Former NASA astronaut Jim McDivitt, who led Gemini and Apollo missions, dies at 93

Jim McDivitt, an astronaut who played a key role in making America’s first spacewalk and moon landing possible, has died. He was 93.

NASA confirmed his death to NPR on Monday, adding that he was surrounded by family and friends when he died on Thursday.

Known for being a courageous test pilot and dedicated leader, McDivitt commanded two of the most crucial flights in the early space race — Gemini 4 and Apollo 9.

McDivitt was selected by NASA to become an astronaut in 1962. He was chosen to pilot Gemini 4 — becoming the first-ever NASA rookie to command a mission.

Considered NASA’s most ambitious flight at the time in 1965, the Gemini 4 mission was the first time the U.S. performed a spacewalk and the longest that a U.S. spacecraft remained in Earth’s orbit: 4 days.

Four years later, McDivitt commanded Apollo 9 — a 10-day shakeout mission orbiting the Earth in March 1969 that involved testing the lunar landing spacecraft — four months before NASA would successfully land humans on the moon.

Apollo 9 was his last trip to space. He would become the manager of NASA’s Lunar Landing Operations and served as the Apollo Spacecraft Program manager from 1969 to 1972. He retired in 1972 both from NASA and the Air Force as a brigadier general.

Russell Lewis contributed reporting. This story will be updated.

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