Jim McDivitt: Veteran Pilot and Apollo Astronaut

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James McDivitt was a Korean War pilot and an astronaut most well-known for serving as mission commander for Apollo 9, a low-Earth-orbit dress rehearsal for the eventual Moon landing.

Jim McDivitt

McDivitt was born on June 10, 1929, in Chicago. He completed his secondary schooling in Kalamazoo, Mich., graduating from Central High School. He joined the Air Force during the Korean War and flew 145 combat missions during the three-year war. For his university studies, he chose the University of Michigan; he earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1959. In that same year, he went to Edwards Air Force Base, in California, to be a test pilot. He logged more than 3,500 hours in the air.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected McDivitt as an astronaut in 1962. He was command pilot for Gemini 4, flying 66 orbits in four days with Ed White, who performed the first spacewalk by an American on June 3, 1965.

Apollo 9 spacecraft

McDivitt was commander of the Apollo 9 mission, one of two detailed dress rehearsals that preceded the famous Apollo 11 Moon landing. McDivitt, along with Russell Schweickart and Dave Scott, They spent 10 days in low Earth orbit, performing all manner of tests: of docking and undocking maneuvers, of the engines of the lunar module, and of navigation systems. They even threw in a spacewalk, with Schweickart notching 37 minutes of extravehicular activity (EVA).

Apollo 9 Spider

A big highlight for the crew was on the fifth day of the 10-day mission. McDivitt and Schweikart climbed into Spider and flew the lunar module more than 100 miles away from Gumdrop. In a rehearsal for what astronauts who had walked on the Moon would later do, the lunar module crew then enticed their spacecraft to "rise" again, and they docked safely with Scott into the command module. (This was the second docking test done; the first was while the lunar module was still attached to the remaining stages of the Saturn rocket that launched the spacecraft.)

Jim McDivitt

Apollo 9 was McDivitt's last spaceflight. In 1969, he was named manager of the Apollo Space Program and served in that capacity for the five Apollo flights 12–16.

In 1972, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Later that year, he retired from both NASA and the Air Force.

McDivitt went to work in the private sector, as executive vice president and director for Consumers Power Company, in Jackson, Mich., and with Rockwell International, which eventually appointed him senior vice president of government operations. He retired in 1995. He has married twice and has six children in all.

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