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On This Day In Space: Sept. 14, 1966: Gemini 11 sets all-time altitude record

On Sept. 14, 1966, NASA’s Gemini 11 mission set an all-time spaceflight altitude record when two astronauts reached an orbit of 850 miles (1,368 kilometers) above the Earth. This remains the highest altitude ever achieved by a crewed, non-lunar mission.

Related: Project Gemini: NASA’s 2-Person Space Missions in Pictures

Astronaut Richard F. Gordon Jr., pilot for the Gemini-11 spaceflight, returns to the hatch of the spacecraft following extravehicular activity (EVA) on Sept. 13, 1966. This picture was taken over the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 160 nautical miles above Earth’s surface.  (Image credit: NASA)

Gemini 11 command pilot Pete Conrad and pilot Dick Gordon spent three days orbiting the Earth in their cramped Gemini spacecraft. After launch, they performed the first-ever direct-ascent rendezvous with an Agena target vehicle.

Once the two spacecraft were adjoined, they used the rocket on the Agena target vehicle to ascend to their record-breaking altitude. They also created a little bit of artificial gravity while in orbit by using their thrusters to rotate the combined spacecraft.

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