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  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Gemini land landings (parasail)?

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Author Topic:   Gemini land landings (parasail)?
Dwayne Day
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posted 05-02-2007 05:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This was mentioned in another thread:

Gemini Land Landing System Development Program. Volume I - Full-scale investigations - Mar 1, 1967 - 172 pages - PDF file format - 8.9-mb file size

It's an interesting document. I've skimmed it but not read it. It is about the attempt to develop a parasail landing system for Gemini — this was a follow-up (or insurance policy) to the paraglider.

Does anybody know of any available photographs of the tests of this system? I have a few of them, but not the most dramatic ones. As you can see from the photos at the end of the pdf, they did test drops from a crane where the descent rockets fired. The scan is awful, but you can see that these were dramatic photos. I've got the first one from that sequence, but not the actual firing of the rockets.

Lou Chinal
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posted 06-10-2007 02:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is my understanding that if they were over land they would have to eject. The Gemini ejection seats were equipped with standard 28' flat-circular C-9 canopy.

nasamad
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posted 06-10-2007 06:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for nasamad   Click Here to Email nasamad     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was given to understand that the ejection system was only for the launch phase of the mission. If they ejected during a landing they would have been ejecting into the parachute (or paraglider) canopy.

mjanovec
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From: Midwest, USA
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posted 06-10-2007 10:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to wonder, however, if there wasn't a means to eject if the canopy didn't deploy... or at least a means to release the canopy if it didn't properly deploy.

John Charles
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From: Houston, Texas, USA
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posted 06-10-2007 09:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Charles     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This thread has wandered since the original posting, but it is still relevant. Dwayne was discussing a study specifically to modify the Gemini-type spacecraft so that if could have accommodated landing on land. Of course, the operational Gemini were incapable of doing so without serious injury to the crew.

That is why they had the capability to eject if necessary during the landing phase. To make this possible, the Gemini deployed its main parachute from its nose and descended on single-point suspension, much like Mercury did. The crew would manually selected two-point suspension only after they ascertained that the main parachute was in good condition and that they were not over land. If either of these conditions were not met, then they would have ejected from the capsule while it was still single-point suspended, to ensure clearing the parachute, and then descended using their own personal parachutes. (Note that the Gemini carried only a prime main parachute, and not a backup, like Mercury did. The "backup" function was served by the crew's personal parachutes.)

As discussed by the Gemini 8 crew, they used movable mirrors attached to their instrument panel to look out and slightly downward through their forward (and slightly upward) facing windows. It apparently took some art to get an acceptable view of what was below, using that system.

Of course, this same procedure was planned for the Gemini capsule if it had used the Rogallo inflatable parawing. The crew would have been able to inspect the parawing after it inflated, and only then would they would have switched to two-point suspension and commenced flying their spacecraft to the hoped-for landing on land.

MarylandSpace
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posted 06-10-2007 09:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MarylandSpace   Click Here to Email MarylandSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think that I may have a photo that I took at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Gemini concept. If you would like me to search for it, I will.

Lou Chinal
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From: Staten Island, NY
Registered: Jun 2007

posted 06-10-2007 10:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
John, I'm sure you are right. Gemini had no reserve parachute like Mercury. The reserve chute was the ejection seat.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 06-13-2007 02:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A friend of mine found an early report that showed they had gone as far as a paraglider simulator for crew training. The report showed the exterior of the mockup with the positions of the mirrors.

I will try to get that for the post as I have never seen that anywhere else.

micropooz
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From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 06-13-2007 06:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We've gotten a little off of Dwayne's original question of the parasail (as opposed to paraglider). So let me lay this out about the paraglider. For any of you who haven't seen it, CS's own Ed Hengeveld wrote a fantastic monograph on the Gemini Paraglider. It is well worth purchasing! You can purchase it off of Henry Matthews' website.

Dwayne Day
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posted 06-18-2007 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Huh.

My two-part article on the paraglider (not parasail) will be in Spaceflight magazine soon. I think part one is in the August issue. I used Ed's Quest article as a source (actually more of an inspiration), but I was totally unaware of his monograph.

What I did not do, and I don't think Ed did either, is dig through archives for original documentation on the subject. If that material exists, it is probably at the National Archives facility in Fort Worth, Texas. But I don't have the time to go out there for this project.

I've managed to obtain some nice photos of some of the remaining vehicles, including the Paresev at the Udvar-Hazy Center, the TTV-1 that is also there, and the El Kabong I boilerplate in Michigan. I recently saw another Gemini boilerplate at the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California. But I don't know anything about that one.

kr4mula
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From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 06-18-2007 11:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are indeed some good paraglider documents at Ft. Worth. I've been out there researching other topics and poked my nose into a couple of paraglider boxes out of curiosity. But as with most research trips, time (and quarters for the copier!) was of the essence, so I didn't really take stock of the contents.

When I interviewed Rod Rose a few years ago, he mentioned that he had a large stash of documents on the paraglider. I encouraged him to donate the stuff to the JSC archives, but he said was considering his options at that time. I don't know what, if anything, he ever did with them.

Back on the topic of the parasail, I don't have any pictures, but my JSC oral history with Kirby Hinson covers the topic in some detail. He worked for the parachute section responsible for the parasail alternative.

As far as I know, Mr. Hinson is still around in North Carolina and is as gracious a person and host as you'll ever meet. It may be possible that he would have some pictures, but I don't remember him showing me any.

Dwayne Day
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Registered: Feb 2004

posted 06-18-2007 01:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by kr4mula:
There are indeed some good paraglider documents at Ft. Worth. I've been out there researching other topics and poked my nose into a couple of paraglider boxes out of curiosity. But as with most research trips, time (and quarters for the copier!) was of the essence, so I didn't really take stock of the contents.
Yep, I've been there, both literally and figuratively.

First of all, regional NARA archives are usually rather dumpy and depressing. Ft. Worth was no exception--except that they used to have an archivist who was a space buff and knew where all the good stuff was. I have heard that he retired.

The Ft. Worth collection is great on certain subjects such as Mercury and Gemini. I don't know how well it is stocked with Apollo stuff. But I still have a ton of material from out there and have not been able to utilize it all.

You're right about time and quarters being precious resources. My attitude is NEVER to skimp on the copying--copy EVERYTHING that you may want and don't worry about the cost, because the cost of a research trip is mostly hotel, airfare and car rental, so you need to maximize the return (i.e. copies). Spending even a few hundred bucks on copies is not a bad thing, because if you save yourself a return trip, you save a lot of time and money.

However, they required coins for their copiers, which was nuts. So you ended up having to acquire a ton of coinage to pump into the machine and you could easily run out. (My memory might be faulty here and maybe they had machines that also took bills, but they were unreliable.)

Time, of course, is also precious. Even a few days is not a lot of time to go through a big collection. I also find the tedium of archival research to be rather exhausting after awhile. You can find great stuff, but soon you get sick of going through dusty boxes and getting a tan from the copier and not having anybody to talk to for days. After two days I usually want to quit.

My hotel accommodations out there also stunk. The first time I went I stayed at a decent Motel 6. When I returned, the place had gone way downhill--people were smoking pot on the balcony and kids were running around at midnight. Not a pleasant trip.

Dwayne Day
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Posts: 532
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Registered: Feb 2004

posted 06-18-2007 01:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by kr4mula:
Back on the topic of the parasail, I don't have any pictures, but my JSC oral history with Kirby Hinson covers the topic in some detail. He worked for the parachute section responsible for the parasail alternative.
That's a good tip. Thank you. I'll have to follow up on that.

DDAY
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From: Vienna, VA
Registered: Mar 2005

posted 07-23-2007 11:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DDAY   Click Here to Email DDAY     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some neat new stuff about the parasail:

Fort Hood, "El Kabong" footnote in space exploration
by Clay Coppedge - Telegram Staff Writer
Published July 23, 2007

If a few well-intentioned experiments had worked out a little bit better than they did, Fort Hood might have a place in the history of space exploration to go along with its long-standing military reputation.

Not only that, but the term "El Kabong" might have survived in popular culture as something of a scientific term instead of a character from a 1960s TV cartoon series.

...such a lofty goal required a certain amount of trial and error. A portion of that trial and error took place at Fort Hood, beginning in 1963 when NASA scientists arrived at the base to experiment with bringing a spacecraft and its astronauts back to earth instead of sea, as was the accepted practice.

Scientists used a scaled-down Gemini capsule during the first two years of testing. The dummy capsule weighed about 400 pounds, or 4,600 pounds less than the real things. Tests with the miniature model went well enough to encourage NASA to test a full-scale model.

The theory of bringing the capsule back to earth instead of sea centered on the use of a parasail-landing rocket system, which might sound simple but is anything but.

The parasail, or parachute, was steered by radio command to operate motors on the capsule. The motors controlled flap angles on the parachute used to steer the direction of the drift.

Altitude sensors suspended below the spacecraft were designed to touch the earth before the spacecraft did, which then ignited two 6,000-pound thrust motors that reduced the speed of the falling capsule from 30 feet a second to less than 10. The capsule landed on a tricycle landing gear and everybody aboard the spacecraft was to live happily ever after, or at the very least they were to live.

The capsule, dubbed El Kabong for reasons that are open to speculation, was dropped from an Air Force Reserve C-119 from an altitude of 11,500 feet at Fort Hood on April 21, 1965. The initial test did not have a happy ending; the capsule landed on its side.

...a trip back to the drawing board resulted in an improved turn motor but the second drop, made while Gemini 4 was circling the earth, did not go well either. Damage to the lines that guide the capsule on its way to earth forced Norman to stop the sequence because he could not guide the chute.

The third time was the charm. A successful drop and landing was made on July 31, 1965 when the capsule landed within 40 feet of its target on Fort Hood's Antelope Mound tank range.

"We've got a winner!" an ebullient Norman cried when the capsule landed upright on its tricycle landing gear.

"This is the first successful landing (of a spacecraft) in this country!" he told reporters. "As far as I can tell, everything worked 100 percent."

All times are CT (US)

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