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Published on Apr 20, 2008
Gemini 8 was a 1966 manned spaceflight in NASA's Gemini programme. It was the 6th manned Gemini flight, the 12th manned American flight and the 22nd spaceflight of all time.
The first major objective was accomplished by the spacecraft commander, Neil Armstrong, who piloted Gemini VIII to within 0.9 metres of the prelaunched Agena Target Vehicle, then slowly docked. This was the world's first orbital docking. The second objective was to have been accomplished by Pilot David Scott, who was to spend up to two hours outside of the spacecraft, but subsequent events cancelled the planned space-walk.
What followed the successful docking by Armstrong were some of the most hair-raising few minutes in space-programme history. The Gemini VIII capsule, still docked to the Agena, began rolling continuously. Never having faced this in simulation, the crew undocked from the Agena. The problem was a stuck thruster on the spacecraft, which now tumbled even faster at the dizzying rate of one revolution per second. The only way to stop the motion was to use the capsule's reentry control thrusters, which meant that Armstrong and Scott had to cut short their mission and make an emergency return to Earth 10 hours after launch. They were still nauseated after splashdown, as well as disappointed: Scott had missed out on the planned space-walk.