The Gemini Paraglider on SciAm’s Space Lab

The Gemini paraglider; I believe this is a half-scale model in testing at Edwards Air Force Base. Credit: NASA (archives)

The Gemini paraglider; I believe this is a half-scale model in testing at Edwards Air Force Base. Credit: NASA (archives)

Most regular readers of Vintage Space will know that I’m obsessed with the Gemini Paraglider, the landing system that should have made splashdowns obsolete starting in the early 1960s but (to make a long story short) just couldn’t keep pace with Apollo. I’ve written about landings and the paraglider extensively in old blog posts: I’ve dealt with landings generally; discussed splashdowns as an imperfect landing methodtalked about the paraglider’s inclusion in the Gemini program and the training vehicle astronauts flew to practice making paraglider landings; I’ve written about the paraglider’s cancellation from the Gemini programit’s fate after Gemini; and even plans to use the paraglider to land the first stage of the Saturn V rocket. (And yes, there’s more, and I am working on bringing all of these pieces into something much larger.)

I brought my love of the paraglider to Scientific American this month. The latest episode of “It Happened in Space” gives a very brief overview of the Gemini paraglider landing system.


  • John McKay says:

    In the late 60s I built a plastic model of a Gemini capsule. As I recall, it came with several possible configurations. One of them was the paraglider configuration. It didn’t come with the glider, but it had landing skids and little doors on the side of the capsule that they would have deployed out of. I didn’t build that version; I built the docking version.

  • stuyoung38 says:

    Amy, I must say I’m intrigued by your mysterious reference to “bringing all these pieces into something much larger”! I can’t wait to see the revelation of what you have in mind!
    IMHO, it’s one of those accidents of history that the parawing was invented by the Rogallos in 1948, whereas the parafoil wasn’t patented until 1966. Perhaps if the order of invention had been reversed, Gemini, and follow-on spacecraft, would have been landing for years now at a runway at KSC, without the much greater expense, weight penalty, and compromised safety which the Shuttle program saddled us with for 30 years.
    -Stu Young

  • Fond memories. I remember getting the Revel 1/96 scale model of the Gemini that came with optional landing skids if you wanted to display that way.

  • John Calhoun says:

    Maybe you should delve more into the lifting body program. There is a lot of information out there about it:

    The program paralleled the paraglider program and also served to move space vehicle recovery away from the near-ballistic splashdown.

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