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Capsule Recovery in the South Pacific

Capsule recovery of the Gemini X mission

In the early days of space exploration the US Navy played a big part in the process of getting astronauts and their spacecraft home safely. Beginning in 1961 with the recovery of the first American in space, Alan Shepherd, capsule recovery was done by many ships and crews until 1975.

Landings were rough. The water helped cushion the impact but splashdowns in the ocean were still one of the most dangerous parts of the entire mission. The crews of US Navy recovery ships were on hand to make sure the task of capsule recovery was completed as quickly and as safely as possible and that the returning astronauts were on the deck of the ship as soon as possible after the capsule doors were open. Once the astronauts were safely aboard the spacecraft was hoisted onto the ship and taken back to land.

Gemini Crew Welcomed by Wasp Crew

Gemini 9 Crew Waves to the Wasp during capsule recovery

One such recovery ship was the USS Papa Nui. Operating in the South Pacific during the time of the Apollo and Gemini programmes, the crew were instrumental in the final phase of many missions.

Capsule Recovery and the Apollo Cap

The Apollo Cap was the official cap of the USS Papa Nui and was worn by crew on deck to protect them from the harsh South Pacific sun. On capsule recovery missions, returning astronauts were handed an Apollo Cap of their own when the hatch doors opened.

Gemini 10 spacecraft at splashdown

Prime crew for the Gemini V space flight, astronauts Charles Conrad Jr., (in water) and L. Gordon Cooper Jr., (in raft) practice survival techniques

As part of the Atoll Rocket Riders collection, the Papa has recreated an exacting replica of the original commemorative cap that was given to Apollo 12 astronauts. It is constructed from Royal Blue Melton Wool with a Billiard Green anti-glare under visor and features a special crafted Apollo 12 patch. It is finished with military grade Herringbone Twill inside panelling, a genuine Australian Kangaroo sweatband and a satin grosgrain millinery bow.

We sold out of our first run of Apollo Caps within days but we have managed to secure a small number of additional caps direct from the Papa. Quite possibly the finest cap ever released to market, we recommend not sleeping on this one.

Head over to the Papa Nui section of our website to get yours.