Commander of Apollo 9, Astronaut James McDivitt dies at 93. His flights way back helped to provide crucial and important tests of the lunar module that would then land the first humans on the moon.
Astronaut James McDivitt Dies At 93
James McDivitt, who is the commander of the Apollo 9 mission that helped pave the way for taking and landing the first humans on the moon, has died at the age of 93. The astronaut died Thursday in Tucson, Arizona, NASA confirmed in a statement Monday.
Astronaut James McDivitt’s Biography
McDivitt at the time was a graduate of the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School when he was selected to be a member of NASA’s second astronaut class back in 1962. He went on to make his first flight into space in 1965 as commander of the Gemini IV mission. And during the historic four-day spaceflight, McDivitt captured iconic photos of fellow astronaut Ed White as he then became the first American to go outside his spacecraft for a spacewalk.
And on the second day of his first flight back in 1965, which is the day of White’s historic spacewalk, McDivitt reported “something out there” which is an object that was flying outside his Gemini spacecraft that resembled something of a beer can. He attempted to take photos of the object in question but he apparently misfocused the cameras.
Some persons would point to it as evidence of UFOs, and McDivitt would later then joke that he became “a world-renowned UFO expert,” although he however later concluded he had seen reflections of bolts in the multipaned windows.
McDivitt’s Role during the Apollo 9 Mission
Apollo 9 made an important test flight of the lunar module which is a spacecraft that is known as the “lem” that would later take and land astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. McDivitt, during the mission, entered the orbit of Earth, along with crewmates Rusty Schweickart and David Scott, in order to perform the first in-space engineering test of Spider, which is the first crewed lunar module, simulating maneuvers that would be performed during the actual lunar missions.
In all, astronaut McDivitt would spend over 14 days in space.
As at when McDivitt joined the Air Force at age 20 at the onset of the Korean War, he had never been in an airplane. And after completing pilot training, he would go on to then fly 145 combat missions in Korea and also log over 5,000 flying hours during the course of his entire piloting career.
“After I flew Apollo 9, it was apparent to me that I wasn’t going to be the first guy to land on the moon, which was important to me,” McDivitt recalled back in 1999. “And being the second or third guy wasn’t that important to me.”
McDivitt Later Became a Manager of Lunar Landing Operations at NASA
McDivitt would then go on to become a manager of lunar landing operations before he left NASA in 1972 and ventured into private sector jobs. He also retired that very same year from the Air Force as a brigadier general. His numerous commendations include two NASA Distinguished Service Medals and also the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.
During his time in the Air Force, McDivitt was awarded two force distinguished service medals, four distinguished flying crosses, five air medals, and lastly the US Air Force astronaut wings.