"...You were a welcome sight on the Horizon. Neil Armstrong"Gemini 8 Crew-Signed Note to the Rescue Ship U.S.S. Leonard F. Mason's Crew with Four Original NASA "Red Number" Color Photos of the Rescue, Directly from the Personal Collection of One of the Ship's Rescue Swimmers. A 10" x 7" sheet signed as follows in black ink: "To the crew of the Mason--/ with our thanks-You were/ a welcome sight on the Horizon/ Neil Armstrong" and "Dave Scott". It bears the "Gemini Rendezvous Mission/ Pacific Fleet U.S. Navy Recovery Force" stamp. Also included are four original vintage NASA glossy photos, all of which are of the rare "red number" variety. These show various scenes of the rescue and include images numbered S-66-18602, S-66-26037, S-66-26048, and S-66-26059. A fabulous grouping (see following lot also) from one who was there for this dramatic emergency rescue. The pen used for the note was apparently running out of ink as the signatures are lighter than the inscription. Two areas of tape stains from tape mounting on the back, overall very good. Photos have tape-related damage in the margins, very good.
Gemini 8 conducted the first docking, with an Agena Target Vehicle, of two spacecraft in orbit on March 16, 1966. Soon after docking, the combined craft began to roll. Armstrong used the Orbit Attitude and Maneuvering System (OAMS) thrusters to stop the roll but it immediately restarted. They were out of ground communication range at the time. Seeing that the OAMS fuel had dropped precipitously and fearing that the spin rate might cause damage to one or both craft or possibly cause the Agena to explode, Armstrong and Scott decided to undock and evaluate the situation. This caused the Gemini capsule to spin at a faster rate; at one revolution per second, the astronauts' vision was blurred and they were in danger of passing out so Armstrong decided to shut down the OAMS thrusters and use the Re-entry Control System (RCS) thrusters to stop the spin. They then ran tests and found that the OAMS thruster eight was stuck on. Their use of the RCS dictated, by mission rules, that the flight be aborted. They were due to splashdown in the Atlantic three days later but Mission Control decided to bring them down 500 miles east of Okinawa and have a secondary recovery ship rescue them. The Leonard F. Mason was dispatched "full steam ahead" to their location and arrived three hours after splashdown, bringing the spacecraft and crew, exhausted and seasick, but happy to be out of the ocean, aboard the vessel. Chester R. Szetela was a rescue swimmer who participated in the rescue; he was also the ship's assistant publication officer. This lot, and the lot following, comes to us from his collection of memorabilia from that day.
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