Armstrong labored to steady the
vehicles enough to separate them. "Go," Armstrong said, and Scott hit the
undocking button. Armstrong gave the thrusters a long hard burst, and
the spacecraft pulled straight back. Almost immediately the spacecraft
rolled even faster.
Aboard the Coastal
Sentry Quebec. James R. Fucci, CapCom aboard the ship, was concerned.
8, CSQ CapCom. Com check. How do you read?"
Scott: "We have serious
problems here........ we're tumbling end over end up here. We're
disengaged from the Agena."
Gemini 8 was in trouble
and the Morning Star newsroom moved into action.
Local stories were put on hold as the teletype rattled out non-stop
updates from the wire service.
The spacecraft was
spinning at a rate of one revolution per second. Armstrong and Scott
were dizzy, and their vision was blurred. Something had to be done. "All
that we've got left is the reentry control system," Armstrong said.
"Press on," Scott responded. The two men threw the switches to initiate
reentry control system.
The hand controllers
Using the reentry
control thrusters meant that the Gemini VIII mission would have to come
to an end as soon as possible. ...........That was a mission rule.
A U.S. Navy destroyer,
the U.S.S. Leonard F. Mason, steamed at flank speed toward the expected
landing point 500 miles east of Okinawa.
spacemen were coming to Okinawa the next day.
The Morning Star
was on point.
Calls were coming
in from major news organizations with
request for information and accommodation.
Jerry Heaster, the
Star's young and focused News Editor, also represented Time/Life on
stories with international significance. Jerry contacted me and
asked if I could be available to shoot color transparencies of whatever
transpired the next day. ...........I could.
a friend and fellow photographer,
and asked him for help. The plan was for me to shoot
with the slim hope that we might make the deadline for Time Magazine and
Steve would shoot B&W for the Star. (Steve's memories of details
differ only slightly from mine. His account is on his
March 18, 1966
It was cloudy, with a chance of rain, when Steve
arrived at the Morning Star in pursuit of a press pass. We were
introduced to Peter Arnett, from Associated Press, who would go on
to win a Pulitzer for his reporting on the Vietnam war. Peter,
like the rest of us, was much thinner in those days and had a lot more
hair. My memory of Peter was of him dictating his story over the
phone. Somewhere, at the other end of the phone line, some
nameless writer would take Peter's fragmented sentences and misused
adjectives, compose them into a complete story, and forever enhance the
resume of Peter Arnett.
There wasn't time to cut through government red
tape and secure press passes, Steve and I were on our own.
We drove to Naha and arrived at the port as the Mason was being secured.
The guard at the gate couldn't be persuaded to let us in. KSBK,
the local radio station, was saying the astronauts would be transported
by helicopter to Kadena, and flown to the U.S. from there. I put
my Honda S-600, in gear and headed for Kadena. The maximum speed
allowed on Okinawa roads was 35mph, we may have exceeded that as we sped down
We arrived at Base Operations just as the
helicopter was landing. We ran through the building and out the
back. We could see the astronauts, with their entourage, exiting
the helicopter and walking toward the plane. We shot as many
frames as possible as Armstrong and Scott walked across the tarmac.
Steve made the front page of the Star with his black and white photo and
missed the deadline for Time. Who knows what happened to the roll