Former NASA astronaut James A. McDivitt, who commanded the Apollo 9 mission, died on Thursday in Tucson, Arizona, surrounded by his family and friends, NASA said in a statement. He was 93.
McDivitt spent 14 days in space over the course of his career. He was selected to be a member of NASA’s second astronaut class in September 1962 after graduating from the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School and serving as an experimental test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
In June 1965 he flew to space for the first time as commander of the Gemini IV mission alongside fellow Air Force pilot Ed White, who became the first American to venture outside his spacecraft for a spacewalk during the historic 4-day spaceflight, NASA said.
That was followed by his second spaceflight as the commander of Apollo 9 mission — which launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on March 3, 1969 — alongside command module pilot David Scott and lunar module pilot Russell Schweickart.
Following the launch, Apollo 9 entered Earth’s orbit and the crew performed an engineering test of the first crewed lunar module, nicknamed “Spider,” and simulated the maneuvers that would be performed during actual lunar missions, NASA said.
Ten days later, on March 13, 1969, the Apollo 9 capsule re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.
Prior to becoming an astronaut, he was a member of the U.S. Air Force. He flew 145 combat missions during the Korean War in F-80 and F-86 aircraft, logging more than 5,000 flying hours during the course of his piloting career, NASA said.
And after his trips to space, McDivitt became a manager of lunar landing operations. He worked as the manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program from August 1969 until June 1972, when he retired from NASA.
Throughout his distinguished career, McDivitt earned two NASA distinguished service medals and the NASA exceptional service medal as well as two Air Force distinguished service medals, four distinguished flying crosses, five air medals and U.S. Air Force astronaut wings.