Apollo 9 Mission, the mission they don’t talk about often, was an Important Step for Cosmos Exploration

Apollo 9 Mission, the mission they don’t talk about often, was an Important Step for Cosmos Exploration

The field of spaceflight got a massive boost from the Apollo 9 mission of NASA.

Apollo 9 went down in history for being the first crewed Lunar Module mission. It was the third manned spaceflight in history but was the first ever mission to test the capabilities of the Lunar Module (LM). On 3rd March 1969, Apollo 9 was launched from Cape Kennedy. Commander James McDivitt, a Command Module Pilot of NASA, led this mission. It is not referred to often owing to the fact it was only a test mission instead of an ‘exciting space travel’ that would attract global attention. Although it is not given its due credit, the Apollo 9 mission played a key role for future missions to the Moon.

This mission proved that the Lunar Module was more than capable of managing the necessary maneuvers. The module docked and undocked several times and even performed a simulated crew rescue scenario. Two telecasts were made to Earth from Apollo 9. The first, on 5th March, lasted for almost seven minutes. The second telecast on the next day lasted about 13 minutes, and only showed interior views of the Lunar Module. This was the first Apollo mission in which astronauts were allowed to name the modules. The Command Module was called ‘Gumdrop’ owing to its shape.

NASA wanted to see if it was possible for astronauts to travel between modules while the spacecraft was in orbit but the spacewalk was canceled as the astronaut, Russell Schweickart, felt nauseated. As a result, the crew decided to start testing the engines of the module while Schweickart was recovering. When the spacewalk eventually took place, Schweickart got tired pretty soon so the crew called it off. The most awaited part of the mission took place on the 5th day. The module was undocked to test its independent flying capabilities and as anticipated, it passed with flying colors.

The Lunar Module dubbed the ‘Spider’ due to its gangly appearance, flew more than 100 miles only to be a speck of light in the distance. Following this, a ‘take-off’ was simulated and the ascent engines worked like a charm. Lastly, the module docked with the Command Module again. The journey ended on 13th March when the module splashed down in the Atlantic after completing its mission. The return to Earth was slightly delayed due to unsuitable weather conditions in the landing area. Consequently, the spacecraft performed an additional round before returning.

This mission is often not recognized enough for the important role it played to make future space travels more reliable than ever. This is partly due to the mission not being that prominent after the Moon landings. It is apparent that the public would have got excited about a spacecraft landing on a foreign body instead of some engineering tests carried out in orbit but credit should be given where it is due. The 50th anniversary of Apollo 9 mission will be celebrated on 19th March 2019 and the Command Module is set on display in the San Diego Air and Space Museum. The ‘Spider’ cannot be displayed because it was supposed to burn up upon re-entering the atmosphere, which it did.

This mission signified that in-orbit crew transfer was more than possible. Apollo 9 is also known for the first ever spacewalk done in history. It was through this spacewalk that the astronauts in Apollo 9 demonstrated the possibility of safely crossing from the Lunar Module towards the Command Service Module and it was an incredible act that can be carried out during emergencies, should the need arise. NASA recently switched its focus back to the spaceflights after years of studying ‘earthly sciences’ and plans on going to the Moon first and eventually to Mars.

Another lesser-known discovery from the mission was that the visual acuity of the human eye is increased in space. There was a report published about this phenomenon however, it was only confirmed during the Apollo 9 journey. Quite interestingly, the astronauts were able to spot a Pegasus II from up to 1000 miles away. Human reactions to space and weightlessness were tested in more than 150 orbits. While the Apollo 9 mission isn’t as glorified as the other Apollo missions, it certainly echoes in the ‘Astronaut world’ as being of major importance and a worthy addition to the history of spaceflights.

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