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Apollo 9

Testing the lunar module above Earth

Distance traveled
6,782,649 km
Launch Date
3 March 1969
Landing Date
13 March 1969
Destination
Earth orbit

Apollo 9 was the first flight test of the lunar module, the spider-like lander that would carry astronauts to the surface of the Moon. On 3 March 1969, a Saturn V rocket a lunar module, service module, and command module carrying astronauts James McDivitt, David Scott, and Russell Schweickart. In Earth orbit, the crew completed a simulated lunar surface descent, a long-distance rendezvous with the lunar module, and a spacewalk in the newly designed Apollo spacesuits.

Apollo 9 liftoff

NASA

Apollo 9 liftoff
Apollo 9 lifted off on 3 March 1969 carrying astronauts James McDivitt, David Scott, and Russell Schweickart to Earth orbit.
Saturn V Apollo launch configuration

NASA

Saturn V Apollo launch configuration

After detaching from the Saturn V upper stage inside the command module with its attached service module, the astronauts turned around to dock nose-first with the lunar module. Four hours after launch, the three-vehicle stack popped loose from the upper stage, kicking off 10 days of systems checkouts above Earth.

After a series of service module engine burns to test loads on the combined vehicles, the crew conducted an EVA. Schweickart stepped out on the lunar module porch, which astronauts would use to exit on the lunar surface, while Scott observed from outside the command module.

Dave Scott exits the Apollo 9 command module

NASA

Dave Scott exits the Apollo 9 command module
Dave Scott conducts an EVA from the Apollo 9 Command Module, while Rusty Schweickart photographs him from the Lunar Module's porch.

On 7 March, McDivitt and Schweickart undocked inside the lunar module and fired its descent engine twice, flying to an orbit 20 kilometers higher than that of the command and service modules, where Scott remained. They jettisoned the lunar module’s descent stage and fired its ascent stage engine, marking the first time the engine was used in space. They navigated the ascent stage back to a rendezvous with the command and service modules, simulating a return from the lunar surface.

Apollo 9 lunar module

NASA

Apollo 9 lunar module
During Apollo 9, astronauts James McDivitt and Rusty Schweickart took the lunar module for a shakedown cruise in Earth orbit, while Dave Scott remained behind in the command and service modules.

Having completed all their primary objectives successfully, the crew returned to Earth on 13 March, splashing down east of the Bahamas in the Atlantic Ocean. The mission paved the way for Apollo 10 in May 1969, which would send a crew to lunar orbit for a final landing rehearsal ahead of Apollo 11.

Apollo 9 Timeline

EventTime (UTC)Date
Liftoff 16:00:00 03 Mar 1969
First stage (S-IC) separation 16:02:43 03 Mar 1969
Second stage (S-II) separation 16:08:57 03 Mar 1969
Third stage (S-IVB) cutoff 16:11:04 03 Mar 1969
Earth orbit insertion 16:11:14 03 Mar 1969
CSM/LM ejected from S-IVB 20:08:09 03 Mar 1969
First LM entry (Schweickart) 11:15:00 05 Mar 1969
Pressure suits donned 12:15:00 06 Mar 1969
LM depressurized 16:45:00 06 Mar 1969
LM forward hatch open 16:46:00 06 Mar 1969
CM depressurized 16:59:00 06 Mar 1969
CM side hatch open 17:02:00 06 Mar 1969
LM pilot (Schweickart) begins EVA 17:04:00 06 Mar 1969
LM forward hatch closed 17:48:00 06 Mar 1969
CM side hatch closed 17:49:23 06 Mar 1969
LM repressurized 17:53:00 06 Mar 1969
CM repressurized 17:55:00 06 Mar 1969
CSM/LM undocking 12:39:36 07 Mar 1969
LM descent stage jettisoned 16:16:06 07 Mar 1969
CSM/LM docking 19:02:26 07 Mar 1969
LM ascent stage jettisoned 21:22:45 07 Mar 1969
Deorbit burn ignition 16:31:14 13 Mar 1969
Deorbit burn cutoff 16:31:26 13 Mar 1969
Entry interface 16:44:10 13 Mar 1969
Drogue parachute deployed 16:55:07 13 Mar 1969
Main parachute deployed 16:55:59 13 Mar 1969
Splashdown 17:00:54 13 Mar 1969
Crew onboard recovery ship  17:49:33 13 Mar 1969

Apollo 9 Cost

NASA estimated the following direct costs for Apollo 9. Full costs of the Apollo program can be found on the "How Much Did the Apollo Program Cost?" page.

original $ inflation adjusted $
Command & Service Module $55 million $463 million
Lunar Module $40 million $337 million
Saturn V Launch Vehicle $185 million $1.6 billion
Operations $60 million $505 million
Total $340 million $2.9 billion

Inflation adjusted to 2019 via NASA's New Start Index (NNSI). Source: "History of Manned Space Flight." February 1975. NASA Kennedy Space Center. Located in NASA HQ Historical Reference Collection, Washington, D.C. Record Number 18194. Box 1.

"I hope I didn't forget anything on board it."

—Rusty Schweickart, after Apollo 9 undocked from the lunar module for the final time

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Next mission: Apollo 10

18 May 1969
Dress rehearsal for the Moon landing

Apollo 9 crew after recovery