Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gemini: the spacecraft that paved the way to the Moon

On June 5th, 1966, 200 kilometers above Australia, Gene Cernan was attempting to activate one of the most ill-conceived, badly designed, and dangerous pieces of equipment ever flown in space.

The Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU) was a James Bond-style rocket-powered backpack. To put the AMU on, Cernan had to leave his Gemini capsule, spacewalk around to the rear section, unfold struts and arms, and activate a complex series of fuel and oxygen valves — most out of sight in the near-darkness — before strapping himself in.

"The spacewalk from hell."

He was issued woven chain mail trousers for protection against the rocket's exhaust.

"It was a real rocket, powered by hydrogen peroxide," says Cernan. "They had one of these rocket...

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