James McDivitt
Astronaut James A. McDivitt photo courtesy NASA

International Space Hall of Fame Inductee James A. McDivitt has passed away at 93 surrounded by family and friends. A native of Chicago, Ill., McDivitt was best known as the Commander of Apollo 9, but he was also the Command pilot on Gemini IV, a U.S. Air Force test pilot, and flew 145 combat missions during the Korean War.

McDivitt was selected to be an astronaut by NASA in September 1962. His first space mission was aboard Gemini IV, a 66-orbit mission flown in 1965. Highlights of the mission included opening of the spacecraft cabin doors, an extravehicular activity (EVA) performed by Pilot Ed White which was the first American spacewalk, and the completion of twelve scientific and medical experiments.

From March 3 to 13, 1969, McDivitt commanded Apollo 9, an earth orbital mission, and the first demonstration of the entire set of Apollo flight hardware. On the mission with McDivitt were Command Module Pilot Dave Scott and Lunar Module Pilot Russell Schweikart. There were several accomplishments during the mission, including the first flight of the lunar module, the first test of the Apollo spacesuits, the first rendezvous between the lunar and the command/service module, and the first cojoined operation of two crewed spacecraft in flight. Apollo 9 was a major stepping-stone for the lunar landing effort and paved the way for Apollo 11.

In June 1969, McDivitt left the Astronaut Office to become the manager for Lunar Landing Operations in the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office. He was responsible for planning the lunar landing missions subsequent to the first landing and redesigning the Apollo spacecraft to extend NASA’s lunar exploration capability. Later, he became manager of the entire Apollo Spacecraft Program.

McDivitt retired from the Air Force as a Brigadier General and left NASA in June 1972 to pursue private sector opportunities. Inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1982, he was also the recipient of numerous other awards including two NASA Distinguished Service Medals; the NASA Exceptional Service Medal; two Air Force Distinguished Services Medals; and four Distinguished Flying Crosses.

At the 1965 Paris Air Show, McDivitt (right) and White (3rd from right) shake hands with Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (left).

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