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Terror in Space
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Gemini 8 crew Neil Armstrong (l) and David Scott (r), crew of the Gemini 8, exiting craft.
Mishaps of the Space Age
1966: Gemini 8

Determined to effect a successful rendezvous in orbit, NASA sent astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott in Gemini 8 to dock with the orbiting spacecraft Agena. The astronauts docked successfully but immediately lost control of the combined spacecraft, which began to spin uncontrollably. Scott separated the two vessels, but Gemini 8 only increased its rotation velocity, to a full rotation per second.

Agena in orbit from Gemini 8 Agena in orbit, viewed from Gemini 8

Armstrong and Scott were veteran pilots and kept their cool. Careful to hold their heads still to prevent paralyzing dizziness, they eventually isolated the problem, a stuck attitude adjuster. By cutting out the adjuster, they stabilized the spacecraft and safely returned home. When asked later how he felt during this near-disastrous ride, Armstrong commented, "I suspect you could categorize it as anxiety."


Continue: 1967

Photos: NASA.

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