I’ve devoted a fair bit of time to discussing landing methods in the 1960s, particularly with respect to the Gemini program. Splashdowns were unsuitable as a long-term method of returning from space, and NASA’s second generation manned spaceflight program presented an opportunity to develop a new landing system. (Pictured, the Paresev 1B – a later version of the paraglider test vehicle. 1964.)
From the multiple proposed land landing systems, NASA chose the Rogallo wing – a paraglider-style inflatable wing that would deploy from the ballistic spacecraft during descent to turn it into a glider. The system would give the pilot considerable directional control, and a land landing would spare him from the dangers associated with a splashdown. It would also cut down on NASA’s reliance on the Navy for recovery of its astronauts.
Gemini never used the Rogallo wing despite considerable time and money spent developing the system. Development began in 1961 before the system was cut from Gemini in 1964. In the intervening three years, however, the system was sufficiently promising that the astronauts had to learn to fly it. Thus was born the paraglider research vehicle or Paresev – built by pilots, for pilots, literally in their own back yard. [Read more…]