The primary goal of the Gemini missions to test man's ability to survive and function for long periods of time in space with no long-lasting effects. The other objective was to prove a spaceship could rendezvous and dock with another craft. Both goals had to be completed successfully before landing on the the moon.
NASA PHOTO: Gemini X crew John Young (left) and Michael Collins.
With each Gemini mission, the scheduled tasks became more complex. Gemini X, manned by Michael Collins and John Young would be the most complex flight to date. Like other missions, Gemini X would rendezvous and attempt a docking with an Agena target vehicle. It would also increase its orbit and rendezvous with the Gemini VIII Agena that had been left in orbit after the stuck thrusters on the Gemini VIII capsule cut the mission short. Once the capsule finds the parked Agena and rendezvous is completed, they will park and Collins will perform a space walk to the parked Agena to retrieve a micrometeorite package left in on the Agena from the previous mission.
NASA PHOTO: The Gemini 10 spacecraft successfully docked with Agena Target Docking Vehicle. After docking with the Agena, Astronauts John Young and Michael Collins fired the 16,000 lb. thrust engine of Agena 10's primary propulsion system to boost the combined vehicles into an orbit with an apogee of 413 nautical miles to set a new altitude record for manned spaceflight.
On the third day of the mission, the Gemini X module came within 3 meters of the old Gemini 8 Agena Module left from in this higher orbit. Once the Agena Module was reach, Young carefully placed the capsule into a station keeping position from which Michael Collins could perform his EVA in which he would move over to the Gemini 8 Agena module. Just as Cernan had warned him, once Collins reached the Agena Module, he found it difficult to perform any physical tasks. At one point he slipped away from the Agena and floated away. There was no danger in drifting off into deep space as he was still attached with a shorted 15-meter umbilical line to just 6 meters. It would be possible for him to be pulled back to safety by Young, Collins found it extremely difficult to use the cord for maneuvering about. When applied any kind of force to the umbilical, it reacted in an uncontrolled manner making movement extremely unpredictable. He instead opted for the handheld propellant gun to maneuver back to the Agena to retrieve some science experiments that had been left in place from the Gemini VIII mission.
In theory Collins was to replace the existing experiment with a new one, but found it impossible to do and not slip away from the module. Instead he pulled himself back to the Gemini capsule and handed Young the experiment.
Collins and Young decided to test the hand-held gun a little more so they released all of the umbilical cord which, if stretched out would be about 15-meters. This experiment was cut short when ground control put a stop to the station-keeping maneuvers so as to conserve fuel, and Collins was ordered back to the Gemini. This time it was easier said than done.
With 15 meters of free-floating line extended, it became difficult for Collins to pull himself back and he became tangled in the line. Although he knew the line had become entangled around him, he couldn't immediately determine where because of the pressurized suit isolated his body from the touch of the line and his limited field of vision made it difficult to see how the line was wrapping around him. It would take Young's assistance to get Collins unwrapped which took over an hour to get him back inside the craft.
With the completion of Gemini X, the Gemini Program was reaching maturity. Information gained from experiments had proved informative and demonstrated the need to make certain changes for future flights. The biggest drawback to the flights was the lack of fuel to conduct experiments fully. It was always a restraint placed on the mission by the amount of fuel required to make flight changes and still have enough to get back home.
NASA PHOTO: Divers secure the Gemini X capsule after splash down in the Atlantic