Commander of the Apollo 9 spacecraft featured in the San Diego Air & Space Museum’s rotunda, Jim McDivitt made his spaceflight debut as a commander, piloting Gemini 4 while Ed White made America’s first spacewalk. McDivitt then commanded Apollo 9, a crucial test of the entire Apollo rocket and spacecraft system without which Apollo 11 could not have landed on the moon mere months later, before going on to manage the lunar landing team for the rest of the Apollo program.
A former head of the astronaut corps, Tom Stafford made four historic space flights, including the first joint American-Russian mission. His first mission, Gemini 6, saw him participating in the first ever space rendezvous. Following his second Gemini mission, Gemini 9, Stafford commanded Apollo 10, a vital dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing. Stafford’s final flight was the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first handshake in space between astronauts and cosmonauts.
Famous for leaving the last (for now) footprints on the surface of the moon, Gene Cernan first flew with Tom Stafford on Gemini 9, making an ambitious and risky spacewalk, before joining Stafford again for the Apollo 10 mission. One of the very few to visit the moon twice, Cernan’s last space mission was as commander of Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon, where he lived, slept and explored for three days. Prior to joining NASA, Cernan was a fighter pilot based in San Diego.
Already a renowned test pilot, Dick Gordon’s first mission with NASA was Gemini 11, where he made a remarkable spacewalk, followed by his role as command module pilot for Apollo 12, the second lunar landing mission. Gordon spent over a day alone orbiting the moon. Gordon would have walked on the moon himself on Apollo 18, but budget cutbacks canceled his mission.
Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made the first landing on the surface of the moon. Spending over two hours on the lunar surface, the astronauts carried out humankind’s first in-person exploration of another world. Aldrin had previously flown on the Gemini 12 mission, where he made a number of spacewalks that revealed important lessons in how to work in space.
Walt Cunningham was a crew member on the vital first manned flight of the Apollo program, Apollo 7. During the 11-day mission, Cunningham helped to thoroughly test-fly a brand new generation of spacecraft. Cunningham went on to head up work on America’s Skylab space station, before writing the frankest of all astronaut books, The All-American Boys.
Bill Anders holds the distinction of, along with his Apollo 8 crewmates, being the first person to leave Earth orbit and journey to the moon. His Apollo 8 mission in December of 1968 orbited the moon ten times, and provided humankind’s first view of our home planet from afar. A San Diego native, Anders went on to become United States Ambassador to Norway.
Rusty Schweickart was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 9, rocketing into orbit inside the spacecraft which can now be viewed in the rotunda of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. He tested the spacesuit type to be used on the lunar surface in a spacewalk, and worked with Jim McDivitt to thoroughly test-fly the lunar module spacecraft. After heading important work for the Skylab space station, Schweickart now works in a field vital to the survival of humanity – the tracking of asteroids that might threaten life on Earth if they impact our planet.
Al Bean became the fourth person to set foot on the surface of the moon during 1969’s Apollo 12 mission. His second spaceflight was as commander of America’s first space station, Skylab, where he set an endurance record of 59 days in space carrying out a range of science experiments. Bean now devotes his time to capturing memories of lunar surface exploration through the medium of oil painting, and has become a world-renowned and much-exhibited artist.
To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA, now on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, examines the history of Apollo 10 and the Peanuts characters’ role in that flight.
Local astronaut Woody Spring is planning to join the event.
Month of special activities planned.