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March 14, 2011 - Trouble Ahead

Trouble Ahead The Gemini VIII mission began with a successful launch forty-five years ago this week, but astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott faced a life-threatening emergency just six hours later. Moments after docking with the previously-launched Agena target vehicle—the first orbital docking of two spacecraft in history—the two joined spacecraft began rolling uncontrollably. Suspecting the Agena was to blame, the crew undocked from it, but the situation only worsened. One of Gemini’s thrusters was firing unchecked, and without the added mass of the Agena, the smaller Gemini was now rolling once per second. The astronauts managed to shut off the faulty thruster and gain control using Gemini’s reentry thrusters. This quick thinking forced an early but safe end to a very dangerous flight.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

March 14-20, 2011

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 14

1835: Giovanni Schiaparelli born
1879: Albert Einstein born
1934: Gene Cernan born
1986: Giotto flies by Halley’s Comet
1995: Soyuz TM-21 launched, first Russian mission with American on board

Moon phase Tuesday 15

1713: Nicolas de Lacaille born
1932: Alan Bean born
1975: Helios 1 launched
2009: STS-119 Discovery launched

Moon phase Wednesday 16

Mercury 2° north of Jupiter

1750: Caroline Herschel born
1926: Robert Goddard launches first liquid fuel rocket
1966: Gemini VIII launched
1975: Mariner 10’s 3rd Mercury flyby

Moon phase Thursday 17

St. Patrick’s Day

1930: Jim Irwin born
1958: Vanguard 1 launched, first solar-powered satellite
1972: NASA issues request for proposals for Space Shuttle
2011: MESSENGER becomes first spacecraft to orbit Mercury

Moon phase Friday 18

1965: Voskhod 2 launched, Alexei Leonov takes world’s first spacewalk
1980: Soviet rocket explosion kills 50 workers at Plesetsk launch pad

Moon phase Saturday 19

Full Moon 1:10 PM ET
Moon at perigee

1970: First powered flight of X-24A lifting body

Moon phase Sunday 20

Spring Equinox 7:21 PM ET
Saturn 8° north of Moon

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.