By Bob Granath.
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

NASA’s Gemini IX mission was another step in developing technology for future spaceflights from Apollo to the agency’s Journey to Mars. But this mission included developing alternate plans when faced with the unexpected.

Gemini IX provided NASA with crucial experience in learning how to be flexible, expanding skills in orbital rendezvous and gaining a better understanding of the challenges faced by spacewalking astronauts.

The three-day mission was designed to be similar to the previous flight in March 1966. After achieving the first orbital docking, Gemini VIII was brought home early due to a failed spacecraft thruster. The Gemini IX crew hoped to gain further experience in rendezvous, docking and working outside the capsule. Plans also called for performing a complex spacewalk using a self-contained rocket backpack, called the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit, or AMU.