First Docking in Space
Gemini 8 was launched on March 16, 1966. Its prime objectives were to make the first ever space docking, and to facilitate the second American space walk.
The Agena Target Vehicle with which Gemini 8 was to dock in space was launched just a little more than half an hour before Gemini’s launch.
About six hours after the launch, Gemini’s commander Neil A. Armstrong nudged the nose of his spacecraft into the docking collar on the end of the Agena Target Vehicle to make the first ever docking in space, that is, join with another spacecraft in space. But shortly after the docking was effected the joined vehicles began to shake and rock. Armstrong backed his craft away from the Agena but the bucking only got worse. It soon became clear that one of the craft’s thrusters was firing out of control. Armstrong struggled to stabilize his spacecraft, using up most of the fuel in the process. The rest of the mission was immediately scrapped with ground control ordering the astronauts to return to Earth without delay.
Gemini 9 launched three months later had to abandon plans to dock with its target vehicle due to technical reasons but the next few Gemini missions had no such problems with their docking schedules.
Gemini 12 was the 10th manned Gemini flight and the last in the series. It successfully linked up with the target vehicle that had been put in orbit 90 minutes earlier. Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin overcame some of the problems of working in space when he went out of the spacecraft and practised cutting wire, turning bolts with a wrench and using other space tools. He was the first space mechanic.