Apollo 9

Apollo 9 was a space mission as part of the Apollo program. Their goal was a test flight of the Lunar Module under real conditions in the Earth's orbit, in which the rendezvous and docking maneuver was rehearsed.

Mission planning and crew

In the early planning of the Apollo program, it was envisaged that the second manned flight ( Mission D called ) should perform a test of the lunar module in Earth orbit, with two launchers from Saturn -1B should be used. On 22 December 1966, the NASA crew were known. As commander James McDivitt was selected, who had already taken over the command on the second Geminiflug, Gemini 4. Pilot of the command module should be David Scott, who had graduated with a Gemini 8 space flight. As a pilot of the lunar module in space newcomer Russell Schweickart was nominated one of the few civilians under the Apollo astronauts.

The backup crew consisted of Tom Stafford as Commander John Young as a pilot of the Apollo Command Module and Eugene Cernan as a pilot of the lunar module. All three had been one or two Geminiflüge behind.

After the Apollo 1 disaster on January 27, 1967, all plans were temporarily put on hold.

On November 20, 1967, following the successful unmanned flight of Apollo 4, NASA announced that the team of McDivitt was still provided for the second manned flight under the name of Apollo 8. Here, the new rocket Saturn V manned would be used for the first time.

The previously proposed replacement team has now allocated Apollo 7. As a new replacement team advanced that of Borman's mission E by: Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon and Alan Bean, Bean said Clifton Williams replaced, who was killed in a plane crash. If something unforeseen happen and the previously used principle of rotation would continue to be used, this would be the crew of Apollo 11, the first flight for which was provided a lunar landing.

The support team ( support crew ) consisted of Edgar Mitchell, Fred Haise and Alfred Worden. On July 12, 1968 Haise moved into the backup crew of Mission E and was replaced by Jack Lousma. As on November 13, Mitchell to replace the pilot of the lunar module F of the mission (Apollo 10) was nominated, Stuart Roosa moved by.

During the summer of 1968 it became apparent that the Lunar Module would not be ready in time. In August, NASA decided, for the time being without informing the public that the mission I could be preferred and should circumnavigate Borman's team as a mission C ' the moon.

After the mission C ( Apollo 7 ) was successful, NASA decided on November 10 finally that Borman's team should be the first to fly to the moon. This mission was now numbered as Apollo 8. The flight from McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart was now as Apollo 9 and delayed well into 1969. Mission E was deleted.

The individual parts of the rocket, which were actually planned for Mission E were delivered from May to September 1968. On January 3, 1969, the Saturn V to the launch pad 39A could be rolled. The rocket carried the serial number AS- 504 command module CSM -104 and the Lunar Module LM- third


The Saturn V was launched on March 3, 1969 at 16:00 UTC from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. In order to facilitate communication, command module and ferry were first own nickname: Gumdrop for the command module and Spider for the Lunar Module. Thus, since Gemini 3 interrupted tradition was continued that the astronauts were allowed to give their spaceships own name.

Speaker connection ( CapCom ) during the flight were the backup crew Conrad, Gordon and Bean, and Stuart Roosa and Alfred Worden of the support crew and Ronald Evans.

In Earth orbit

After reaching the Earth's orbit all the maneuvers were carried out as they were planned for the real moon landing of Apollo 11. At this time, the lunar module was still in the third stage of the Saturn rocket. The tip was the unit from the Apollo Service Module and the Command Module (CSM ). The CSM broke away from the rocket stage, turned 180 degrees and docked with the nose of the Lunar Module (LM ) to. Now the composite could be removed from the rocket stage. Three hours after the start of the maneuver was completed.

The third stage of the Saturn V, the S- IVB was fired again to test their systems, and brought into a solar orbit.

On the third day of flying first rose Schweickart, McDivitt then of the Apollo command module in the lunar module to. That was the first time that astronauts were moving through a tunnel of a space vehicle to another. Schweickart was suffering at this time with motion sickness, so the program had to be shortened. However, there was the first television transmission from inside the lander. Finally, the engines of the lunar module were still being tested. Without separating the two spacecraft, the engine ran for six minutes.

For the next day, March 6, 1969 the first extravehicular activities of the Apollo program were provided. McDivitt and Schweickart went a second time through the tunnel into the lunar module. Schweickart left the ferry through the outer hatch, secured with a nylon rope. This Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA ) lasted 47 minutes, were scheduled over two hours, with Schweickart to the hatch of the Apollo Command Module should hand over hand, to simulate the transfer in free space. However, this part had to be omitted.

At the same time Scott opened the hatch of the command module and leaned into space ( see picture ), but was still connected with the life support systems of the spaceship. Thus Scott still came but to his EVA, which was planned for Gemini 8, but had to be canceled.

On the fifth day of flying the lunar module should maneuver himself finally. McDivitt and Schweickart separated the ferry from the mother ship and went away up to 180 km from the Apollo spacecraft. After about four hours, the descent stage was jettisoned and ignited the ascent stage to perform the rendezvous with the Apollo spacecraft. 6 hours and 22 minutes after the separation docked Spider back to Gumdrop. However, this was not the first manned docking of two spacecraft in orbit, because this premiere was Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 two months earlier succeeded.

McDivitt and Schweickart climbed back to Scott in the command module and the lunar module was jettisoned. The ascent engine of the lunar module was detonated by remote control and burned until the fuel came to an end. Spider remained in orbit and burned up in the atmosphere until 1981, during the descent stage re-entered the atmosphere in the spring of 1969.


The rest of the time in orbit was devoted to Earth observation. The crew brought back 1,373 usable photos. Due to bad weather in the landing area the firing of retro rockets carried out a mission in orbit later than planned. Ten days after the launch, on 13 March, at 17:00 UTC Apollo 9 splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean and was recovered by the USS Guadalcanal. Unlike Apollo 7 and Apollo 8, the landing capsule operating simultaneously with the tip up and had to straighten up not only.

Whereabouts of the spacecraft

The command module was issued until its closure in April 2004 at the Michigan Space and Science Center, Jackson, MI and is now in the San Diego Air & Space Museum in San Diego, CA.

Importance for the Apollo program

Apollo 9 was a complete success. With the lunar module and the Apollo space suit now the last pieces of equipment were tested in space that were necessary for a lunar landing. Also, all rendezvous and docking were tested. The space sickness, had suffered from the Schweickart had indeed led to the shortening of the extravehicular activities, but this risk was considered to be controlled. The nausea always occurs only at the beginning of space flight, so that a patient suffering from space sickness astronaut should have recovered until the arrival on the moon.

Within NASA, there were voices that the next mission, Apollo 10, was already seeking a manned landing on the moon, but we stayed with the original plan, which has been expressly confirmed on March 24, 1969 again. Then the next flight should combine the tests of Apollo 8 and Apollo 9: a moon flight test of the ferry in lunar orbit.