Apollo 9

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Apollo 9 was a mission in NASA's Apollo program. It was the third manned mission in the Apollo program and was the first flight of the Command/Service Module (CSM) with the Lunar Module (LM). The crew was Commander James McDivitt, Command Module Pilot David Scott, and Lunar Module Pilot Russell Schweickart. The mission was launched on March 3, 1969. The mission tested several things which were important for landing on the Moon, including the LM engines, backpack life support systems, navigation systems, and docking manoeuvres.


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

Backup crew[edit]

  • Clifton Williams was originally the lunar module pilot for the backup crew, but 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[edit]

Flight directors[edit]

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

Mission parameters[edit]

LM - CSM docking[edit]


  • Schweickart - EVA - LM forward hatch
  • Scott - EVA - CM side hatch

Original mission profile[edit]

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 few days later the Lunar Module launched on a second Saturn 1B 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 was 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[edit]

Apollo 9 was the first space test of the complete Apollo spacecraft, including the third critical piece of Apollo hardware - the lunar module. 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 an 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 activity 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, this was restricted to the stand up test in the Lunar Module hatch.

McDivitt and Schweickart later test flew the LM and practised separation and docking manoeuvres in earth orbit. They flew the LM up to 111 miles from "Gumdrop", using the engine on the descent stage to propel them originally, before jettisoning it and using the ascent stage to return.

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 centre closed. In May 2004, it was moved to the San Diego Aerospace Museum. The LM ascent stage orbit decayed on 23 October 1981, the LM descent stage (1969-018D) orbit decayed 22 March 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[edit]

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 a 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.

Apollo 9 maneuver summary[edit]

T + Time Event Burn Time Delta-Velocity Orbit
T + 00:00:00 Lift-off . . .
T + 00:02:14 S-IC center engine cut-off 141 s . .
T + 00:02:43 S-IC engine cut-off 169 s . .
T + 00:02:44 S-II ignition . . .
T + 00:03:14 S-II skirt separation . . .
T + 00:03:19 LES jettison . . .
T + 00:08:56 S-II cut-off . . .
T + 00:08:57 S-II cutoff + separation, S-IVB ignition . . .
T + 00:11:05 S-IVB cutoff + orbital insertion 127.4 s . 191.3 x 189.5 km
T + 02:45:00 CSM/S-IVB separation . . .
T + 03:02:08 CSM/LM docking . . .
T + 04:18:00 Spacecraft/S-IVB separation . . .
T + 05:59:00 First SPS test 5.1 s +10.4 m/s 234.1 x 200.7 km
T + 22:12:03 Second SPS test 110 s +259.2 m/s 351.5 x 199.5 km
T + 25:17:38 Third SPS test 281.6 s +782.6 m/s 503.4 x 202.6 km
T + 28:24:40 Fourth SPS test 28.2 s -914.5 m/s 502.8 x 202.4 km
T + 49:41:33 First DPS test 369.7 s -530.1 m/s 499.3 x 202.2 km
T + 54:26:11 Fifth SPS test 43.3 s -175.6 m/s 239.3 x 229.3 km
T + 92:39:30 CSM/LM undocking . . .
T + 93:02:53 CSM separation maneuver 10.9 s -1.5 m/s .
T + 93:47:34 LM DPS phasing maneuver 18.6 s +27.6 m/s 253.5 x 207 km
T + 95:39:07 LM DPS insertion maneuver 22.2 s +13.1 m/s 257.2 x 248.2 km
T + 96:16:04 LM concentric sequence initiation maneuver 30.3 s -12.2 m/s 255.2 x 208.9 km
T + 96:58:14 LM APS constant delta height maneuver 2.9 s -12.6 m/s 215.6 x 207.2 km
T + 97:57:59 LM terminal phase finalization maneuver 34.7 s +6.8 m/s 232.8 x 208.5 km
T + 98:59:00 CSM/LM docking . . .
T + 101:32:44 Post-jettison CSM separation maneuver 7.2 s +0.9 m/s 235.7 x 224.6 km
T + 101:53:20 LM APS burn to depletion 350 s +1,643.2 m/s 6,934.4 x 230.6 km
T + 123:25:06 Sixth SPS test 1.29 s -11.5 m/s 222.6 x 195.2 km
T + 169:38:59 Seventh SPS test 25 s +199.6 m/s 463.4 x 181.1 km
T + 240:31:14 Eighth SPS test 11.6 s -99.1 m/s 442.2 x -7.8 km
T + 241:00:54 Splashdown . . .

Depiction in fiction[edit]

Portions of the Apollo 9 mission are dramatized in the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon episode entitled "Spider".