Apollo Prep Mission, 40 Years Ago Today

On March 3, 1969, a Saturn-V rocket lofted the Apollo-9 mission into earth orbit from the Kennedy Space Center, carrying astronauts James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott, and Russell L. Schweickart. This mission accomplished a number of objectives in advance of the first manned mission to the moon:

  • It was the first launch of the complete Apollo configuration, including the Command Service Module and the Lunar Module, aboard a Saturn V.
  • It was the first time a human crew tested the lunar module in space, with the first docking between the CSM and LM and the first time astronauts fired the LM ascent and descent engines in space.
  • On this mission, LM pilot Rusty Schweickart made the first EVA by an astronaut without being attached to spaceship life support equipment.
  • The mission tested the Portable Life Support System in space for the first time.

Apollo-9 was a great success, and paved the way for all the moon missions to come.

And in more space history with a lunar component: Ten years before Apollo-9, on March 3, 1959, the U.S. launched Pioneer-4 from Cape Canaveral in an International Geophysical Year launch. Pioneer-4 was the country’s first sun-orbiting space probe, and marked the first successful flyby of the Moon en route to another destination.

Now, if we could only get back there ….

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