NASA Hero Dies at 93
James McDivitt became one of America’s first and most experienced astronauts. Heavily involved with both the Gemini and Apollo mission sets, the space pioneer experienced some of the most memorable moments in NASA history, both in space and on the ground.
On October 13, McDivitt passed away at 93 years old in Tucson, Arizona. The fighter pilot from Kalamazoo, Michigan, may not be a household name like John Glenn or Neil Armstrong, but his experiences contributed to historic images, essential preparations for the moon landing, and even a longstanding agency joke about a close encounter in space.
In 1965, during the Gemini 4 mission, McDivitt photographed his best friend and fellow spaceman Ed White on the first United States space walk. The images are some of the most recognizable in NASA’s history. During his first Gemini flight that year, the pilot claimed there was “something out there,” comparing it to a beer can floating outside the capsule. He eventually determined it was likely a reflection of bolts from inside the vessel. Still, many saw it as proof of a UFO. McDivitt often joked that he was the foremost expert on the subject.
In another, lesser-known flight, McDivitt captained the Apollo 9 mission, which never left Earth’s orbit. While it wasn’t an exciting tour and didn’t garner the attention of other NASA exploits, it was the first test of the full complement of equipment and supplies that would eventually greenlight Apollo 11 and a giant step for mankind.