GEMINI III -- (March 23, 1965)


Gemini III was the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft and was very much a test flight. In a playful reference to the Broadway hit "The Unsinkable Molly Brown", Grissom nicknamed the Gemini 3 spacecraft Molly Brown hoping that it would not duplicate his experience with the sinking of his Mercury space craft Liberty Bell 7. It was the last Gemini to be named by an astronaut.

All subsequent flights in the program were designated by a Roman numeral.

The mission's primary goal was to test the new, maneuverable Gemini spacecraft. In space, the crew fired thrusters to change the shape of their orbit, shift their orbital plane slightly, and drop to a lower altitude. Other firsts were achieved on Gemini 3: two people flew aboard an American spacecraft (the Soviet Union launched a three-man crew on Voskhod 1 in 1964, upstaging the two-man Gemini and three-man Apollo programs);

Gemini III also was the first manned re-entry where the spacecraft was able to produce lift to change its touchdown point.