19 Mar 2019

Fifty years since Apollo 9 took us one step closer to the moon

In March 1969, the Apollo 9 mission took the United States space program one step closer to a moon landing by taking the Apollo Lunar Module on its first ever flight.

The voyage proved the Apollo Lunar Module could be used for crewed spaceflight, thus paving the way for Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin to become the first men to set foot on the moon

About the Apollo 9 mission

The most complex space mission ever undertaken at the time, Apollo 9 was the third crewed mission in NASA's Apollo space program. Its three-person crew consisted of Commander James McDivitt, Command Module Pilot David Scott, and Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart.

They took off on 3 March and spent 10 days in low Earth orbit testing aspects such as navigation systems and docking manoeuvres that were critical to the success of a moon-landing attempt.

About the Apollo program

The NASA Apollo program launched by President Kennedy ran from 1961 to 1972. It had its share of disasters as well as triumphs, including when a cabin fire killed the entire Apollo 1 crew during a pre-launch test.

The final Apollo 17 Mission in 1972 marked the sixth moon landing and the ninth manned mission beyond low Earth orbit. It also marked the end of lunar exploration on this scale until President Donald J. Trump told NASA to work with international and commercial partners to refocus exploration efforts on the moon in December 2017.

Scheduled missions include the Exploration Mission-2, which is due to perform a lunar flyby in 2022.

Photo credit: NASA