The Apollo contract specified a shirt-sleeve environment. For this reason, North American was told not to include in its design a hatch that opened by explosives, like Mercury’s. An accidentally blown hatch in space would cause an instant vacuum and certain death for an astronaunt not wearing his pressure suit.
Max Faget thought the first stage of the moon rocket should use four solid-fueled engines, 6.6 meters in diameter. He reasoned these could certainly accomplish whatever mission was required of either the Saturn or Nova, and it would be more cost effective. Faget said it made good sense to use cheap solid fuels for expendable rockets and more expensive liquid fuels for reusable engines. Faget called the individual solid rocket ‘the Tiger.’
President Kennedy proposed the manned lunar landing as the focus of the US space program but, at the time of his address, only one American, Alan B. Shepard, Jr. had been into space, on a suborbital lob shot lasting 15 minutes. No rocket launch vehicle was available for a lunar voyage and there was no agreed upon method for placing any kind of spacecraft safely on the lunar surface and getting it back to the earth. Nor was there agreement within NASA itself on how it should be done.
This was the most complex mission attempted to date. The primary mission objectives were to perform rendezvous and four docking tests with the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle (GATV) and to execute an ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA)…
On September 20th 1965, NASA named the crew for Gemini VIII. The command pilot selected was Neil Armstrong, a civilian test pilot with much experience in the X-15 rocket research aircraft program. David Scott was selected as pilot. Scott was the first of the Group 3 astronauts selected for a mission. The backup crew for Gemini VIII, was Navy Lieutenant Commanders Pete Conrad and Richard F. Gordon, Jr.
The success of Gus Grissom and John Young’s Gemini 3 flight paved the way for long duration space missions. The longest U.S. manned space flight to date was Gordon Cooper’s 34 hour Mercury flight. The Soviets, however, had four long duration flights to their credit, ranging from 70 to 119 hours. It was time for the US to attempt a long duration flight.