I heard some music on some commercial the other day and it reminded me of "The Right Stuff." You know that movie, right? About the beginnings of the U.S. space program? Sure you do. It's one of my favorites.
When the cable (and therefore, Internet) went out Friday night, I grabbed the DVD and hit "play." It was great!
Perhaps one of the reasons I'm fascinated by it is, even though I'm old enought to remember them, I don't remember any of the Mercury space shots. Not any of them! And I wish I did.
But I do remember the Gemini flights. I can't say I recall each and every one, but I do remember sitting way too close to the television and seeing the Titan II rocket with the Gemini capsule on the top. I can picture that in my mind today.
Of course, I remember the Apollo program, from the Apollo 1 fire to the Apollo-Soyuz flight.
But Gemini, because it's the first space flight program that I remember, it holds a special place in my heart.
Gemini is the fogotten space program, in my mind. You don't see any movies about Gemini. There have been movies about the Mercury program and the Apollo program, but I don't recall any about Gemini.
Mercury was the first Americans in space. Apollo was Americans landing on the moon. Gemini was ... what?
Was it the first space walk? Not really. The Soviets beat us to that. Aleksei Leonov made the first space walk during the Voskhod II mission on March 18, 1965. But the Americans mastered the space walk, which was needed for going to the moon.
Sure, it was the first rendezvous and docking, but how exciting is that? It's big news, and they couldn't have gone to the moon without it, but it's not flashy. But it sure was important.
There's one thing about Gemini that I didn't know at the time, but Gemini was more advanced than Apollo. Betcha didn't know that, did ya?
You see, the Apollo program was designed to follow the Mercury program. But once Mercury started, they found out it was a lot harder than they thought. So they came up with another program. And the third American space program was actually the second to fly: Gemini.
They used information they learned from Mercury to design Gemini. And, because Apollo was already underway, they made some adaptations, but it was essentially older technology than Gemini.
In face, there was an effort by some in the space program to send Gemini to the moon! Heck, I was shocked when I learned that. But, it was a more advanced technology craft than Apollo, and could have done it, had it been it approved.
So, what's all this got to do with anything?
The Space Shuttle is old technology. It was designed in the 1970s, and the first one flew in 1981. And Discovery first flew in 1984.
The Shuttle fleet is old. Sure, they do upgrades and modifications, but the basic desgin and technology on which it is based is old.
After the Mercury and Apollo programs began, the need for anther program was discovered and they came up with Gemini. That's what we need today: rocket scientists that can come up with something brilliant that can do more than it was designed to do.
Maybe we need to go capture some more German rocket scientists.