James McDevitt, the former NASA astronaut who commanded the Gemini 4 and Apollo 9 missions, died in his sleep in Tucson, Arizona, last week, NASA said in a statement Monday. He was 93 years old.
McDevitt was surrounded by family and friends when he died on Thursday. According to NASA.
McDevitt, who was selected in 1962 to join Class II astronauts at NASA, was instrumental in helping first humans land on the moon during Apollo 11., nearly twice as long at that point in early space history.
The Gemini IV mission in 1965 was McDevitt’s first mission as commander, and marked the first time that American astronaut Ed White had ventured out of a spacecraft into what would eventually become known as space walk.
“In the years that followed, it was the skill that allowed the Apollo explorers to walk 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 the 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 lasted 10 days and launched on March 3, 1969 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. He was accompanied 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 real lunar missions.”
A few months later, in July 1969, NASA managed to land humans on the moon.
In total, McDevitt spent more than 14 days in space before retiring from NASA in 1972.
Received two NASA Distinguished Service Medal and NASA Exceptional Service Medal.
The former astronaut was born in Chicago and graduated from high school in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A NASA statement said he received a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan, graduating first in his class in 1959.
His university said it was saddened by his loss, noting that his contributions to the university “inspired generations of students”.
“His legacy will continue to explore space as an essential part of our history.” college books in a tweet.
McDevitt joined the United States Air Force in 1951. He served in the Korean War and performed 145 combat missions. He was awarded several decorations, including two Distinguished Air Service Medals, in recognition of his service in the army.
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