Just after 7 PM on 4 December 1965, astronauts Frank F. Borman, II, and James A. Lovell, Jr., were carried into outer space on GEMINI VII. America’s twelfth manned space flight would last nearly fourteen days and carry Borman and Lovell around the world 206 times.
Meanwhile, back on earth, USS BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (SSBN-640), manned by her Gold Crew, was on her shakedown cruise, undergoing tests and preparing to join the fleet. On 12 December she made her way to a stretch of ocean off the coast of Florida and waited for an order. When it came, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, threading a twelve-second launch window, sent a POLARIS A-3 missile flying into the atmosphere. High above, “at the beginning of their 31st orbit, the astronauts [aboard GEMINI VII] pointed the craft’s nose downward over the cape, about 145 miles below,” Navy historians wrote in a “biography” of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. “ ‘We’ve got her and she’s beautiful,’ Lovell said as they snapped pictures…of the missile. ‘It’s easy to track, we’re right on it,’ Borman said. Later, communicating directly with GEMINI VII, FRANKLIN’s commanding officer, CDR Ross N. Williams, replied, ‘The pleasure was all ours.’ ”
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’s Blue Crew test fired their first POLARIS two weeks later. Unfortunately, there was no spacecraft available to photograph their missile from above as it sailed across the sky.