There was some suspicion on the ground that the Agena's attitude control system was acting up and might not have the correct program stored in it. This suspicion was found to be incorrect. Shortly before radio blackout, Mission Control cautioned the astronauts to immediately abort the docking if any abnormalities occurred with the Agena.
After the Agena began execution of its stored command program, which instructed the Agena to turn the combined spacecraft 90° to the right, Scott noticed that they were yawing. Armstrong used the Gemini's OAMS thrusters to stop the yaw, but after it stopped, it immediately started again. Gemini 8 was out of range of ground communications at this time.
Armstrong reported that the OAMS fuel had dropped to 30%, indicating that the problem could be on their own spacecraft. With concern that the high yaw rate might damage one or both spacecraft or even cause the propellant-heavy Agena to rupture or explode, the crew decided to undock from the Agena so they could analyze the situation. Scott switched the Agena control back to ground command, while Armstrong struggled to stabilize the combined vehicle enough to permit undocking. Scott then hit the undock button, and Armstrong fired a long burst of translation thrusters to back away from the Agena. Without the added mass of the Agena, Gemini starting tumbling end-over-end more rapidly.
The astronauts realized that the problem was on the Gemini. NASA turned off the squawk box at Armstrong's home, alarming his wife. By now the tumble rate had reached one revolution per second, blurring the astronauts' vision and threatening loss of consciousness or vertigo. Armstrong decided to shut down the OAMS and use the Re-entry Control System (RCS) thrusters to stop the tumble. Scott later praised Armstrong's actions as their spacecraft spun: "The guy was brilliant. He knew the system so well. He found the solution, he activated the solution, under extreme circumstances ... it was my lucky day to be flying with him." The spacecraft came in range of the ground communications ship Coastal Sentry Quebec. After steadying the spacecraft, the crew tested each OAMS thruster in turn and found that Number 8 had stuck on. Almost 75% of the reentry maneuvering fuel had been used to stop the tumble, and mission rules dictated that the flight be aborted once the Re-entry Control System was fired for any reason. Gemini 8 immediately prepared for an emergency landing....
Cause and outcome No conclusive reason for the thruster malfunction was found. The most probable cause was determined to be an electrical short, most likely due to a static electricity discharge. Power still flowed to the thruster, even when it was switched off. To prevent recurrence of this problem, spacecraft designs were changed so each thruster would have an isolated circuit. ....
Spacecraft location The spacecraft is on display at the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum, Wapakoneta, Ohio."
Did the best computers use vacuum tubes in those days.