Apollo 9

Apollo 9 Mission Insignia
Apollo 9 Mission Insignia
Mission statistics
Mission nameApollo 9
Command ModuleCM-104
callsign Gumdrop
mass 26,801 kg
Service ModuleSM-104
Lunar ModuleLM-3
callsign Spider
mass 14,575 kg
Crew size3
BoosterSaturn V SA-504
Launch padLC 39A
Kennedy Space Center
Florida, USA
Launch dateMarch 3, 1969
16:00:00 UTC
LandingMarch 13, 1969
17:00:54 UTC
23°15′N 67°56′W
Mission duration10d 01h 00m 54s
Crew photo
Left to right: McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart
Left to right: McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart
Related missions
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32px-apollo-8-patch.png (2,754 bytes)
Apollo 8
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Apollo 10

Apollo 9 was the first manned flight of the Command/Service Module (CSM) along with the Lunar Module (LM) . Its three-person crew of Mission Commander Jim McDivitt, Command Module Pilot Dave Scott, and Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart tested several aspects critical to landing on the moon including the LM engines, backpack life support systems, navigation systems, and docking maneuvers. The mission was the second manned launch of a Saturn V rocket, and was the third manned mission of the Apollo Program.

After launching on March 3, 1969, the crew spent ten days in low Earth orbit. They performed the first manned flight of a LM, the first docking and extraction of a LM, a two man spacewalk, and the first docking of two manned spacecraft. The mission proved the LM worthy of manned spaceflight. Further tests on the Apollo 10 mission would prepare the LM for its ultimate goal, landing on the Moon.


Number in parentheses indicates number of spaceflights by each individual prior to and including this mission.

  • James A. McDivitt (2) - Commander
  • David R. Scott (2) - Command Module Pilot
  • Russell L. Schweickart (1) - Lunar Module Pilot

As with Apollo 8 before it, the crew of Apollo 9 consisted of two Gemini veterans and one rookie.

Backup crew

  • Charles Conrad, Jr - Commander
  • Richard F. Gordon, Jr. - Command Module Pilot
  • Alan L. Bean - Lunar Module Pilot

Originally Clifton Williams was the lunar module pilot for the backup crew. He died on October 5, 1967, in a T-38 crash. His spot was given to Alan Bean. Later, when the backup crew flew Apollo 12, a fourth star was added to their mission patch in remembrance of him.

Support crew

  • Fred W. Haise, Jr
  • Jack R. Lousma
  • Edgar D. Mitchell
  • Alfred M. Worden

Flight directors

  • Gene Kranz, White team
  • Gerry Griffin, Gold team
  • Pete Frank, Orange team

Original mission profile

In October 1967, it was planned that following the first manned orbital flight of the Command/Service Module (CSM) (Apollo 7, also known as the C Mission), the second manned Apollo mission (D Mission) would have a manned CSM launched on a Saturn 1B, and a day later the Lunar Module launched on a second Saturn IB to practice the first orbit rendezvous. McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart were given this mission, with Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders being assigned to a later, similar Earth-orbit test (E Mission), this time using the Saturn V to carry both the CSM and LM.

However, production problems with the LM meant that the D Mission would not be able to fly until the spring of 1969, so NASA officials created another "C-Prime" mission to go in between the C and D missions, involving the CSM (with no LM) making the first manned flight to the Moon. This flight became Apollo 8, and was given to Borman, Lovell and Anders. Although he was in the rotation for it, McDivitt claims he was never offered the "C-Prime" mission as he was already experienced with the LM - but if he had been offered it, he probably would have declined, as he wanted to fly the LM. The original E Mission was subsequently scrubbed - Apollo 9 was the only Earth-orbit test of the full Apollo spacecraft, and was launched on a Saturn V instead of two Saturn 1Bs. This had long lasting consequence - when the crew rotation for Apollos 8 and 9 were swapped, their backup crews were also swapped, putting Neil Armstrong and his crew (who were Borman, Lovell and Anders' backups) in line for the first manned landing mission instead of Pete Conrad and his crew.

Mission highlights

Apollo 9 was the first space test of the complete Apollo spacecraft, including the third critical piece of Apollo hardware - the lunar module. It was also the first space docking with an internal crew transfer. For ten days, the astronauts put all three Apollo vehicles through their paces in Earth orbit, undocking and then redocking the lunar lander with the command module, just as they would in lunar orbit. Apollo 9 gave proof that the Apollo machines were up to the task of orbital rendezvous and docking.

For this and all subsequent Apollo flights, the crews were allowed to name their own spacecraft (the last spacecraft to have been named was Gemini 3). The gangly lunar module was named Spider, and the command module was labelled Gumdrop on account of the blue wrapping in which the craft arrived at KSC.

Schweickart and Scott performed a spacewalk (EVA) Schweickart checked out the new Apollo spacesuit, the first to have its own life support system rather than being dependent on an umbilical connection to the spacecraft, while Scott filmed him from the command module hatch. Schweickart was due to carry out a more extensive set of activities to test the suit, and demonstrate that it was possible for astronauts to perform an EVA from the lunar module to the command module in an emergency, but as he had been suffering from space sickness the extra tests were scratched.

Clothing insignia patch

McDivitt and Schweickart later testflew the LM, and practiced separation and docking maneuvers in earth orbit. They flew the LM up to 111 miles (179 km) from Gumdrop, using the engine on the descent stage to propel them originally, before jettisoning it and using the ascent stage to return. This test flight represented the first flight of a manned spacecraft that was not equipped to reenter the Earth's atmosphere.

The splashdown point was 23 deg 15 min N, 67 deg 56 min W, 180 miles (290 km) east of Bahamas and within sight of the recovery ship USS Guadalcanal.

The command module was displayed at the Michigan Space and Science Center, Jackson, Michigan until April 2004 when the center closed. In May 2004, it was moved to the San Diego Aerospace Museum. The LM ascent stage orbit decayed on October 23, 1981, the LM descent stage (1969-018D) orbit decayed March 22, 1969. The S-IVB stage J-2 engine was restarted after Lunar Module extraction and propelled the stage into solar orbit by burning to depletion.

The crew sang the song "Happy Birthday to You" on March 8, 1969.

Mission insignia and spacecraft names

The circular patch shows drawings of a Saturn V rocket with the letters USA on it. To its right, an Apollo CSM is shown next to an LM, with the CSM's nose pointed at the "front door" of the LM rather than at its top docking port. The CSM is trailing rocket fire in a circle. The crew's names are along the top edge of the circle, with APOLLO IX at the bottom. The "D" in McDivitt's name is filled with red to mark that this was the "D mission" in the alphabetic sequence of pre-lunar landing missions. The patch was designed by Allen Stevens of Rockwell International.

Spacecraft location

The Apollo 9 Command Module Gumdrop is on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego, California.