“That was live, 7. Not taped”
December 15, 2017 7:08 AM   Subscribe

52 years ago today, the joint NASA mission of Gemini 6A and Gemini 7 marked a milestone: the first time that two orbiting objects successfully rendezvoused with one another in space. The Gemini 6 command pilot and Mercury Seven astronaut Wally Schirra (and onboard computers) brought the capsule within 1 foot of Gemini 7 and the two spaceships stayed in close orbit for four-and-a-half hours. Shortly after their separation, they gleefully marked another milestone: the first song transmitted from space.

Just before the astronauts went to sleep on the morning of December 16, Schirra and his mission partner Tom Stafford "spotted" an unidentified object and reported it to their orbiting colleagues:

"Gemini 7, this is Gemini 6. We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably a polar orbit.... He's in a very low trajectory traveling from north to south and has a very high climbing ratio...Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon.... You just might let me pick up that thing...."

From there, the Gemini 6 astronauts launched into a performance of “Jingle Bells,” played on a tiny Hohner "Little Lady" harmonica by Schirra and accompanied by a set of jingle bells by Stafford (each had been snuck onboard their spacecraft). Gemini 7's pilot Jim Lovell (later the commander of the Apollo 13 mission, and famously played by Tom Hanks in the movie of the same name) responded "we got him too, 6!" and laughed. Schirra then boasted "that was live, 7. Not taped," and Mission Control in Houston chimed in "you're too much, 6."

Not one to miss out on a promotional opportunity, Hohner used the orbital jam session as the basis for a print ad. Schirra's harmonica (still with the dental floss and velcro that he used to rig up the instrument so that it wouldn’t float away in microgravity) and Stafford's bells now sit in the National Air and Space Museum, as part of the "Apollo to the Moon" exhibition.
posted by AgentRocket (4 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I met wally Schirra when I was like 5 or 6. I have a signed autograph and everything. If I had known this at the time, I would have gladly sang Christmas Carols to him.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:18 AM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

And astronauts have been bringing instruments into space ever since.

The Gemini missions are often overlooked, as they were between the pioneering Mercury flights and the exciting Apollo missions. But we wouldn't have gotten to the Moon without Gemini. That's where we learned to do all the things we needed to do to get there. The 6A / 7 mission not only demonstrated rendezvous, but also long-duration spaceflight as 7 stayed up there for two weeks, with Lovell and Borman spending that time in the space about the size of the front of a Volkswagen Beetle.

Also, we wound up with awesome photos like this.

Nice post!
posted by bondcliff at 7:29 AM on December 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, we wound up with awesome photos like this.

And this.
The Gemini flights were what I grew up watching in my childhood. It was so cool.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:44 AM on December 15, 2017

I've been told that I saw a Gemini launch when I was one year old and the family was visiting my aunt and uncle who were living in Cape Canaveral at the time. Looking at the dates for the launches, it must have been Gemini V in August of '65 with Cooper and Conrad.
posted by octothorpe at 8:53 AM on December 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

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