Apollo 9 Patch APOLLO 9 (docking the Apollo modules in LEO)

Launch Date: 1969-03-03
Launch Vehicle: Saturn 5
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 26801.0 kg


Number in parentheses indicates number of spaceflights by each individual prior to and including this mission.

As with Apollo 8 before it, the crew of Apollo 9 consisted of two Gemini veterans and one rookie.


Apollo 9 was the third crewed Apollo flight and the first crewed flight to include the Lunar Module (LM). The crew was Commander James McDivitt, Command Module (CM) pilot David Scott, and LM pilot Russell Schweickart. The primary objective of the mission was to test all aspects of the Lunar Module in Earth orbit, including operation of the LM as an independent self-sufficient spacecraft and performance of docking and rendezvous manuevers. The goal was to simulate maneuvers which would be performed in actual lunar missions. Other concurrent objectives included overall checkout of launch vehicle and spacecraft systems, crew, and procedures. A multispectral photographic experiment was also performed.

Apollo 9 was composed of a command module, a command service module (CSM), a lunar module, and an instrument unit (IU), and was launched by a Saturn V rocket. The vehicle rocket had three stages, S-IC, S-II, and S-IVB. The CM, a cone-shaped craft about 390 cm in diameter at the large end, served as a command, control, and communications center. Supplemented by the SM, it provided all life support elements for the three crewmen. The spacecraft mass of 26,801 kg is the mass of the CSM including propellants and expendables. The CM was capable of attitude control about three axes and some lateral lift translation. It permitted LM attachment and CM/LM ingress and egress and served as a buoyant vessel at sea. The CSM provided the main propulsion and maneuvering capability. It was jettisoned just before CM reentry. The CSM was a cylinder 390 cm in diameter. The LM was a two-stage vehicle that accommodated two men and could transport them to the lunar surface. It had its own propulsion, communication, and life support systems.

After launch and injection of the combined S-IVB stage and the adaptor-LM-CSM payload into a 189.6 x 192.5 km Earth orbit, the S-IVB propellant tanks were vented, changing the orbit to 198 x 204 km. At 2:41 after launch the CSM separated from the S-IVB and and the adaptor panels were jettisoned, exposing the LM mounted on the S-IVB. The CSM turned around and docked with the LM at 3 hours after launch. At 4 hours after launch the S-IVB and CSM-LM were separated and the S-IVB had a 62 second burn to raise its apogee to 3050 km. Over the next few days the CSM service propulsion system (SPS) was fired five times to change the orbit to prepare for rendezvous manuevers and test the dynamics of the CSM and LM under thrust. The LM descent engine was also fired for 367 seconds on 5 March. On 6 March Schweickart conducted a 37.5 minute EVA on the LM porch to test the astronaut's portable life support system and extravehicular mobility unit. At the same time Scott performed an EVA from the CSM side hatch.

On 7 March at 13:03 UT, the LM, carrying McDivitt and Schweickart, separated from the CSM. It was put into a circular orbit about 20 km higher than the CSM. The LM descent stage was jettisoned and for the first time in space the ascent stage engine was fired, lowering the LM orbit to 16 km below and 120 km behind the CSM. A simulated rendezvous of the LM returning from a lunar mission with the orbiting CSM culminated in docking at 19:02 UT. The crew transferred back to the CSM, The LM ascent stage (1969-018C) was jettisoned and its ascent engine was commanded to fire to fuel depletion, into an Earth orbit of 235 x 6970 km. The LM ascent stage orbit decayed on 23 October 1981, the LM descent stage (1969-018D) orbit decayed 22 March 1969. The remaining four days included more orbital manuevers and a landmark tracking exercise. All systems on all spacecraft worked nearly normally during the mission, and all primary objectives were accomplished.

Apollo 9 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean on 13 March 1969 at 17:00:54 UT (12:00:54 p.m. EST) after a mission elapsed time of 241 hrs, 0 mins, 54 secs. The splashdown point was 23 deg 15 min N, 67 deg 56 min W, 180 miles east of Bahamas and within sight of the recovery ship USS Guadalcanal. The Apollo 9 Command Module "Gumdrop" is on display at the San Diego Aerospace Museum in San Diego, California.