The ex NASA astronaut James A. McDivitt, who commanded the Gemini IV and Apollo 9 missions, died on October 13. McDivitt passed away peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family and friends in Tucson, Arizona. He was 93 years old.
He was also manager of the agency’s space program and his photographs of Ed White during the spacewalk became iconic images.
McDivitt was selected as an astronaut by NASA in September 1962 as part of NASA’s second class of astronauts.
He first flew in space as commander of the Gemini IV mission in June 1965. McDivitt joined fellow Air Force pilot Ed White on the program’s most ambitious flight to date. During Gemini IV, White would become the first American to venture outside of his spacecraft for what is officially known as an extravehicular activity (EVA) or, as the world has known it, a spacewalk. In the years that followed, it was a skill that allowed Apollo explorers to walk on the Moon and American astronauts and their partners around the world to build the International Space Station. The mission’s four-day duration nearly doubled NASA astronauts’ previous time in space up to that point, and the longest previous American spaceflight was Gordon Cooper’s 34-hour Mercury 9 mission.
McDivitt’s second spaceflight as commander of Apollo 9 played a critical role in landing the first humans on the Moon. This was the first flight of the complete Apollo hardware suite and was the first flight of the Lunar Module. The mission launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on March 3, 1969, with Commander James McDivitt, Command Module Pilot David Scott, and Lunar Module Pilot Russell Schweickart.