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Gemini Docked to Centaur for Circumlunar Flight
Credit: © Mark Wade

American manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Study 1962. In the first Gemini project plans, it was planned that after a series of test dockings between Gemini and Agena rocket stages, Geminis would dock with Centaur stages for circumlunar flights.

Status: Study 1962. Gross mass: 3,170 kg (6,980 lb).

This was a threat to Project Apollo and was suppressed.

At its birth Gemini was known as the Mercury Mark II program. NASA was already committed to the three-man Apollo spacecraft and considered Gemini an interim spacecraft to test rendezvous, docking, and EVA techniques before Apollo was available. But NASA's James Chamberlin and McDonnell Aircraft considered Gemini as a viable competitor to Apollo for the circumlunar and lunar landing missions. Such proposals might have been welcomed by the later 'cheaper, better, faster' NASA. But in 1961, as a direct challenge to the Apollo project and Lyndon Johnson's dream of a Southern High Technology Crescent, they were anathema.

The original August 14, 1961 Mercury Mark II program plan went like this:

  • Date: Flight: Description
  • Mar 1963: Gemini 1: Unmanned orbital
  • May 1963 : Gemini 2: Manned orbital
  • Jul 1963 : Gemini 3: 7-day manned orbital
  • Sep 1963 : Gemini 4: 7-day manned orbital
  • Nov 1963 : Gemini 5: Agena docking
  • Jan 1964 : Gemini 6: 14-day primate orbital
  • Mar 1964 : Gemini 7: Agena docking
  • May 1964 : Gemini 8: 14-day primate orbital
  • Jul 1964 : Gemini 9: Agena docking
  • Sep 1964 : Gemini 10: Agena docking
  • Nov 1964 : Gemini 11: Centaur docking, boost to high Earth orbit
  • Jan 1965 : Gemini 12: Centaur docking, boost to high Earth orbit
  • Mar 1965 : Gemini 13: Centaur docking, boost to Lunar flyby
  • May 1965 : Gemini 14: Centaur docking, boost to Lunar flyby
The Centaur would be launched atop a Titan II booster. The lunar Gemini spacecraft would have weighed 3,170 kg, an extra 270 kg over the basic rendezvous Gemini. The difference consisted of a backup inertial navigator and additional heat shielding for re-entry at 11 km/sec instead of 8 km/sec. This program was estimated to put an American around the moon for only $ 60 million more than the basic $ 356 million program. An even more aggressive alternative, a nine-flight program, was promised to cost only $ 8.5 million more than the basic program and fly around the moon in May 1964! This first attempt to fly Gemini to the moon was quickly suppressed, and a revision of the plan was issued only a week later, with all mention of lunar flights deleted.

Crew Size: 2. Habitable Volume: 2.55 m3.

Family: Lunar Flyby, Manned Circumlunar, Moon. People: McDonnell. Country: USA. Launch Vehicles: Titan. Agency: NASA. Bibliography: 205, 207, 208, 210, 26, 40.
Photo Gallery

Gemini-Centaur-LM 640 pixel
Credit: © Mark Wade

Gemini lunarGemini lunar
Gemini-Centaur docked configuration. Launched separately, the Gemini would have docked with the Centaur stage in low earth orbit. The Centaur would then fire, placing the Gemini on a circumlunar trajectory.
Credit: © Mark Wade

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