, featuring the twin stars Castor and Pollux. The program was operationally completed with the Gemini XII flight.
The Gemini program was managed by the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas, under direction of the Office of Manned Space Flight, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC., Dr. George E. Mueller, Associate Administrator of NASA for Manned Space Flight, served as acting director of the Gemini program. William C. Schneider, Deputy Director of Manned Space Flight for Mission Operations, served as Mission Director on all Gemini flights beginning with Gemini V.
The Manned Spacecraft Center Gemini effort was headed by Dr. Robert R.
Gilruth, director of the Center, and Charles W. Matthews, Gemini Program Manager.
The Gemini Program was conceived after it became evident to NASA officials that an intermediate step was required between Project Mercury and the Apollo Program. The major objectives assigned to Gemini were:
- To subject two men and supporting equipment to long duration flights—a requirement for projected later trips to the moon or deeper space.
- To effect rendezvous and docking with other orbiting vehicles, and to maneuver the docked vehicles in space, using the propulsion system of the target vehicle for such maneuvers.
- To perfect methods of reentry and landing the spacecraft at a pre-selected land-landing point.
- To gain additional information concerning the effects of weightlessness on crew members and to record the physiological reactions of crew members during long duration flights.
A brief summary of the Gemini flight results reveals how successful the Gemini Program was. All of the major objectives were met as well as many other objectives assigned to each mission, with the exception of land landing which was canceled from the Gemini Program in 1964. However, the precision control necessary to achieve the land landing objective was demonstrated.
The second U.S. manned space program was announced in January 1962.
Its two-man crew gave it its name, Gemini, for the third constellation of the
Zodiac and its twin stars, Castor and Pollux. Gemini involved 12 flights,
including two unmanned flight tests of the equipment. Like Mercury's, its major objectives were clear-cut:
- To subject man and equipment to space flight up to two weeks in duration.
- To rendezvous and dock with orbiting vehicles and to maneuver the docked combination by using the target vehicle's propulsion system;
- To perfect methods of entering the atmosphere and landing at a preselected point on land. Its goals were also met, with the exception of a land landing, which was cancelled in 1964.
The spacecraft was an enlargement of the familiar Mercury capsule—5.8 m (19 ft) long, 3 m (10 ft) in diameter, and about 3810 kilograms (8400 pounds) in weight. Engineering changes simplified maintenance and made it more maneuverable for the pilots. The Titan II rocket, more powerful than the Redstone, placed the larger spacecraft into orbit.
Sometimes referred to as Gemini-Titan for the craft and its launch vehicle, each flight was designated by a Roman numeral. Only the first capsule was nicknamed; Command Pilot Virgil Grissom called it the Molly Brown in reference to his Mercury spacecraft that sank.
(All above information came from http://www-pao.ksc.nasa.gov/history/gemini/gemini.htm)