December 27, 1965 Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Electronics,
published 1930 - 1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
When I originally tagged this
Electronics magazine article for posting, it was before Golden State
Stephen Curry tapped into his immense cerebral power to inform us
all that NASA has been faking its accomplishments in space - notably all the moon
landings. Now, based on such unimpeachable authority, I'm not so sure this story
should even be posted, lest it potentially perpetuate a long-running ruse. In the
manner of contemporary news pieces reporting on criminal activity while avoiding
legal claims of libel or character assassination, please mentally preface all of the
claims herein with "alleged" or "allegedly." The world's first successful
spacecraft rendezvous, accomplished by
Gemini 6 and
Gemini 7, happened on December 15, 1965. Both astronaut crews participated in
many communications experiments that included radio, visual, and laser media.
Electronics Review: Space Electronics
Soaring in space: Gemini 7 as seen from Gemini 6.
The date was kept
"We have company tonight." On the 11th day of a fortnight in space that laconic message
from Gemini 7, soaring about 180 miles over Guam, raised cheers from a waiting world.
It was the signal that a rendezvous had been kept; that two spacecraft, traveling at
17,500 miles an hour would be able to come together for the docking that is a vital prerequisite
to landing a man on the moon. The entire mission, of stunning complexity and unprecedented
length, went off with barely a hitch.
The loudest kudos went to the Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s radar system [Electronics,
April 5, pp. 110-112D] and the International Business Machines Corp.'s onboard computers
[Electronics, May 3, p. 71]. The two systems helped the astronauts steer their crafts
to the rendezvous.
Formal wear. The complex steps that led to the rendezvous began the
morning of Dec. 15, with the successful launching of Gemini 6. For the occasion of their
meeting with Gemini 6, Frank Borman and James A. Lovell, who had been riding in their
long underwear, put on their spacesuits. Gemini 6 went into orbit at 8:43 a.m. (EST).
Gemini 7 was in a higher and wider orbit at this time, so Gemini 6 had to adjust its
orbit with tiny rocket bursts to bring it in line with Gemini 7.
Slowly, during a series of seven steps, the gap narrowed to about three feet.
Much of the catch-up operation was guided from the ground. It was only in the last
235 miles that the astronauts were left to their own devices - radar and computer - to
find their way in space.
Direct talk. During the early part of the rendezvous exercise, communication
between the two craft was accomplished indirectly: messages from one capsule were first
transmitted to the ground and then relayed to the other capsule. When they were within
230 miles of each other, the astronauts turned on small ultrahigh-frequency transceivers
inside the craft so they could talk directly to each other. The radio was produced by
the Collins Radio Co.
Meanwhile, on the ground, electronics scored another success. Live television pictures
of the spacecraft recovery were relayed via Early Bird, from the mid-Atlantic to the
shore. TV pictures of the recovery, taken from the deck of the U.S.S. Wasp, were transmitted
with portable equipment developed by the International Telephone and Telegraph Corp.
The pictures received by home transmitters were of unusually good quality.
Not a Whisper
The one electronic experiment that proved a dismal failure during the Gemini 6 and
7 flights was the laser communication test [Electronics, Dec. 13, p. 34]. But the problem,
actually a series of problems, was not with the Gemini 7 laser transmitter, which was
produced by the Radio Corp. of America, nor with the ground station gear produced by
Electro-Optical Systems, Inc., a subsidiary of the Xerox Corp.
The faults were on the ground and most were human errors. Bad weather also contributed
to the trouble: heavy cloud cover often blocked transmission of the laser beam. Trouble
began early in the mission. A fire at the first scheduled receiving station, at Ascension
Island, destroyed a shed housing some of the ground-base equipment. At the next scheduled
station, in Hawaii, trouble in adjusting the laser caused further postponement. By the
time Gemini 7 reached the third station, in White Sands, N. M., the craft's angle of
inclination was too low for voice communication.
Butterfingers. On succeeding days more problems cropped up. At Ascension, for example,
a technician dropped a laser tube. Meanwhile, the astronauts reported they were having
trouble spotting the laser beacon. In an attempted solution, the beam's width was widened,
but this didn't help.
There was speculation about removing the green filter on the ground stations' transmitters
to make the beam more visible but officials decided the task was too delicate to be rushed.
Some success was finally reported over Hawaii, a week after the mission began. Astronaut
Lovell spotted the ground station's beacon, locked onto it for two minutes, but didn't
get a chance to test the voice communication.
Posted December 12, 2018