James McDivitt, commander of the Apollo 9 mission that helped in the preparations for the first human beings to walk in space, died at the age of 93. NASA stated in the announcement that McDivitt passed away on Thursday at his home in Tucson, Arizona.
He was chosen for NASA’s second class of astronauts in 1962 and served as the commanding pilot of NASA’s U.S. space agency’s Gemini 4 mission in 1965 as well as Apollo 9 in 1969, which led to the first lunar landing by a human.
The retired astronaut and U.S. Air Force test pilot passed away “peacefully in his bed, surrounded by his loved ones and family living in Tucson, Arizona,” NASA released an announcement.
Apollo 9 made a crucial test flight of the lunar module, a spacecraft named the “lem” that would eventually bring astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in Apollo 11. In the course of the mission, McDivitt traveled to Earth’s orbit together with fellow crew members Rusty Schweickart and David Scott in order to conduct the first space-based engineering test of Spider, the first lunar module with a crew performing the same moves that would be executed on a real lunar mission. After all, McDivitt spent more than 14 days in space.
McDivitt had never flown in an aircraft before his first unit in the Air Force at 20 years old. After completing his pilot training, he went on to complete 145 combat missions throughout Korea and record more than 5,000 hours of flying in the course of his flying career.
McDivitt quit NASA, and McDivitt retired from NASA and the Air Force in 1972. Along with other honors included, he was awarded two awards from NASA for Distinguished Service, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and two Air Force Distinguished Service Medals.