You might recall that a few weeks back I did a post about Gemini B and the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. In order to test out the idea of a heatshield with a hole in it, the Air Force took an early Gemini spacecraft, patched it up a bit, and reflew it with a test heat shield.
This capsule was Gemini 2 — and it now resides at the Air Force Space & Missile Museum at the Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida, just down the road from where space shuttles are now launched. Here’s an overview of the capsule:
And here’s what the heat shield looks like now:
You can see that it got a pretty good workover after the flight, getting sliced through and through where the test “hatch” was originally located. Here (with a few spelling corrections) is what the black placard on the shield’s plastic covering has to say about it:
The Gemini 2 capsule is the only unmanned spacecraft to complete two space missions.
On January 19, 1965, this capsule was launched on its first flight aboard a Titan II booster from Complex 19 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The 10 minute / 2,117 nautical mile flight was the last of two unmanned missions to qualify the Gemini spacecraft and its launch vehicle for two-man orbital space flight.
This refurbished vehicle was launched on its second mission aboard an Air Force Titan IIIC on November 3, 1966. The 33 minute flight was a heat shield qualification test for the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program, which was cancelled.
For what it’s worth, visiting the museum is free on its own — but it’s tough to get to. You need to take a special tour at Kennedy Space Center to get to it or the historic launch pads around it (well worth the trouble & expense, though…).