Apollo 9 - "A Hell Of A Ride"

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Before the attempt could be made for the manned lunar landing, the spacecraft and systems had to be tested to be sure they would work as designed. Apollo 9 was that critical mission. It is often overlooked but the mission tested the complete Apollo spacecraft in space for the first time. It was the first manned flight for the lunar module. The mission took place from March 3 thru March 13, 1969 with an outstanding crew - David Scott, James McDivitt and Russell "Rusty" Schweickart. A bout of space sickness by Rusty Schweickart threatened to cut some of the mission objectives from the flight plan but he was fortunately able to overcome it. The critical mission objective was the testing of the lunar module "Spider". On March 7 (mission day 5) Spider separated from the command module "Gumdrop". The spacecraft was put through a series of tests designed to simulate the tasks it would need to perform for a successful lunar landing. The descent engine was fired several times to establish a new orbit flying out to 115 miles away from Gumdrop. The LM ascent stage was separated from the descent stage and the ascent engine was fired to bring Spider back to rendezvous with Gumdrop. By the end of the mission both spacecraft had been thoroughly tested and performed excellently. As Jim McDivitt later said, "It was a hell of a ride!"