Close up of Kuiper with the command module from Apollo 9.

Apollo 9

Full view of Kuiper with command module.

Kuiper visits Gumdrop at @sandiegoairandspace.

Thank you San Diego Air and Space Museum for allowing Kuiper to make a special visit!

On March 3, 1969, Apollo 9 launched into orbit with James McDivitt, Dave Scott and Rusty Schweickart aboard. This was the first manned test of the lunar module, as well as the first mission with a Saturn V carrying both a command (and service) module and a lunar module. It was also the first time astronauts were allowed to name their spacecraft since Gemini 3 (recall the “unsinkable Molly Brown” and contraband corned beef sandwich.)

Since the command module and the lunar module were separate spacecraft (and at times they would both be manned), Mission Control had to be able to distinguish between the two. The astronauts opted to name the spindly lunar module “Spider” and the gumdrop-shaped command module “Gumdrop” (the latter also due to its blue wrapping upon delivery.)

Not only did the crew test docking, undocking and rendezvous maneuvers, but they also tested using the lunar module’s engine to propel the CSM in case something went wrong with the CSM’s engine. Just over a year later, this configuration would come in pretty darn handy for the crew of Apollo 13.

Apollo 9 also featured the first use of mixtapes in space! Each astronaut brought along their own cassette tape, which they listened to on an early version of the Sony Walkman. James and Dave opted for country, while Rusty opted for classical. During the flight, Rusty’s cassette mysteriously went missing. He later told the BBC:

“Dave Scott miraculously, on the ninth day of our 10-day mission, found that tape: ‘Oh Rusty is this what you’ve been looking for?’ I gave them the bird frankly and put my tape in the Walkman and said I’m just going to enjoy my music while you guys take care of the flight, to heck with you.”

“It was just unbelievable, that music came on and it was so powerful it jerked me out of that spaceship in orbit around the Earth, right back to those very, very personal quiet evenings in my home in Houston. It was so powerful, I literally turned the music off, it was an incredibly powerful emotional experience.”

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