Jim McDivitt reports for final mission

“I really take Space to heart!” Gag photo of Jim McDivitt, Gemini IV commander, aged 36 at the time. 

James Alton McDivitt, born 10 June 1929 in Chicago, grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan and, when the Korean War kicked off, enlisted in the newly-formed U.S. Air Force as a private then applied for pilot training under the aviation cadet training program. Swiftly progressing through the program, by late 1952 he was flying F-80 Shooting Stars and F-86 Sabres in combat with the 35th FBS and completed 145 missions, earning two DFCs.

While McDivitt would ultimately retire as a brigadier general in 1972, in between Korea and that time he was a daredevil test pilot and then part of “The Next Nine” astronauts that followed the “Original Seven” space explorers of The Right Stuff fame and became an integral part of NASA’s Cold War Gemini and Apollo space programs. This included serving as command pilot of Gemini IV (where he filmed Ed White’s first American spacewalk) in 1965 and Apollo 9 in 1969– the latter of which included a solo ten-day Earth orbital Lunar module test mission. Hanging up his space helmet, he was the program manager for Apollo 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 moon missions.

In retirement, he was a big wheel at Rockwell International during that company’s B-1B bomber days and while the AGM-114 Hellfire missile was developed, both of which survive in service today.

“With heavy hearts, we mourn the recent passing of Korean War veteran, former test pilot, aeronautical engineer, and NASA astronaut Jim McDivitt,” NASA’s statement said of his passing at age 93. “Rest in peace.”

Godspeed, sir. Per aspera ad astra.

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