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Unmanned Gemini Spacecraft Launched

Apr. 8, 1964 - A Gemini spacecraft, without astronauts aboard, was propelled into orbit today on its first test flight. The 7,000-pound capsule was carried into space by a Titan II rocket that took off just a second after its 11 a.m. EST schedule and performed almost perfectly.

It was an encouraging inaugural for a program that takes up where Mercury astronaut flights left off 11 months ago and is counted on to test many of the devices and techniques vital to the Apollo moon-landing venture.

Today’s success meant that the next Gemini flight would be a 2,000-mile trip down the Caribbean, also unmanned. It is now scheduled for late August.

It that test also meets its objective, NASA hopes to dispatch the first manned Gemini flight around the end of the year.

Today’s flight had two main purposes:

First, to prove the ability of both the Titan booster and the spacecraft to withstand the rigors of the trip into orbit. From all immediate evidence, they stood the flight in fine fashion.

Also, to confirm that the Titan had enough power to put the Gemini load into a proper orbit. Today, it produced too much power. But officials said the deviation from the prescribed speed was well within established limits and that secondary propulsion to be carried aboard a complete capsule could easily have corrected the orbit.

One of the main objectives of the 12-shot Gemini program will be to perfect techniques for rendezvous and docking, or joining, of two spacecraft in orbit. It is hoped the first rendezvous flights, with a Gemini capsule and an unmanned Agena, can be conducted in 1965. As currently planned, the lunar expedition requires such a maneuver on the return half of the trip.

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