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Gemini 6

The original mission of Gemini 6, with astronauts Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford on board, was planned as a short one or two day mission featuring the first physical docking in space with another vehicle, in this case the previously launched Agena target vehicle. Under this plan the Agena would be launched into orbit first followed, about 100 minutes, later by Schirra and Stafford in Gemini 6. Entering orbit some 1,200 miles behind the target they would gradually close in over the next three orbits until, at about 5 hours 30 minute into the mission, finally nudging the nose of Gemini into the docking cone of Agena during their fourth orbit. The crew were then to conduct two hours of docking tests before undocking, conducting a fly around inspection and then re-dock up to three more times, two of which would be during a night pass. This challenging programme was designed to achieve the final major objective Gemini in preparation for the Apollo missions to the moon. In the three manned Gemini to date there had been two long flights of 4 and 8 days and during the first of these America’s first tentative spacewalk had been completed. After Gemini 6 had proved the docking concept the next mission would attempt a 14 day space marathon followed by five missions in 1966 that would expand the experience in rendezvous and docking and EVA. Together these Gemini missions would provide much needed experience prior to the Apollo lunar missions, and Gemini 6 was an important step in that direction. But first the Atlas rocket had to place the Agena target in orbit.
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