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Published on Apr 25, 2008
Gemini 6 was originally intended to be the first mission to dock with an Agena Target Vehicle. However, after a failure in the Agena target 6 minutes after its launch (when the crew of Gemini 6 was already sitting in their capsule waiting for their launch), the mission was cancelled. Reviewing the situation, NASA decided to substitute an alternate mission: a meeting in space of two Gemini spacecraft. The new mission would be known as Gemini 6A, and would launch eight days after the launch of Frank Borman and Jim Lovell's Gemini 7. Schirra and Stafford tried to join them, but their Titan 2 launcher shut down on the pad. Three days later, Gemini 6A made it into orbit. Using guidance from the computer as well as his own piloting, Schirra performed the space rendezvous with the companion spacecraft in orbit on the afternoon of December 15. Once in formation, the two Gemini capsules flew around each other, coming within 0.3 metres of each other but never touching. The two spacecraft stayed in close proximity for five hours. One of Gemini's primary goals—orbital rendezvous—had been achieved.
Gemini 6 was the last U.S. spacecraft to be flown using batteries as the primary power source (except for the Apollo Lunar Module, which used batteries, but was augmented by the fuel cells on the Apollo Command Module while docked). All remaining Gemini flights used fuel cells.