Apollo 9 is the one of only two Apollo Command Modules flown in space on display west of the Rocky Mountains. The spacecraft was moved on May 18, 2004 from its former home at the Michigan Space and Science Center, where it had been on exhibit for more than two decades, and carefully transported to the San Diego Air & Space Museum. The exhibit opened to the public on July 21, 2004 - the day after the 35th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing. Built by the North American Rockwell Space Systems Division in Downey, California, the spacecraft, named “Gum Drop” by its crew, currently resides in the Museum’s Rotunda, enabling visitors a close look at this vital piece of American space flight history.
The Apollo 9 crew consisted of Gemini program veterans James McDivitt as Mission Commander, Dave Scott as Command Module Pilot, and rookie Russell L. Schweickart as the Lunar Module Pilot. During a 10-day mission launched on March 3, 1969, the crew accomplished the first tests of the Lunar Module, or LM, that would take a crew to the surface of the Moon. For the first time in space flight history, crew-members flew in a spacecraft, the LM, designed to operate only in the vacuum of space. McDivitt and Schweickart separated the LM from the Command Module and maneuvered as far as 113 miles away before returning for a successful rendezvous and docking. In addition to putting the LM through its paces, LM Pilot “Rusty” Schweickart successfully tested the Portable Life Support System that astronauts would wear on the Moon’s surface. The success of Apollo 9 paved the way for the Apollo 10 crew to take their Lunar Module within nine miles of the Moon’s surface as a dress rehearsal for the subsequent landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.
The Command Module is on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. NASM has in its collection all manned spacecraft flown in America’s space program.