GEMINI 5: Flown $2 Bill
Launch Date: August 21, 1965 | Splashdown Date: August 29, 1965
About the Provenance
This bill was acquired in 2014 via public auction. The bill originates from the personal collection of launch pad leader Guenter Wendt.
About the Bill
Gemini 5 launched into space on August 21, 1965 for an eight day mission -- the longest space flight up to that point on record. The goal of the long duration flight was to prove out the ability of humans to live and work in space for the length of time necessary to conduct a lunar mission. Despite a few mechanical failures with the craft, the overall mission was a grand success. This would prove to be Commander Gordon Cooper's last space flight. For pilot Charles "Pete" Conrad, however, this was his first space flight and his career was just beginning: he would go on to command the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission, and later, command the first manned Skylab mission.
Guenter Wendt was a German-American engineer who worked for McDonnell Aircraft Corporation and North American Aviation, and who served in the US space program as the Pad Leader -- the man in charge of close out crews at the launch pads for the entire Mercury and Gemini programs, as well as for all the manned phases of the Apollo program, including ASTP. A favorite of the astronauts, Guenter was often the last human they physically interacted with before launching into space.
The above $2 bill halves represent a humorous homage to the original NAA tradition of using a dollar bill to flight certify an astronaut's mission. During the early flights, a bill would be signed, torn in half, and then rejoined with its other half at the end of the mission to prove that the astronaut who launched was the same astronaut who landed. In this case, the tradition appears to be one more of good luck -- making a down payment before flight, and returning the other half upon splashdown.
These bills were part of Guenter's personal space collection, and previously unknown to exist, until offered up for public sale in May of 2014.
The bills are accompanied by the envelope (see above frame) in which Guenter received back the flown halves. The envelope, written in Pete Conrad's hand, notes that enclosed are "1 ea one dollar down". In Guenter's LOA (below), he notes that the "right sight" (sic) was flown.
Still, these bills are historic additions to the Jefferson Space Museum, and very personal and historic reminders of the deep friendships and traditions among the crew and launch personnel -- and the symbolic nature of the $2 bill during Gemini to represent the two-manned crew.