Apollo 9

Testing the lunar module above Earth

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

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
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.Image: NASA

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
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.Image: NASA

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
Liftoff16:00:0003 Mar 1969
First stage (S-IC) separation16:02:4303 Mar 1969
Second stage (S-II) separation16:08:5703 Mar 1969
Third stage (S-IVB) cutoff16:11:0403 Mar 1969
Earth orbit insertion16:11:1403 Mar 1969
CSM/LM ejected from S-IVB20:08:0903 Mar 1969
First LM entry (Schweickart)11:15:0005 Mar 1969
Pressure suits donned12:15:0006 Mar 1969
LM depressurized16:45:0006 Mar 1969
LM forward hatch open16:46:0006 Mar 1969
CM depressurized16:59:0006 Mar 1969
CM side hatch open17:02:0006 Mar 1969
LM pilot (Schweickart) begins EVA17:04:0006 Mar 1969
LM forward hatch closed17:48:0006 Mar 1969
CM side hatch closed17:49:2306 Mar 1969
LM repressurized17:53:0006 Mar 1969
CM repressurized17:55:0006 Mar 1969
CSM/LM undocking12:39:3607 Mar 1969
LM descent stage jettisoned16:16:0607 Mar 1969
CSM/LM docking19:02:2607 Mar 1969
LM ascent stage jettisoned21:22:4507 Mar 1969
Deorbit burn ignition16:31:1413 Mar 1969
Deorbit burn cutoff16:31:2613 Mar 1969
Entry interface16:44:1013 Mar 1969
Drogue parachute deployed16:55:0713 Mar 1969
Main parachute deployed16:55:5913 Mar 1969
Splashdown17:00:5413 Mar 1969
Crew onboard recovery ship 17:49:3313 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.


Project Apollo

Starting with Apollo 7 in 1968 and culminating with Apollo 17 in 1972, NASA launched 33 astronauts on 11 Apollo missions. Twelve humans walked on the Moon.

The Crew of Apollo 9 After Returning Home
The Crew of Apollo 9 After Returning Home The crew of Apollo 9, slightly haggard after 10 days in space, is all smiles after a successful mission. From left to right: Rusty Schweickart, David Scott, Jim McDivitt.Image: NASA