GEMINI V -- (August 21-29 1965)

Pete Conrad and Gordo Cooper


Gemini 5 doubled the space-flight record of the Gemini 4 mission to eight days, the length of time that it would take to fly a mission to the moon. This was possible due to new fuel cells that generated enough electricity to power longer missions, a pivotal innovation for future Apollo flights. Cooper and Conrad were to have made a practice space rendezvous with a "pod" deployed from the spacecraft, but problems with the electrical supply forced a switch to a simpler "phantom rendezvous," whereby the Gemini craft maneuvered to a predetermined position in space. Mercury veteran Gordon Cooper was the first person to travel on orbital missions twice. He and Conrad took high-resolution photographs for the Defense Department, but problems with the fuel cells and maneuvering system forced the cancellation of several other experiments. The astronauts found themselves marking time in orbit, and Conrad later lamented that he had not brought along a book. On-board medical tests, however, continued to show the feasibility of longer flights.

Conrad, who had a reputation for frequently having a punchline on hand, called the mission "Eight days in a garbage can." (the garbage can referring to the small size of the Gemini capsule, which was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.)