Apollo 9

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Apollo 9
Gumdrop Meets Spider - GPN-2000-001100.jpg
David Scott performs a standup EVA from Command Module Gumdrop, seen from docked Lunar Module Spider
Mission typeLunar module test flight
  • CSM: 1969-018A
  • LM: 1969-018C
  • CSM: 3769
  • LM: 3771
Mission duration10 days, 1 hour, 54 seconds[2]
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass95,231 pounds (43,196 kg)[3]
Landing mass11,094 pounds (5,032 kg)
Crew size3
  • CSM: Gumdrop
  • LM: Spider
EVA duration77 minutes
Start of mission
Launch dateMarch 3, 1969, 16:00:00 (1969-03-03UTC16Z) UTC
RocketSaturn V SA-504
Launch siteKennedy LC-39A
End of mission
Recovered byUSS Guadalcanal
Decay dateOctober 23, 1981 (LM)
Landing dateMarch 13, 1969, 17:00:54 (1969-03-13UTC17:00:55Z) UTC
Landing siteNorth Atlantic Ocean
23°15′N 67°56′W / 23.250°N 67.933°W / 23.250; -67.933 (Apollo 9 splashdown)
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth orbit
Perigee204 kilometers (127 mi)
Apogee497 kilometers (309 mi)
Inclination33.8 degrees
Period91.55 minutes
EpochMarch 5, 1969[4]
Docking with LM
Docking dateMarch 3, 1969, 19:01:59 UTC
Undocking dateMarch 7, 1969, 12:39:06 UTC
Docking with LM Ascent Stage
Docking dateMarch 7, 1969, 19:02:26 UTC
Undocking dateMarch 7, 1969, 21:22:45 UTC
Apollo-9-patch.png Apollo9 Prime Crew.jpg
Left to right: McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart 

Apollo 9 was the third crewed mission in the United States Apollo space program, the second to be sent into orbit by a Saturn V rocket, and the first flight of the command and service module (CSM) with the Apollo Lunar Module. The mission's three-person crew consisted of Commander James McDivitt, Command Module Pilot David Scott, and Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart. The crew spent ten days in low Earth orbit testing several aspects critical to landing on the Moon, including the LM engines, backpack life support systems, navigation systems, and docking maneuvers.

After launching on March 3, 1969, the crew performed the first crewed flight of a LM, the first docking and extraction of a LM, one two-person spacewalk (EVA), and the second docking of two crewed spacecraft—two months after the Soviets performed a spacewalk crew transfer between Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5. The mission proved the LM worthy of crewed spaceflight. Further tests on the Apollo 10 mission would prepare the LM for its ultimate goal, landing on the Moon. They returned to Earth on March 13, 1969.



Position[5] Astronaut
Commander James A. McDivitt
Second and last spaceflight
Command Module Pilot David R. Scott
Second spaceflight
Lunar Module Pilot Russell L. Schweickart
Only spaceflight

Backup crew[edit]

Position[5] Astronaut
Commander Charles Conrad Jr.
Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon Jr.
Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean
This crew became the prime crew on Apollo 12. *

* Alan L. Bean.[6] replaced Clifton C. Williams Jr. who was killed in October 1967 when the T-38 he was flying crashed near Tallahassee.

Support crew[edit]

The support crew for Apollo 9 consisted of:[7]

Flight directors[edit]

Mission parameters[edit]

At orbital insertion (16:11:15 UTC, March 3, 1969):

  • Mass: CSM 48,564 pounds (22,028 kg); LM 32,034 pounds (14,530 kg)
  • Perigee: 102.3 nautical miles (189.5 km)
  • Apogee: 103.9 nautical miles (192.4 km)
  • Inclination: 32.57°
  • Period: 88.64 min

LM–CSM docking[edit]

  • Undocked: March 7, 1969 – 12:39:36 UTC
  • Re-docked:March 7, 1969 – 19:02:26 UTC


  • SchweickartEVA – LM forward hatch
    • Start: March 6, 1969, 16:45:00 UTC
    • End: March 6, 1969, 17:52:00 UTC
    • Duration: 1 hour, 07 minutes
  • Scott – Standup EVA – CM side hatch
    • Start: March 6, 1969, 17:01:00 UTC
    • End: March 6, 1969, 18:02:00 UTC
    • Duration: 1 hour, 01 minute

Mission background[edit]

McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart train for the AS-205/208 mission in the first block II Command Module, wearing early versions of the block II pressure suit

In April 1966, McDivitt, Scott, and Schweickart were selected by Deke Slayton as the second Apollo crew, as backup to Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee for the first crewed Earth orbital test flight of the block I command and service module,[8] designated AS-204 expected to fly in late 1966. This was to be followed by a second block I flight, AS-205, to be crewed by Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham. The third crewed mission, designated AS-207/208, was planned to fly the block II command module and the lunar module in Earth orbit, launched on separate Saturn IBs, with a crew to be named.

However, delays in the block I CSM development pushed AS-204 into 1967. By December 1966, the original AS-205 mission was cancelled, Schirra's crew was named as Grissom's backup, and McDivitt's crew was promoted to prime crew for the LM test mission,[9] re-designated AS-205/208. On January 26, 1967, they were training for this flight, expected to occur in late 1967, in the first block II Command Module 101 at the North American plant in Downey, California.[10] The next day, Grissom's crew were conducting a launch-pad test for their planned February 21 mission, which they named Apollo 1, when a fire broke out in the cabin, killing all three men and putting an 18-month hold on the crewed program while the block II command module (CM) and A7L pressure suit were redesigned for safety.

As it turned out, a 1967 launch of AS-205/208 would have been impossible even without the Apollo 1 accident, as problems with the LM delayed its first un-crewed test flight until January 1968. NASA was able to use the 18-month hiatus to catch up with development and un-crewed testing of the LM and the Saturn V launch vehicle.[11]

By October 1967, planning for crewed flights resumed, with Apollo 7 being the first Earth orbit CSM flight (now known as the C mission) in October 1968 given to Schirra's crew, and McDivitt's mission (now known as the D Mission) following as Apollo 8 in December 1968, using a single Saturn V instead of the two Saturn IBs. This would be followed by a higher Earth orbit flight (E Mission), to be crewed by Frank Borman, Michael Collins, and William Anders in early 1969.

However, LM problems again prevented it from being ready for the D mission by December, so NASA officials created another mission for Apollo 8 using the Saturn V to launch only the CSM on the first crewed flight to orbit the Moon, and the E mission was cancelled as unnecessary. Slayton asked McDivitt and Borman which mission they preferred to fly; McDivitt wanted to fly the LM, while Borman volunteered for the pioneering lunar flight. Therefore, Slayton swapped the crews, and McDivitt's crew flew Apollo 9.

The crew swap also affected who would be the first crew to land on the Moon; when the crews for Apollo 8 and 9 were swapped, their backup crews were also swapped. Since the rule of thumb was for backup crews to fly as prime crew three missions later, this put Neil Armstrong's crew (Borman's backup) in position for the first landing mission Apollo 11 instead of Pete Conrad's crew, who made the second landing on Apollo 12.

Mission highlights[edit]

Apollo 9 launches from Kennedy Space Center, March 3, 1969

Apollo 9 was the first space test of the complete Apollo spacecraft, including the third critical piece of Apollo hardware besides the command and service module and the Saturn V launch vehicle—the lunar module. It was also the first space docking of two vehicles with an internal crew transfer between them. For ten days, the astronauts put both Apollo spacecraft through their paces in Earth orbit, including an undocking and redocking of the LM with the CSM, just as the landing mission crew would perform in lunar orbit. Apollo 9 gave proof that the Apollo spacecraft were up to this critical task, on which the lives of lunar landing crews would depend.

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 LM was named Spider, and the CSM was labeled Gumdrop because of the Command Module's shape, and because of the blue wrapping in which the craft arrived at Kennedy Space Center. These names were required as radio call signs when the vehicles flew independently.

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 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.

Apollo 9 approaches splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, March 13, 1969

McDivitt and Schweickart later test-flew 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 crewed spacecraft that was not equipped to reenter the Earth's atmosphere.

The splashdown point was 23°15′N, 67°56′W, 160 nautical miles (290 km) east of the Bahamas and within sight of the recovery ship USS Guadalcanal. Apollo 9 was the last spacecraft to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean until the Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission in 2019.

The Command Module was displayed at the Michigan Space and Science Center, Jackson, Michigan, until April 2004 when the center closed.[12] In May 2004, it was moved to the San Diego Aerospace Museum (now named the San Diego Air & Space 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 Saturn IVB third stage became a derelict object where it would continue to orbit the Sun for many years. As of November 2014, it remains in orbit.[13]

Mission insignia[edit]

Apollo 9 space-flown silver Robbins medallion

The circular patch shows a drawing 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 Apollo missions. The patch was designed by Allen Stevens of Rockwell International.[14]

Summary of maneuvers[edit]

T + Time Event Burn Time Delta-Velocity Orbit
T + 00:00:00 Lift-off
T + 00:02:14.34 S-IC center engine cut-off 141 s
T + 00:02:42.76 S-IC engine cut-off 169 s
T + 00:02:45.16 S-II ignition
T + 00:03:13.5 S-II skirt separation
T + 00:03:18.3 LES jettison
T + 00:08:56.22 S-II cut-off
T + 00:08:57 S-II cutoff + separation, S-IVB ignition
T + 00:11:04.66 S-IVB cutoff + orbital insertion 127.4 s 191.3 × 189.5 km
T + 02:41:16 CSM/S-IVB separation
T + 03:01:59.3 CSM/LM docking
T + 04:08:09 Spacecraft/S-IVB separation
T + 05:59:01.07 First service propulsion system (SPS) test 5.1 s +10.4 m/s 234.1 × 200.7 km
T + 22:13:04.07 Second SPS test 110 s +259.2 m/s 351.5 × 199.5 km
T + 25:17:39.27 Third SPS test 281.6 s +782.6 m/s 503.4 × 202.6 km
T + 28:24:41.37 Fourth SPS test 28.2 s -91.45 m/s 502.8 × 202.4 km
T + 49:41:34.46 Docked DPS test 369.7 s -530.1 m/s 499.3 × 202.2 km
T + 54:26:12.27 Fifth SPS test 43.3 s -175.6 m/s 239.3 × 229.3 km
T + 92:39:36 CSM/LM undocking
T + 93:02:54 CSM separation maneuver 10.9 s -1.5 m/s
T + 93:47:35.4 LM Descent Propulsion System (DPS) phasing maneuver 18.6 s +27.6 m/s 253.5 × 207 km
T + 95:39:08.6 LM DPS insertion maneuver 22.2 s +13.1 m/s 257.2 × 248.2 km
T + 96:16:06.54 LM concentric sequence initiation maneuver/Descent stage jettison 30.3 s -12.2 m/s 255.2 × 208.9 km
T + 96:58:15 LM Ascent Propulsion System (APS) constant delta height maneuver 2.9 s -12.6 m/s 215.6 × 207.2 km
T + 97:57:59 LM terminal phase finalization maneuver 34.7 s +6.8 m/s 232.8 × 208.5 km
T + 99:02:26 CSM/LM docking
T + 101:22:45 LM ascent stage jettison
T + 101:32:44 Post-jettison CSM separation maneuver 7.2 s +0.9 m/s 235.7 × 224.6 km
T + 101:53:15.4 LM APS burn to depletion 350 s +1,643.2 m/s 6,934.4 × 230.6 km
T + 123:25:06.97 Sixth SPS test 1.29 s -11.5 m/s 222.6 × 195.2 km
T + 169:39:00.36 Seventh SPS test 25 s +199.6 m/s 463.4 × 181.1 km
T + 240:31:14.84 Deorbit burn (SPS) 11.6 s -99.1 m/s 442.2 × -7.8 km
T + 240:36:03.8 SM jettison
T + 241:00:54 Splashdown


Hardware disposition[edit]

The Apollo 9 Command Module Gumdrop (1969-018A) is on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.[15] Its service module (SM) was jettisoned shortly after the deorbit burn and reentered the atmosphere.

The ascent stage of LM-3 Spider (1969-018C) reentered on October 23, 1981.[16] The descent stage of LM-3 Spider (1969-018D) reentered on March 22, 1969.[16] The upper stage of the Apollo 9 Saturn V, S-IVB-504N, (1969-018B) remains in heliocentric (solar) orbit as of 2019.[13]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ Orloff, Richard W. (September 2004) [First published 2000]. "Table of Contents". Apollo by the Numbers: A Statistical Reference. NASA History Division, Office of Policy and Plans. NASA History Series. Washington, D.C.: NASA. ISBN 0-16-050631-X. LCCN 00061677. NASA SP-2000-4029. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
  2. ^ "Apollo 9". NASA. July 8, 2009. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  3. ^ "Table 2-37. Apollo 9 Characteristics" from NASA Historical Data Book: Volume III: Programs and Projects 1969–1978 by Linda Neuman Ezell, NASA History Series, NASA SP-4012, (1988)
  4. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "SATCAT". Jonathan's Space Pages. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Apollo 9 Crew". The Apollo Program. Washington, D.C.: National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  6. ^ Howell, Elizabeth (May 26, 2018). "Alan Bean: From Astronaut to Artist". Space.com. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  7. ^ "Preparations for Launch". NASA. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  8. ^ "'Open End' Orbit Planned for Apollo". The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, PA. United Press International. August 4, 1966. p. 20. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
  9. ^ Brooks, Courtney G.; Grimwood, James M.; Swenson, Loyd S. Jr. (1979). "Preparations for the First Manned Apollo Mission". Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft. NASA History Series. Foreword by Samuel C. Phillips. Washington, D.C.: Scientific and Technical Information Branch, NASA. ISBN 0-486-46756-2. OCLC 4664449. NASA SP-4205. Retrieved January 29, 2008.
  10. ^ "Apollo Image Gallery: Early Apollo". Project Apollo Archive. Kipp Teague. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  11. ^ Brooks, Courtney G.; Grimwood, James M.; Swenson, Loyd S. Jr. (1979). "Apollo 5: The Lunar Module's Debut". Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft. NASA History Series. Foreword by Samuel C. Phillips. Washington, D.C.: Scientific and Technical Information Branch, NASA. ISBN 0-486-46756-2. OCLC 4664449. NASA SP-4205. Retrieved January 29, 2008.
  12. ^ "Jackson, MI – Michigan Space Center (Closed)". www.roadsideamerica.com.
  13. ^ a b "Saturn S-IVB-504N – Satellite Information". Satellite database. Heavens-Above. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  14. ^ Hengeveld, Ed (May 20, 2008). "The man behind the Moon mission patches". collectSPACE. Retrieved July 18, 2009. "A version of this article was published concurrently in the British Interplanetary Society's Spaceflight magazine."
  15. ^ "Apollo IX Command Module". San Diego Air & Space Museum. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Apollo 9". National Space Science Data Center. NASA. Retrieved April 7, 2014.


  • Baker, David (1982). The History of Manned Space Flight (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-517-54377-X.

External links[edit]

NASA reports