Voskhod and Gemini Programmes
The Voskhod was an adaptation of the Vostok spacecraft, modified to
accommodate two or three cosmonauts. On October 12, 1964, cosmonauts Vladimir M.
Komarov, Boris B. Yegorov, and Konstantin P. Feoktistov made a 15-orbit flight
in Voskhod 1. This was the only piloted flight that year and brought the total
cumulative man-hours of Soviet cosmonauts in space to 455. The American
astronauts then had a total of 54 man-hours in space. On March 18, 1965,
cosmonauts Pavel I. Belyayev and Aleksei A. Leonov were launched in Voskhod 2.
During this 17-orbit flight, Leonov performed the first walk in space, or
extravehicular activity (EVA), leaving the spacecraft and drifting out on an
The Soviet Union's Voskhod programme included the first
spacewalk and the first three-person mission. The Voskhod 2 capsule had room
for two cosmonauts and included an inflatable fabric airlock. The airlock
allowed one of the cosmonauts to leave the spacecraft in a spacesuit.
The US Gemini programme was designed to develop the technology required to go to
the Moon. In May 1961, US President John F. Kennedy had instituted the Apollo
programme, designed to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth
"before the decade is out". This national commitment resulted in an intensive,
large-scale, piloted flight programme. The Gemini spacecraft carried two
astronauts and was designed to operate for extended periods of time and to
develop rendezvous and docking techniques with another orbiting spacecraft. Ten
manned Gemini flights were made in 1965-1966.
In December 1965 Gemini 6 and 7 met and stayed close
together in orbit round the Earth for more than five hours. For several
orbits, the crews of the spacecraft moved the capsules apart and back
together, sometimes as close as 30 cm (1ft), to practise techniques needed
for later Apollo programme lunar missions. This photograph was taken from
the hatch window of Gemini 6, looking towards Gemini 7.
During the Gemini 4 flight, Major Edward H. White II
of the air force became the first US astronaut to perform an EVA. Using a
pressurized-gas, jet-manoeuvring device, he spent 21 minutes in space. While
Gemini 6 and 7 were in orbit together in December 1965, they rendezvoused within
a few feet of each other. After orbiting for 20 hours with Schirra and Major
Thomas P. Stafford of the air force, Gemini 6 landed. Gemini 7, with Lieutenant
Colonel Frank Borman of the air force and Commander James A. Lovell, Jr., of the
navy, went on to spend a total of 334 hours in orbit. This flight of nearly 14
days provided medical data on human beings in space that was necessary to assure
the success of the 10-day Apollo lunar mission. Furthermore, it demonstrated the
reliability of systems such as hydrogen-oxygen fuel-cells. On the Gemini 10, 11,
and 12 flights, rendezvous and docking were accomplished repeatedly with a
target vehicle that had previously been orbited.
By the end of the last Gemini flight in November 1966, US astronauts had
accumulated nearly 2,000 man-hours in space, which exceeded the Soviet cosmonaut
total, and about 12 hours in EVA.