Hard to believe the decades fly by so fast. It was 45 years ago today that the crew of Apollo 9 took off from the Kennedy Space Center en route to a big test of the lunar module. Being March 1969, history shows that it was only about four months later when men touched the moon for the first time ever.
Getting to the moon, however, required making sure that the lunar landing craft was in tip-top shape. This was the first test of the lunar module in space. Apollo 9 astronauts Jim McDivitt, Rusty Schweickart and Dave Scott spent several days shaking out the spacecraft in the relative safety of Earth orbit.
The mission is perhaps best remembered for the first docking of “Spider” (the lunar module) and “Gumdrop” (the command module), but plenty happened during their March 3-13, 1969 mission. You can relive some of the most memorable moments of training and the mission in the gallery below. More information on the mission is available at NASA.
Apollo 9 astronauts Jim McDivitt (front) and Rusty Schweickart inside the lunar module mission simulator at the Kennedy Space Center. Apollo 9 flew in March 1969. Credit: NASA
Spotlights shine on the Saturn V rocket carrying Apollo 9 prior to its launch from the Kennedy Space Center on March 3, 1969. Credit: NASA
The Apollo 9 astronauts walk out to the vehicle that will take them out to the launch pad, hours before launch on March 3, 1969. From left: Jim McDivitt (commander), Dave Scott (command module pilot) and Rusty Schweickart (lunar module pilot). Credit: NASA
The launch of Apollo 9 on March 3, 1969. Credit: NASA
Apollo 9’s “Spider” lunar module lies nestled in the third stage of the Saturn V rocket that carried it to space in March 1969. Credit: NASA
Apollo 9 lunar module pilot Rusty Schweickart during a spacewalk in March 1969. Here, he was standing on the porch of the lunar module “Spider.” Credit: NASA
Apollo 9 lunar module pilot Rusty Schweickart during a spacewalk in March 1969. Credit: NASA
Apollo 9 commander Jim McDivitt (right) drinks from a hand water dispenser while lunar module pilot Rusty Schweickart looks on. Photo is a still from a March 1969 television broadcast. Credit: NASA
Apollo 9 commander Jim McDivitt shows off several days’ beard growth during March 1969. The photo was taken in lunar module “Spider”. Credit: NASA
Apollo 9’s lunar module “Spider” during a test in March 1969. Credit: NASA
Apollo 9 astronaut Dave Scott during a spacewalk from the command module in March 1969. The Mississippi River is visible in the background. Credit: NASA
A recovery helicopter picks up Apollo 9 command module “Gumdrop” and brings it to recovery ship USS Guadalcanal on March 13, 1969. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / Elizabeth Howell (photo combination)
The Apollo 9 astronauts await recovery from a helicopter from USS Guadalcanal on March 13, 1969. The crew included Jim McDivitt (in hatch), Rusty Schweickart (far right, in foreground) and Dave Scott (behind Schweickart). The other people are frogmen from the recovery team. Credit: NASA
The Apollo 9 aboard the recovery ship USS Guadalcanal on March 13, 1969. From left: Rusty Schweickart (lunar module pilot), Dave Scott (command module pilot) and Jim McDivitt (commander). Credit: NASA
By Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.