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How NASA Learned to Fly in Space: An Exciting Account of the Gemini Missions (Apogee Books Space) [Paperback]

David M. Harland
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Apogee Books (23 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1894959078
  • ISBN-13: 978-1894959070
  • Product Dimensions: 25.8 x 17.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 885,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David M. Harland lives in Glasgow in Scotland. He holds a bachelor's degree in astronomy and a doctorate in computer science, both from St Andrews, the oldest university in Scotland, which is located on the end of a peninsula and thinks it lies at the centre of the universe. After working in academia and the computer industry, he "retired" in 1995 to write full time on his childhood interest in space exploration. He has published several dozen books, mostly with Springer-Praxis. He has also edited books by other authors. On a personal level, he has a fondness for cats, so long as they don't scratch.

Product Description

Synopsis

NASA learned to fly in space in a time when the agency was young and lean, and had an explicit mandate of staggering audacity set against a tight deadline; in a time when the agency readily accepted risk, and made momentous decisions 'on the run'; in a time when a rendezvous was a major objective of a mission, in a time when opening the hatch and venturing outside was a serious challenge. Apollo claimed the glory, but it was Gemini that 'stretched the envelope' of spaceflight to make going to the Moon feasible. As Dr Robert Gilruth, director of the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, observed: "In order to go to the Moon, we had to learn how to operate in space. We had to learn how to manoeuvre with precision to rendezvous and to dock; to work outside in the hard vacuum of space; to endure long-duration in the weightless environment; and to learn how to make precise landings from orbital flight -- that is where the Gemini Program came in."

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT! 25 Jan 2008
By Splenda
Format:Paperback
Along with Colin Burgess's "In the Shadow of the Moon," this is the best account of the exciting Gemini missions I have ever read. In both books you really feel like you are there with the astronauts as they fly. Cool stuff! Recommended.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
superb book detailing all Gemini missions. Probably the best account to date describing the flights and how mission control reacted in real time to rework the flight plans to transform failures (fuel cells issues, Agena launch failures,..) into success ! Set the foundations for Apollo success !
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Format:Paperback
It may be contentious to say this, but in many ways the Gemini project is more interesting to students of the American moon landing programme than the better-known Apollo project. This because NASA were, as the title of this book makes clear, learning pretty much everything about space flight from scratch.

Was rendezvous possible? Could humans live and work in zero gravity? Would the radiation in earth orbit be a health hazard? Could a computer be built to handle spacecraft systems and navigation? Was space-walking feasible? Could a suitable ground tracking network be built? NASA knew that they had to answer these questions, and many more, if they were to stand any chance of going to moon, and the Gemini project was their learning tool. Every Gemini mission contained activities that were being performed for the first time by the Americans, and that comes through very clearly in this book, adding a real sense of drama and excitement to what is also a very well written description of the Gemini missions.

David Harland knows his stuff and, more importantly, is able to write in a style which is both informative and interesting. The subject requires this to be a moderately technical book, but you definitely don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand it so don't worry if you are not an expert on astronautics. Also space flight is never routine and this means that it is also a tale of human endeavour, something which Harland also manages to convey.

If you are interested in the history of space exploration this book definitely deserves a place on your shelf.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid History of the Middle Child of Human Spaceflight 7 May 2005
By Roger D. Launius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Gemini program is the middle child of human spaceflight; Mercury is the first and therefore well remembered and Apollo is the over-achieving younger sibling who gains fame and fortune. In the mix Gemini is often forgotten. David Harland's book helps to rescue the program from its obscurity. While it was initially conceived before Apollo got underway in 1961, after the commitment to the Moon landing Gemini morphed into a program to develop the skills necessary to reach the Moon. NASA closed most of the gap by experimenting and training on the ground, but some issues required experience in space. Three major areas immediately arose where this was the case. The first was the ability in space to locate, maneuver toward, and rendezvous and dock with another spacecraft. The second was closely related, the ability of astronauts to work outside a spacecraft. The third involved the collection of more sophisticated physiological data about the human response to extended spaceflight.

To gain experience in these areas before Apollo could be readied for flight, NASA devised Project Gemini. Hatched in the fall of 1961 by engineers at Robert Gilruth's Space Task Group in cooperation with McDonnell Aircraft Corp. technicians, builders of the Mercury spacecraft, Gemini started as a larger Mercury Mark II capsule but soon became a totally different proposition. It could accommodate two astronauts for extended flights of more than two weeks. It pioneered the use of fuel cells instead of batteries to power the ship, and incorporated a series of modifications to hardware. Its designers also toyed with the possibility of using a paraglider being developed at Langley Research Center for "dry" landings instead of a "splashdown" in water and recovery by the Navy. The whole system was to be powered by the newly developed Titan II launch vehicle, another modified ballistic missile developed for the Air Force. A central reason for this program was to perfect techniques for rendezvous and docking, so NASA appropriated from the military some Agena rocket upper stages and fitted them with docking adapters.

Problems with the Gemini program abounded from the start. The Titan II had longitudinal oscillations, called the pogo effect because it resembled the behavior of a child on a pogo stick. Overcoming this problem required engineering imagination and long hours of overtime to stabilize fuel flow and maintain vehicle control. The fuel cells leaked and had to be redesigned, and the Agena reconfiguration also suffered costly delays. NASA engineers never did get the paraglider to work properly, and eventually they dropped it from the program in favor of a parachute system like the one used for Mercury. All these difficulties shot an estimated $350 million program to over $1 billion. The overruns were successfully justified by the space agency, however, as necessities to meet the Apollo landing commitment.

By the end of 1963 most of the difficulties with Gemini had been resolved and the program was ready for flight. Following two unoccupied orbital test flights, the first operational mission took place on March 23, 1965. Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom commanded the mission, with John W. Young, a naval aviator chosen as an astronaut in 1962, accompanying him. The next mission, flown in June 1965, stayed aloft for four days, and astronaut Edward H. White II performed the first American extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk. Eight more missions followed through November 1966. Despite problems great and small encountered on virtually all of them, the program achieved its goals. Additionally, as a technological learning program, Gemini had been a success, with 52 different experiments performed on the 10 missions. The bank of data acquired from Gemini helped bridge the gap between Mercury and what would be required to complete Apollo within the time constraints directed by the president.

This story is well-told in Harland's account. It is not an official history of the program, but concentrates on the story of the planning for and the execution of the 10 human Gemini missions. For the official history see "On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini" (NASA SP-4203, 1977), by Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood. This is available on-line at [...]
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 27 Sep 2004
By SLK - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Just finished David Harland's account of Project Gemini, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Harland does a great job of explaining the nuts and bolts of this often overlooked program. His account of the intricacies of mastering both rendezvous and EVA demonstrate that without Gemini, Apollo just doesn't happen. Many great photos accompany the text, and it is too bad that Apogee decided against a CD with this book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great book 18 Oct 2004
By Spaceboss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I love this book. It explains in an easy to read format just how important the Gemini program was in getting us to the moon. Gemini was described as a test pilots dream and this book shows why, with many stories I had not previously been aware of and I read lots of space books. I am very pleased to see Apogee Books branching out with books by exceptionally talented authors like Harland.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative and enjoyable to read. 24 Nov 2004
By Saturn V - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered this book as soon as I saw it advertised on Amazon.com The gemini missions gave us great pictures of spaceships in close proximity and great pictures of earth. I always remember wanting to know more.

Although this particular book does not show many color photos, the history outlined here is excellent. The crew conversations covered areas that I've not read before.

I did think that a few areas were glossed over but to no major detriment to the overall info obtained.

If you like this space stuff, buy this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How NASA Learned To Fly In Space 17 Jan 2007
By Mark Stanaway - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a very readable account of the Gemini missions of 1965-66 which were launched at the breathtaking pace of one every other month. Harland intersperses accounts of the plannning and execution of the missions with the dialogue of the astronauts and mission controllers in such an absorbing way that it is difficult to put the book down at times. The intricacies of orbital rendesvous are explained lucidly and should be easy to follow by anyone with basic technical knowledge.

The photos are in sharp black and white and complement the text nicely. A lot of them first appeared in the original Nasa Fact Sheets which I still have.

I would recommend this to anyone interested in spaceflight as it comprehensively covers a programme which is all too often overshadowed by the glamour of project Apollo.
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