23 March 65 : Nasa launches Gemini 3, US-Russian relations : Cincinatti, USA

Tuesday 23rd of March 1965
Dear Family,

I received a letter from you tonight, the first for ages. It’s SKF’s fault as they sent it to the wrong place, why I can’t imagine, but it was very nice to receive late or not.

There must be some others in the system I am sure, but they will arrive sooner or later.

Colin has just had a bit of bad luck with his mail. He sent a letter last week but didn’t put enough money on it, as it was over half an ounce, but instead of sending it on by surface mail, they returned it to him. The worst part is that in this letter he told his mother he was phoning her on Sunday, her birthday, so now she doesn’t know.

Anyhow, Colin got onto the international telephone operator and explained what had happened and she informed him that as a free part of the service of the Bell Telephone Company (it’s all private companies over here) they would phone Bristol tomorrow morning to warn them of the call on Sunday.

So, all is well. It’s a terrific service we think.

The launch of Gemini III. Photo by Nasa. http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/gemini/gemini3/html/s65-20742.html

Today has been a great day. The Gemini Space Shot took place this morning, and we switched on at 7am this morning and watched the blast off. (We didn’t go to work until late).

It was terrific to see it live, and as the countdown got down to a few seconds I felt very nervous, so heaven knows how the two fellows inside must have felt.

We went and did some work, and then dashed back for the landing. This was equally exciting, as for a while they lost them, as you know by now, they were found, and the whole thing was a great success.

Gemini 3 headline March 65

There is a tremendous anti-Russian feeling here. It’s very noticeable in the papers and on TV, and the Russian success a few days earlier really riled the Yanks. The last straw was the fact that the Russians chose today to hold their celebrations for their spacemen in Moscow.

Americans were told quite seriously by the news reader that this had been timed deliberately to distract the world’s attention from the American shot. They really are quite brainwashed.

Well dear Mother, having heard of the meal you had at the dinner dance I should imagine you must have put on quite a few pounds. It certainly sounded quite a meal. I’m glad you had a good time, and I’m sure you will have many more.

I’m pleased to hear that you have finally persuaded Chris to wear morning dress for the wedding, and also to have a bridesmaid – might just as well make a good job of it!! I would love to see Nigel in his Topper and Tails – I would have a real laugh, I’m sure.

By the way I’m relieved to hear that you have received the things I sent from Nassau. It wasn’t much I know, but at that time I was short of cash. I have sent something in the post for Nigel, it’s only a small gift, but I hope he will like it.

The parcel post is shocking, (I sent your parcel two months ago), so don’t expect it too soon. I haven’t forgotten my dear brother, (believe it or not, although I did think he was able to write!!!)
To be continued…

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Note: Gemini III was America’s ninth manned spaceflight (the 17th in the world, including Russian flights), and a test drive of Nasa’s new, more manoeuvrable craft.

Launching from Cape Kennedy in Florida, astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young completed three low-earth orbits.

Some fun facts about the mission –

When Nasa invited the the two astronauts to name their Gemini spacecraft, Gus Grissom immediately requested the name ‘Molly Brown.’ Why? Because on a previous spaceflight, his capsule had sank after spashdown in the sea. So he drily named this craft after the Broadway hit musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

When his unimpressed Nasa managers asked for a new suggestion, Grissom duly requested ‘Titanic.’ Relenting, Nasa named the craft Molly Brown – but never asked astronauts to name their crafts again.

Young was also a prankster, smuggling onboard a contraband corned beef sandwich in the pocket of his spacesuit, which both men nibbled during the flight.

Highly amused, Grissom later said: ‘After the flight our superiors at NASA let us know in no uncertain terms that non-man-rated corned beef sandwiches were out for future space missions. But John’s deadpan offer of this strictly non-regulation goodie remains one of the highlights of our flight for me.”

Nasa had good reason to be unimpressed – the floating crumbs could have caused serious damage to the craft’s electronics, and both men were reprimanded after their return.

As the craft returned to earth, the parachutes slowed its fall so suddenly, Grissom cracked his acrylic faceplate on the control panel in front of him.

They they landed 84km (45 nautical miles) short of their intended spashdown point, and with smoke unexpectedly inside the capsule from the blasters. The astronauts decided to keep their helmets on and visors down during the long half-hour wait for rescue, in a craft not designed to be a boat.

Nasa has a beautiful set of photos of the Gemini 3 flight, which you can see HERE

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