James McDevitt, the former NASA astronaut who commanded the Gemini IV and Apollo 9 missions, died in his sleep last week in Tucson, Arizona, NASA said in a statement Monday. He was 93 years old.
McDevitt was surrounded by his family and friends when he died Thursday. According to NASA.
Chosen to join NASA’s second class of astronauts in 1962, McDevitt’s work during the Apollo 9 mission played an important role in eventually helping to land the first humans on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. His work on Gemini IV helped extend the time of the first humans, NASA said. astronauts in space, nearly doubling the duration at that point in early space history.
The Gemini IV mission in 1965 was McDevitt’s first as commander, and was the first time American astronaut Ed White ventured out of a spacecraft in what eventually became known as space walk.
“In the following years, it was the skill that allowed the Apollo explorers to walk on the moon and American astronauts and their partners from around the world to build the International Space Station,” NASA wrote in the statement.
NASA said this four-day mission broke the previous US record of 34 hours spent in space during the Mercury 9 mission.
Years later, McDevitt commanded his second mission, Apollo 9, which spanned 10 days and launched on March 3, 1969, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. He was joined by Command Module Pilot David Scott and Lunar Module Pilot Russell Schweickart.
“This was the first flight of a complete set of Apollo instruments and it was the first flight of the lunar module,” NASA said. “They simulated the maneuvers that would be performed during actual lunar missions.”
A few months later, in July 1969, NASA succeeded in landing humans on the Moon.
In total, McDivitt logged over 14 days in space before retiring from NASA in 1972.
He received two medals from the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.
The former astronaut was born in Chicago and graduated from high school in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A NASA statement said he earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan, where he first graduated in his class in 1959.
His university said it was saddened by his loss, noting that his contributions to the university had “inspired generations of students”.
“His legacy of space exploration will live on as a central part of our history.” university books in a tweet.
McDevitt joined the US Air Force in 1951. He served in the Korean War and did 145 combat missions. He was awarded several medals, including two Distinguished Air Service Medals, for his work in the Army.
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