From San Francisco to Space

Photo courtesy of NASA

Nowadays, when there is a space launch, it is all but ignored. In the 1960s, going to space was a big deal.

The Gemini Program was a collection of space missions flown between 1961 to 1966. They were  designed to test manned space flight. We forget that we needed to take baby steps to get ready for the real challenge, the flight to the moon. Here is an overview of the program.

Navy Captain John Young was an astronaut who flew two Gemini missions, and he was the ninth person to walk on the moon in 1972. He was also born in San Francisco.

Astronauts L. Gordon Cooper and Charles Pete Conrad took off on August 21, 1965 for Gemini V. The eight day mission tested human endurance necessary for the Apollo lunar mission to come. It was the first mission to use fuel cells to generate electrical power. And with this mission, we broke many Soviet records, which gave us bragging rights.

The Gemini V astronauts must have had a good sense of humor. This was the first U.S. manned space flight to have an official mission insignia or patch. The motto was, “8 Days or Bust.”

This summer, ABC took us back to the beginnings of our space program with the show, “Astronaut Wives Club,” based on Lily Koppel’s book of the same name. This program shows the human side of being an astronaut, and what their families went through.

Extra points for anyone who can name all seven of the original astronauts. See below.