A Timeline of Gemini Application Concepts and Key Program Events

July 1961                      USAF completes “Military Test Space Station“ study.

August 1961                 Langley’s Space Task Group report “Preliminary Project Development Plan for an Advanced Manned Space Program Utilizing the Mark II Two Man Spacecraft” suggest a Centaur could boost Mercury Mark II to lunar flyby.

Sept 1961                     Gemini lunar landing with LOR and open cockpit lander based on NASA’s James Chamberlin’s ideas.        

Feb 1962                      Congressional budget hearings indicate that the USAF was considering “Blue Gemini” missions. They badly wanted to fly military astronauts and DynaSoar was still many years away. (ref. D. Day article in Spaceflight, June 2007)

Jan. 3 1962                   NASA announces two man spacecraft will be named “Gemini.”

March 1962                  USAF starts development of “Military Orbital Development System” (MODS), a long duration manned space station. This was still going to take too long to develop and get USAF crews in space, so in August of 1962 they moved to the Blue Gemini concept, Program 287 (D. Day, June 2007).

June 1962                     Lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) selected as approach to lunar landing. But because of Jerome Wiesner, chairman of the President’s Science Advisory Council (PSAC), did not trust LOR’s complexity, NASA was also directed to study a direct ascent alternative mission. McDonnell got a contract (as did TRW then STL) to study this. These studies included unmanned prepositioned rescue vehicles. This was also referred to as the ‘lunar logistics and rescue vehicle’ eight week study (Direct Flight Apollo Study, Report 9182, Volume II: Gemini Spacecraft Applications, dated 31 October 1962, written for NASA by McDonnell Aircraft). It would be launched on a Saturn V. McDonnell studied two approaches, one with an independent Apollo-like two-man design, and another with three variants of Gemini. But by late 1962 NASA firmed up the LOR decision, and this lunar Gemini study ended.

August 1962                 Artist concepts of Rogallo wing Gemini landing are dated 8/62. (D4C-9729 and D4C-10521)

October 1962               USAF initiated a Blue Gemini program to establish military man in space program. X-20 was too far off and MOL was even further, if it was even conceived at this point. This would fly in 1964 and be essentially the same as the NASA Gemini, and practice rendezvous with Agena targets. [Dwayne Day BIS article]. Eventually the Blue Gemini would evolve to a full-up MODS lab.

October 31, 1962          McDonnell releases “Direct Flight Apollo Study,” Report 9182, describing options for Gemini lunar landers.

January 1963                McNamara kills both Blue Gemini and MODS. They were seen as threats to DynaSoar and he did not want to deal with NASA opposition to cooperation on Gemini. He also requests a comparison of Gemini to DynaSoar re capabilities. 

May 1963                     Photos of Gemini mock-up with installed landing gear are dated 5/63 (D4C-13386, etc.)

1963                             General Electric issues a study of a manned Mars mission using nuclear propulsion. The four-person mission includes a planetary lander that looks like a DynaSoar with a Gemini capsule on top. Dandridge Cole was the GE engineer behind the study, which was also referenced in his 1964 book: Islands In Space – The Challenge of the Asteroids.

Oct 1963                      DOD (?) issues report “Manned Orbiting Stations and Alternatives” to the President’s Scientific Advisory Committee (PSAC), on potential Gemini based military orbital systems.  Includes infamous drawing of satellite inspector Gemini.

Nov 13, 1963                McDonnell releases report A320, “Gemini Spacecraft Study for MORL Ferry Missions.” Early space station studies determined that the driving cost for such programs was the launch costs for crew and supplies. This eventually led to the desire for a reusable shuttle.  This report shows how Gemini (standard and variants) were considered as an interim solution. This was done under a NASA contract. Several supply variants are shown including a hatch thru the heat shield. Report A172 of the same date has same drawings.

December 10, 1963       X-20 Dyna-Soar is cancelled but MOL is started.

Jan 27, 1964                 Paraglider tow test vehicle with Rogallo wing featured on the cover of Aviation Week.

March 1964                  Saturn IB with Gemini was considered as a back-up if Apollo had problems. This would achieve a lunar fly by. But NASA (von Braun) did not want to divert from Apollo so it was never pursued. But McDonnell was allowed to do in-house studies. The goal was to get better photos of the Apollo landing sites. This resulted in Report A634, “Gemini Applications for Lunar Reconnaissance”, 10 April 1964.

April 8, 1964                 Gemini I flight, no crew.

July 8, 1964                  NASA Langley presents a paper titled “Manual Control for the MORL” at an SAE conference, indicating MORL with Gemini is still in consideration at this time.

July 17, 1964                 John Hammersmith and Eldon Hall (assumed to be NASA Gemini program engineers) proposed 23 Gemini follow-on missions for consideration.

Aug 10 1964                 Paraglider landing program cancelled (North American contract) but internal and residual contract funds allowed some test flights thru December of 1964. 

March 23, 1965             First manned Gemini mission, 3 orbits.

April 1965                     Gemini SC-2 is MOL Heat Shield Qualification (HSQ) vehicle (date of McDonnell photo D4E-379208).

May 1965                     “Report B766 : The Gemini Advanced Missions”, 26 May 1965 McDonnell Proposal to NASA

June 1965                     Double Transtage*

                                    “Astronaut Pete Conrad conspired with Martin and McDonnell corporations to advocate an early circumlunar flight using Gemini. Discretely called ‘Gemini – Large Earth Orbit’, the plan would use a Titan 3C-launched Transtage to boost the Gemini to translunar speed.” No one in NASA was impressed but Conrad did get his high altitude Agena mission on Gemini 11 based on this. This resulted in the July 1965 Martin-Marietta report:  Rendezvous Concept for Circumlunar Flyby in 1967. McDonnell issues an associated report B743 (19 June 1965), “Gemini – Large Earth Orbit” which includes a circumlunar mission. 

Sept. 10, 1965               James Webb responds to Rep. Olin Teague’s request for consideration of a Gemini circumlunar flight by stating it is not necessary and would require a diversion or addition of significant resources.

Sept. 10, 1965               McDonnell issues report E045 “Winged Gemini” on a Gemini with an ASSET-style wing. The mission objective was to demonstrate “manned full scale capability of winged spacecraft.” This was almost two years after DynaSoar was cancelled and only after three manned Gemini missions were accomplished. Not sure if this was a completely independent study or funded by USAF.

Nov 1965                      Date on Interior Arrangement drawing (58A000052) of Gemini B.

March 13, 1967             “Lunar Operations Rescue Considerations”

McDonnell generates a presentation on various options for lunar Gemini. One rescue vehicle concept would be launched unmanned and lands on the Moon autonomously. Another concept was a long duration, pre-positioned lunar shelter. There was also a Big G shelter version.

April 17 1967                I have a series of color photos of scale models of lunar Gemini concepts. Not all are dated, but this one (D4C-44700) and several others are dated. In this series of model photos, there are also Big G concepts. They show large landing skids.

May 1967                     D4E-449245 is a black and white image of a Big G mock-up sitting on its tail.

Dec. 20, 1967                “Big G” comb-bound booklet describes this concept. Notable is Rogallo wing and skid landing system and a sketch showing two vehicles docked to an S-IVB type orbital workshop. The argument for such a spacecraft is to support long duration space stations using a manned spacecraft independent from the Apollo lunar vehicles. A large Gemini could provide more capable logistics vehicle than Apollo for an AAP workshop. 

Dec 28, 1968                 Big G mock-up photos are dated December 1968. It is interesting to note the mock-up has landing skids for the entire enlarged section.

Undated                       “Advanced Gemini Spacecraft to Extend Usefulness of Program”

 McDonnell Douglas created a pair of charts with this title, and I have the original paper paste-up of these two charts. Topics included:

  • Rescue Gemini
  • Paraglider Gemini
  • Extended Mission Gemini
  • Lunar Orbit Gemini
  • Gemini Transport
  • Gemini Observatory
  • Winged Gemini

April 1969                     McDonnell photo D4C-60717 is the most commonly seen image of the Big G mock-up and one of the few with a date. See May 1967 entry. Note the extension ahead of the RCS section to accommodate a large nose landing skid.

May 1969                     D4C-62377 is an artist concept of a MDAC Huntington Beach space station (MORL – Manned Orbiting Research Lab?) with a Gemini at one end. It appears to have a tethered booster stage. Not clear if that is for artificial gravity (spinning) or a nuclear power source.            

1969?                           McDonnell Douglas issues artists concept of dual MOL for civilian research missions. Need a date and more background on this configuration.

Summer 1969               Nixon cancels MOL.