First docking in space, performed by Neil Armstrong, orbital sunset in background

Space Mission
Gemini VIII, 16-17 March 1966

David Scott

Photo Description
Vintage chromogenic print on fiber-based Kodak paper
8 h × 10 w in (20 × 25 cm); Numbered to upper margin ‘NASA S-66-25784’ with NASA MSC caption and ‘A Kodak Paper’ watermarks to verso.

The crew of Gemini VIII was the first to link two spacecraft together in Earth orbit.

From the mission transcript during docking:
006:32:21 Armstrong: Okay. We’re sitting about 2 feet out. […]
006:32:23 Armstrong: … We’ll go ahead and dock. […]
006:33:40 Capcom (Mission Control): Okay, Gemini VIII. It looks good here from the ground. We’re showing CONE RIGID. Everything looks good for the docking. […]
006:33:52 Armstrong: Flight, we are docked!
006:33:58 Armstrong: Yes. It’s a – really a smoothie.
006:34:01 Capcom: Roger. Hey, congratulations: This is real good.
006:34:07 Scott: You couldn’t have the thrill down there that we have up here.
006:34:10 Capcom: Ha! Ha! Ha!
006:34:24 Armstrong: Okay. Just for your information, the Agena was very stable and at the present time we are having no noticeable oscillations at all.
This great milestone would prove vital to the success of future Moon landing missions. But the triumph quickly became an in-flight emergency, testing NASA’s quick thinking skills to bring the astronauts safely home. While the spacecraft was docked to the Agena, a critical failure of the spacecraft threatened the lives of the astronauts and required immediate undocking, abort of the mission and emergency landing.

This photograph taken by David Scott with the Hasselblad 500C shows the Agena piloted by Neil Armstrong at only 24 inches from the nose of Gemini VIII that was off the coast of Brazil near Rio de Janeiro as the Sun was setting over the Earth. The docking adapter end and instrument panel of the Agena are clearly visible.