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    Description

    Gemini 6A Flown Gilt Fliteline Medallion Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Pilot Tom Stafford, with His Signed Detailed Letter of Authenticity. This 25mm medal was flown aboard Gemini 6A, which performed a space rendezvous with Gemini 7 in orbit on the afternoon of December 15, 1965. Onboard were Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford. The obverse features the hexagonal mission insignia reflecting the mission number; the spacecraft trajectory also traces out the number "6". The Gemini 6 spacecraft is shown superimposed on the "twin stars" Castor and Pollux, for "Gemini." The obverse also has "Schirra" and "Stafford" with the original mission designation "GTA-6" (for Gemini-Titan-Agena). The reverse has the dates of the flight and the revised mission designation "GT-GT-6". Excellent.

    Included with this lot is an interesting signed two-page LOA on Stafford, Burke and Hecker letterhead reading, in part (full transcription on our website): "The Gemini 6 gold plated sterling silver medallion enclosed with this letter is one of the very few of that type that I carried into space beginning December 15, 1965, after a very interesting story of launch scrubs and engine shutdowns! This medallion became a part of history when the Gemini 6 spacecraft completed the world's first manned space flight rendezvous with Gemini 7 later that day. This flight technique was one of the most significant capabilities demonstrated in the Gemini Program. Spacecraft rendezvous later became the flight method used to accomplish a manned lunar landing and return. Commander Wally Schirra and I returned to earth the following day, December 16, 1965. I shall describe the details and challenges of my first space mission.

    "It was Wally's idea to have our emblem read GTA-6 with the Arabic numeral rather than the NASA used Roman numerals. We could make a dotted line in the shape of a "6" to rest in the constellation of Orion which would actually be the background stars as we closed in on the Agena for rendezvous and docking. Well, that was the original plan for October 25, 1965. Unfortunately, the Agena failed to reach orbit on that date and our Gemini Titan launch was scrubbed. There was an oxidizer feed problem with the Agena's engine that made it explode. With was no hack-up vehicle quickly available, the failure put our entire mission plan into jeopardy. Alan Shepard met up with us a few hours later and suggested we all go out for a good scrub party!

    "Our medallions were minted prior to the October scrub, with GTA-6 (Gemini. Titan Agena - 6) at the top and our last names at the lower left and right. A Gemini spacecraft moving toward the Agena is seen following the dotted path in the shape of a large "6" which was symbolic of our flight number and this rendezvous mission."


    More Information:

    LOA transcript:

    "The Gemini 6 gold plated sterling silver medallion enclosed with this letter is one of the very few of that type that I carried into space beginning December 15, 1965, after a very interesting story of launch scrubs and engine shutdowns! This medallion became a part of history when the Gemini 6 spacecraft completed the world's first manned space flight rendezvous with Gemini 7 later that day. This flight technique was one of the most significant capabilities demonstrated in the Gemini Program. Spacecraft rendezvous later became the flight method used to accomplish a manned lunar landing and return. Commander Wally Schirra and I returned to earth the following day, December 16, 1965. I shall describe the details and challenges of my first space mission.

     

    "It was Wally's idea to have our emblem read GTA-6 with the Arabic numeral rather than the NASA used Roman numerals. We could make a dotted line in the shape of a "6" to rest in the constellation of Orion which would actually be the background stars as we closed in on the Agena for rendezvous and docking. Well, that was the original plan for October 25, 1965. Unfortunately, the Agena failed to reach orbit on that date and our Gemini Titan launch was scrubbed. There was an oxidizer feed problem with the Agena's engine that made it explode. With was no hack-up vehicle quickly available, the failure put our entire mission plan into jeopardy. Alan Shepard met up with us a few hours later and suggested we all go out for a good scrub party!

     

    "Our medallions were minted prior to the October scrub, with GTA-6 (Gemini. Titan Agena - 6) at the top and our last names at the lower left and right. A Gemini spacecraft moving toward the Agena is seen following the dotted path in the shape of a large "6" which was symbolic of our flight number and this rendezvous mission.

     

    "Within days of the Agena failure, NASA and our contractor team devised a plan to rendezvous with Gemini 7, scheduled for an early December launch. Some early studies indicated that this could be possible. With all this extra planning and training, we were unable to change the medallions to reflect the new mission plan.

     

    "Some of these additional tasks we thought about were having me do a spacewalk from Gemini 6 over to Gemini 7 and trade places with Jim Lovell, who would be flying as pilot on Gemini 7. This is just one of the bold ideas that were talked about throughout the Gemini Program. Gemini 7's commander, Frank Borman, was not interested taking the risks. One of the major problems would be that Jim would also have to wear the heavy, bulky EVA (spacewalk) space suit plus carry the related equipment during most of Gemini 7's long 14 day mission. Also during the time prior to my Gemini 6 flight, Al Shepard told me my next assignment would be as back-up commander for Gemini 9. That would allow me to be flight commander for the last flight of the program, Gemini XII.

     

    "We carried our medallions into space as originally minted on December 1.5, and to make the story complete, they of course were with us on December 12 when our Titan launch vehicle engines shut-down just seconds before lift-off. I vividly remember hearing Alan Bean counting down the seconds to zero and feeling our Titan rocket come alive. Then in a flash, nothing! Our rocket engines just shut down and all their sound died away. We saw our mission clock start and a computer light came on, meaning the spacecraft thought we had. lift-off. It was a gut wrenching time, hut there was no feeling of movement, and we felt certain that the Titan rocket was not going to topple over and explode on the pad.

     

    "Wally kept a cool head and did not command an abort via our ejection seats. I'm glad. Those ejection seats would kick you out at a very high g load. Being soaked in a pure oxygen environment while in the Gemini cockpit, potential sparks from the ejection system would probably make us into two Roman candies! I remember an ejection seat test with Gus Grissom, but they used nitrogen instead of oxygen in the cabin. That did not simulate actual conditions. Using pure oxygen in the cabin of Apollo I. was a major contributor to the loss of Gus and his Apollo 1 crew in January 1967.

     

    "The flames were one thing, but those g loads probably would have ended our astronaut careers regardless of burn scars. The problem turned out that an umbilical plug shook loose too soon, which we thought caused the shut-down. However, a more serious problem was found. A simple dust cap was left on the fuel inlet port of one of our engines while still at Martin Company's Titan assembly factory. That cap prevented fuel reaching a gas generator which was part of the engine start sequence. Luckily, the Titan's malfunction monitoring system detected the lack of fuel from the inlet, and shut the whole system down. We only had about one second to spare, because if we indeed had lifted off the pad by just a few inches and shut down, we would have dropped back and exploded. That gave us just a very slim to no change of activating the ejection seats in time.

     

    "Since the launch pad had no major damage, we were able to launch and rendezvous with. Gemini 7 just three days later on December 15. This medallion was with us all the way - two scrubs including a near explosion, and finally on history's first manned rendezvous in space."

     



    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2019
    9th-11th Thursday-Saturday
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