Crew & Mission
In late February or early March 1963, Deke Slayton - chief of the Astronaut Office - unofficially named the crew for the first Gemini flight, Gemini-3. Commander would be Alan B. Shepard, with rookie Thomas P. Stafford at his side. When Shepard was grounded for medical reasons several weeks later, Gus Grissom, who was next in the 'pecking order', got the command. Stafford was bumped from the mission as well and was replaced by John W. Young. The official announcement of the crew came one year later, on April 13, 1964. Backing up Grissom and Young on the mission were Walter M. Schirra, Jr., and Thomas P. Stafford.
Gemini-III was launched at 9:24 am, EST March 23, 1965, on a flight that was to continue four hours, 52 minutes, and 31 seconds.
Highlights of the mission were:
*An orbital maneuver over Texas (USA) during the first orbit which changed the orbital path of a manned spacecraft for the first time.
*The forward and aft thrusters were fired in series of maneuvers to accomplish minute changes in the orbital path. This occurred over the Indian Ocean during the second orbit.
The maximum apogee during the flight was 121 miles, the lowest perigee, 87.0 miles. The spacecraft landed about 50 miles up-range from the predicted landing point at 2:16:31 pm, EST. The crew was recovered at 3:28 pm, and the spacecraft was picked up at 5:03 pm by the prime recovery ship the USS Intrepid.
A Personal story...
...."In naming our Gemini-3 spacecraft, I always had in mind the unfortunate fate of my Liberty Bell-7, which sank like a stone when her hatch blew prematurely. I nearly went down along with her. At first I kind of liked the idea of using an Indian name, say one of the tribes that once roamed Indiana, so I asked the research people at World Book Encyclopedia and Life Magazine to see what names those tribes had. They came up with the Wapashas, after whom the Wabash River is named. "Great", John and I agreed. We'd go into space aboard the Wapasha, a truly American name. Then some smart joker pointed out that surer than shooting our spacecraft would be dubbed the "Wabash Cannon Ball".
Well, my Dad was working for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and I wasn't too sure just how he'd take to The Wabash Cannon Ball. How would he explain that one to his pals on the B & O ?
At just about that same time the Broadway musical comedy "The unsinkable Molly Brown" was coming to it's successful closing, and this gave me the clue. I'd been accused of being more than a little sensitive about the loss of my Liberty Bell-7, and it struck me that the best way to squelch this idea would be to kid it. So John and I agreed that we'd christen our baby "Molly Brown"...
..."Some of my bosses were amused; some weren't, "Come on Gus, you can do better than that", the latter told me. "What's your second choise for a name?" "Well", I replied, "What about the Titanic?" Nobody was amused, so Molly Brown it was"...
...."Before GEMINI-3 started its final countdown, Grissom created a flap within the NASA hierarchy. Gus had never been able to shake off the innuendos that the sinking of the LIBERTY BELL SEVEN Mercury capsule was due to his error rather than technical imperfections in the hatch design. So he christened GEMINI-3, MOLLY BROWN from the Broadway musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The press thought it was great, and there were broad smiles for Gus's ingenuity. In NASA headquarters, Jim Webb and his top officials were aghast at the undignified name Gus had affixed to his spacecraft. Orders were issued that all official agency documents and references henceforth would identify the craft only as GEMINI-3. The rest of the planet ignored Washington, and to the world MOLLY BROWN it was, and MOLLY BROWN it would stay."....
...."We'd borrowed the pilot's tradition of naming our spacecraft for Mercury, of course, and there was every intention of continuing that in Gemini. Gus was still a little sensitive about what happend to LIBERTY BELL 7, so he hit on the idea of using the name of a big musical that was running on Broadway about that time, The Unsinkable Molly Brown. When he submitted that, the feeling around MSC was that it was kind of frivolous, so we had to ask him if he had other choices. "sure" he said, "how about the Titanic?" Well, compared to that, Molly Brown sounded great"....
Like the previous missions, Gemini 3 did not have a patch. It did, however, have a logo, which was minted on gold plated sterling medallions (1 inch diameter). Like the Mercury flights, these medallions were made in small quantities, flown and given to the astronauts wives, children and other people close to the mission. Some time after the flight, John Young was seen wearing a 'Molly Brown' patch with the same design. Stories about the origins of this patch, or the reason why it was made up after the flight, are inconclusive. One (Dana Holland) indicates Young had it made up in memory of his flight with Gus Grissom. Another (Gene Dorr) states that Grissom had the patch made during his Apollo training, to commemorate his flight with John Young.
The Real Thing
Left, center: John Young wearing the patch in 1981... and (right) in 2002.
A souvenir version of this patch was made by Eagle One Aerospace, now known as Cargo Bay Emblems.