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Grissom and Young Picked for First Manned Gemini Flight

Apr. 13, 1964 - Maj. Virgil Grissom (left) and Lieut. Comdr. John Young (right) were named today as the astronaut crew for the first manned Gemini flight. NASA hopes to conduct the three-orbit mission, a stepping stone to the moon, by the end of the year.

Grissom, who will be command pilot, flew the second manned Mercury capsule on a 254-mile suborbital trip down the Caribbean on July 21, 1961. That flight, otherwise excellent, was marred after the capsule’s hatch blew off prematurely. The capsule sank, and the astronaut narrowly escaped drowning before a helicopter was able to get a rescue sling to him.

Commander Young, named as second pilot or co-pilot, is one of the newer astronauts. In 1962, he set two records for elapsed time in reaching specified altitudes in a Navy F-4B Phantom jet.

Serving as backup crew for the first Gemini mission will be Lieut. Comdr. Walter Schirra, command pilot, and Maj. Thomas Stafford, second pilot. They would probably be substituted as a team if either of the primary pilots were grounded for illness or other reasons.

Comdr. Alan Shepard, who made the first Mercury suborbital flight on May 5, 1961, had been considered a favorite for the command seat on the first Gemini mission, but NASA disclosed that he had been having trouble for months, probably an infection, with his left ear, and this disqualified him from spaceflight for the time being.

The Gemini program of two-man earth orbit flights is a bridge between the Mercury one-man orbital flights and the Apollo program to send three-man crews to the moon by 1970.

Today, Major Grissom was asked what would be the most dangerous part of the forthcoming mission. “The part between lift-off and landing,” he said.

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