The western half of Australia, looking west, as seen from the Gemini XI spacecraft, 850 miles above the Earth on Sept. 14, 1966. Reaching this record-shattering altitude was a highlight of a demanding, three-day mission for Gemini XI command pilot Charles “Pete” Conrad and pilot Dick Gordon.
Gemini XI docked with its Agena target vehicle just one hour and 34 minutes after liftoff on Sept. 12 and a first orbit rendezvous. On the first of the mission’s two spacewalks, Gordon attached a tether from the Agena to his Gemini spacecraft.
On Sept. 14, the Agena engine fired for 26 seconds, boosting Gemini XI to 850 miles above the Earth, breaking the 475-mile altitude record set in July 1966 by Gemini X. As Gemini XI continued on its 26th orbit, Conrad and Gordon reached the apogee over the southern hemisphere. “We’re looking straight down over Australia now,” Conrad said. “We have the whole southern part of the world out one window. Utterly fantastic.”
Image Credit: NASA/Dick Gordon