NASA said in a statement that former astronaut James A. McDivitt, who led the Apollo 9 mission, died on Thursday in Tucson, Arizona, with his family and friends around him. He was 93.
Over the course of his career, McDivitt spent 14 days in space. In September 1962, after he graduated from the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School and worked as an experimental test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California, he was chosen to join NASA’s second class of astronauts.
NASA says that he went to space for the first time in June 1965 as commander of the Gemini IV mission. He went with fellow Air Force pilot Ed White, who was the first American to go on a spacewalk during the historic 4-day trip.
After that, he went into space again as the commander of the Apollo 9 mission, which took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on March 3, 1969 with David Scott and Russell Schweickart in the command and lunar modules.
Former NASA astronaut James McDivitt has died at 93; McDivitt commanded the Gemini 4 mission, in which Ed White became the 1st American to walk in space, and the Apollo 9 mission that tested the Apollo lunar module in Earth orbit; RIP, and thank you for your service pic.twitter.com/LPhFaqLoRR
— William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) October 18, 2022
NASA says that after the launch, Apollo 9 went into Earth’s orbit, where the crew tested the engineering of the first crewed lunar module, called “Spider,” and practiced the moves that would be done on real missions to the moon.
Ten days later, on March 13, 1969, the Apollo 9 spacecraft came back down to Earth and landed in the Atlantic Ocean.
He was in the U.S. Air Force before he became an astronaut. NASA says that he flew 145 combat missions in F-80 and F-86 planes during the Korean War. Over the course of his piloting career, he flew for more than 5,000 hours.
After his trips to space, McDivitt was put in charge of the operations for landing on the moon. From August 1969 until June 1972, when he retired from NASA, he was in charge of the Apollo Spacecraft Program.
RIP James McDivitt, one of the last true NASA/American Space heroes! pic.twitter.com/SdPkIDBL5y
— Space Shuttle Almanac (@ShuttleAlmanac) October 18, 2022
During his long and successful career, McDivitt won two NASA distinguished service medals and the NASA exceptional service medal. He also won two Air Force distinguished service medals, four distinguished flying crosses, five air medals and U.S. Air Force astronaut wings.
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