History’s first space rendezvous, a crucial milestone for the planned lunar missions of Project Apollo, was accomplished by Walter Schirra and Tom Stafford in Gemini VI-A, who chased down the orbiting Gemini VII carrying Frank Borman and James Lovell. 

National Geographic, April 1966

As Gemini VI-A approached its target, the Gemini VII spacecraft, Schirra piloted while Stafford photographed, creating the first pictures of another vehicle in space made with a handheld camera. His images of the rendezvous describe a graceful dance performed by two small spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. (Schick and Van Haaften, pg. 48)

Stafford took this superb photograph with a Hasselblad 500C camera and its 80mm lens using Kodak SO 217 film with an ASA of 64. The two spacecraft are some 37 feet apart here. The blue Earth can be seen about 160 miles below.

“We reviewed the pictures after we got back. When we saw their clarity – the lighting, the Sun angle, and everything – we realized that they described it very well. The mission will be there in history forever.”

—Thomas Stafford (Schick and Van Haaften, pg. 50)