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Spaceflight started almost six decades ago, and humans have come a long way since then. Starting with Yuri Gagarin's first flight in low Earth orbit to sending crewed flights to the International Space Station via private partners.

One of NASA's most notable spaceflight projects was Project Gemini to prove techniques required for the Apollo Program to fulfill the mission of sending humans on the lunar surface.

According to NASA, Project Gemini included sending crewed flights above the Earth's atmosphere and conduct experiments in space, such as spacewalks or Extravehicular Activities (EVA), to ensure astronauts can function for at least eight days in space. About 56 years ago, this feat was achieved by Gemini 5, setting a record-breaking spaceflight.

 Gemini 5 Sets New Crewed Spaceflight Record 56 Years Ago Today
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The Gemini 5 capsule is on display at the Johnson Space Center.

Gemini 5 Crew

Space.com reported that on August 21, 1965, the Gemini 5 was launched to space atop a Titan II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft stayed in orbit for eight days before returning to Earth on August 19, 1965, making a new record for human spaceflight.

The two NASA astronauts aboard the spacecraft were Gordon Cooper and Charles "Pete" Conrad. They were part of history as the first to stay in space for eight days, the longest space mission that surpassed the Gemini 4 crew who were in space for 97 hours and 56 minutes.

The crew was supposedly scheduled to test rendezvous capabilities and maneuvers using a pod deployed from their spacecraft while in orbit. However, an electrical problem occurred, which forced them to cancel those plans and other science experiments.

The mission was described by Conrad as "eight days in a garbage can" about the cramped quarters of the spacecraft. Conrad, later on, becomes the flight commander for Apollo 12, the second mission to the lunar surface.

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Gemini 5 Patch: 8 Days or a Bust

In another report from Space.com, the crew wanted to make their spaceflight more personal and decided to sport the first-ever astronaut-designed space mission patch. It was sewn into the right chest of their spacesuits that shows an emblem depicting a Conestoga wagon and embroidered lettering of their mission Gemini 5, their names, and hidden under a thin piece of hastily added cloth was "8 Days or a Bust."

The first woman to launch into space, Valentina Tereshkova, also had her own cloth patch sewn to her inner suit. The patch had a dove in it to represent her Vostok 6 mission.

When Cooper was assigned to NASA, he decided to put a personal touch on Gemini 5 mission and took inspiration from his experience in Air Force. He mentioned it to Conrad, so they designed the first "Cooper patch," as NASA nicknamed it.

However, NASA said that they could also cause the press to question its writings because they might end up going home earlier than scheduled. Hence, the "8 Days or a Bust" slogan was added to the patch, covering the wagon.

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