With all of the glory of Apollo missions 8, 11 and 13, it’s easy to forget the awesomeness of Apollo 9. Yet 45 years ago today, Apollo 9 launched. That’s right. On March 3rd, 1969, 3 astronauts bravely lifted into space in another rehearsal of the moon landing that would eventually take place later that year. In honor of Apollo 9’s launch, here are a couple of accomplishments that you might have forgotten about or overlooked:
- Apollo 9 first tested the Lunar Module. Prior to Apollo 9, the lunar module had never been fully powered.
- This was the first space flight where crews were allowed to name their craft. The crew of James McDivitt, David Scott and Russell Schweickart named the Command Service Module the “Gumdrop” and the Lunar Module “Spider”.
- The flight involved the first extra-vehicular activity aboard an Apollo mission. The spacesuits worn by Schweickart and Scott were the first ones to have their own life-support capability without being tethered. This type of spacesuit paved the way for the successful Apollo landing and every spacewalk beyond.
- The Lunar Module practiced docking to the Command module. They were separated over 100 miles from each other during testing.
- The Saturn IVB’s third-stage that propelled Apollo 9 into orbit is still circling the Earth today.
Take a moment today to appreciate Apollo 9. They paved the way for Apollo 11 and America’s greatest space accomplishment to date.