When the Gemini IX-A Agena fell into the Atlantic Ocean, Gemini XII was threatened with a major hardware shortage of an Agena and an Atlas to launch it. Replacing the Agena was no real problem. Lockheed’s first production model, 5001, used for development testing at the Cape, had already been sent back to the Sunnyvale plant for refurbishment. Now it was simply a matter of tailoring it to the Gemini XII mission…
Some significant goals had been set for the last two Gemini flights. For example, the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office wanted a rendezvous in the first spacecraft orbit, which would simulate lunar orbit rendezvous. There was also interest in linking an Agena to a the Gemini spacecraft by a tether and then spinning the combination to produce some artificial gravity.
“At first, the sensation I got was that there was a pop, then there was a big explosion and a clang. We were thrown forward in the seats. We had our shoulder harnesses fastened. Fire and sparks started coming out of the back end of that rascal. The light was something fierce, and the acceleration was pretty good. The vehicle yawed off – I don’t remember whether it was to the right or to the left – but it was the kind of response that the Lockheed people had predicted we would get. . . . The shutdown on the was just unbelievable. It was a quick jolt . . . and the tailoff . . . I never saw anything like that before, sparks and fire and smoke and lights.” John Young Gemini X.
Deputy Administrator Seamans wanted a mission review board created to study:
(1) Corrective measures for the Atlas-Agena failure
(2) The guidance update problem that delayed the launch two days
(3) The shroud incident
(4) The suit environmental control difficulties