Gemini 11 Mission Timeline

  • In order to meet the target orbit, Gemini 11 had to be launched within a 2-second window—the shortest launch window in the history of the Gemini program. Such a short window did not allow room for any mistakes, and two launches had already been delayed due to technical and weather problems. The final launch went ahead successfully with a launch in the first 1/2 second of the 2-second window.
  • The first task of the mission was to dock with the Agena spacecraft in the first orbit, and 85 minutes after launch, Gemini and Agena were docked. For the first time, the astronauts repeatedly practiced docking and un-docking the spacecraft. Several of the experiments were started and the Agena engine was tested.
  • After 6 hours in orbit, it was time for the astronauts' first meal. An 8-hour rest period followed the meal. When they woke up (in the words of Gordon, "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed"), the only complaint they had was about the dirty windows on the capsule. This had been a problem for all the flights and the astronauts were instructed to try to clean the windows during the extravehicular activity (EVA, also known as spacewalk) and bring the rag home for analysis.
  • Preparation then began for the EVA, during which Richard Gordon was going to leave the capsule with an attached tube providing his oxygen. Both astronauts needed to prepare their suits for the vacuum environment of space that they would encounter when the capsule hatch opened. Also, all equipment needed to be secured to keep it from being sucked out of the hatch. The astronauts were so well rehearsed in preparing for the EVA that they only took 50 minutes of the scheduled 4 hours. The remaining time passed somewhat uncomfortably due to the suits overheating.
  • Gordon's first task was to attach the 30-meter (98-foot) tether between the Agena and Gemini. The job was exhausting, and Gordon cut short the EVA after about 30 minutes once he successfully completed the assignment. All the Gemini astronauts found their EVA excursions to be tiring since even the simplest tasks were harder than they expected. Astronaut training at this stage was very basic, and training in neutral buoyancy tanks to simulate weightlessness was only beginning.
  • The crew ate another meal and then went to sleep. The next day the astronauts skipped breakfast and began suiting up to prepare for the boost to a higher orbit. The Agena burn took them to an altitude of 1,372 kilometers (852 miles). The acceleration pushed the astronauts forward in their harnesses and Conrad yelled "Whoop-de-doo! That's the biggest thrill of my life." From their unique position 850 miles high above the surface of the Earth, the astronauts took over 300 pictures as part of the different scientific experiments. After the 25th orbit the Agena was fired again to slow down the craft and lower the orbit back to 304 kilometers (189 miles.)
  • Having skipped breakfast, the astronauts were hungry so they ate another meal and prepared for the second EVA. This time Gordon would be standing in the open hatch of the cockpit of the capsule. Gordon found this much easier and completed his tasks with ease. Indeed, at one point both the astronauts were so relaxed they fell asleep! 
  • Then began the final task involving the Agena, known as the tethered vehicle exercise. The idea was to simulate gravity by spinning the two tethered craft. After some initial problems making the tether taut, the astronauts managed to spin the craft. The astronauts had their evening meal and then tried to make the crafts spin faster. The effects of the tiny amount of artificial gravity created by the spinning were demonstrated by releasing an object. Instead of remaining in position, the object moved back towards the rear of the cockpit along the axis of rotation. This artificial gravity was too small for either of the astronauts to feel. 
  • Finally the Gemini 11 and Agena un-docked and the astronauts prepared for an automatic reentry under computer control—the first time this had been attempted. The landing was a great success, and the capsule touched down in the ocean just 4.6 kilometers (2.9 miles) from the target position marked by the U.S.S Guam, waiting with helicopters to collect the crew and capsule. 


On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, Barton C. Hacker and Charles C. Alexander, Chapter 15-3

Liftoff: The Story of America's Adventure in Space, Michael Collins. Chapter 2 p.103