It was fifty years ago today- Apollo 9 launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida at 11 AM. The astronauts were James McDivitt, David Scott and Rusty Schweickart. It would be McDivitt’s second and final spaceflight, Scott would in the future go to the moon as commander of Apollo 15- he was the seventh man to walk on the moon and it would be Schweickart’s only spaceflight.
To me the Gemini and Apollo astronauts were like baseball stars or rock stars. I was eight years old and totally taken with the space missions back then. Apollo 9 isn’t remembered like Apollo 8-which in late December had went around the moon and back. The mission of Apollo 9 was important though- the lunar module needed to be tested in its ability to undock and then redock with the lunar orbiter. The stakes were high- to go to the moon and back as planned in the near future this had to work- at the time AP reporter Paul Recer described the mission as “a flight that will put America on the moon’s threshold or slam the door indefinitely”. We know how things worked out but at the time there were many anxious people. Apollo 9 would be in low Earth orbit for ten days doing their tests. There would be one more testing flight Apollo 10 before the scheduled Apollo 11 would go to the moon in mid-July. Video of the launch attached below–