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James McDivitt

James Alton McDivitt (Brig Gen, USAF Ret.) (born June 10, 1929) is a former NASA astronaut.

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McDivitt graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School, Kalamazoo, Michigan; Jackson Junior College, Jackson, Michigan, and received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan (graduated first in class) in 1959 and an honorary doctorate in astronautical science from the University of Michigan in 1965; honorary doctor of science, Seton Hall University, 1969; honorary doctor of science, Miami University (Ohio), 1970; honorary doctor of laws, Eastern Michigan University, 1975.


McDivitt is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Tau Beta Pi, and Phi Kappa Phi, the Atlantic Council on Foreign Diplomacy, and the Advisory Council-University of Michigan.

McDivitt was awarded two NASA Distinguished Service Medals; NASA Exceptional Service Medal; two Air Force Distinguished Service Medals; four Distinguished Flying Crosses; five Air Medals; the Chong Moo Medal from South Korea; the USAF Air Force Systems Command Aerospace Primus Award; the Arnold Air Society JFK Trophy; the Sword of Loyola; the Michigan Wolverine Frontiersman Award; and USAF Astronaut Wings.


McDivitt joined the Air Force in 1951 and retired with the rank of Brigadier General. He flew 145 combat missions during the Korean War in F-80s and F-86s.

He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot course and served as an experimental test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

He has logged over 5,000 flying hours.

NASA experience

General McDivitt was selected as an astronaut by NASA in September 1962 as part of Astronaut Group 2.

He was command pilot for Gemini 4, a 66-orbit 4-day mission that began on June 3 and ended June 7, 1965. McDivitt became the first of his group to be named as commander of his own mission. Highlights of the mission included a controlled extra-vehicular activity period and a number of experiments.

On June 3, 1965, Gemini-4 was launched into orbit 150 miles above the Earth's surface. Rookie astronauts McDivitt and White were headed for the USA's first long-duration flight, the first to attempt extensive visual observations and photography. On the second day, over Hawaii, the 35-year-old McDivitt reported seeing an object -- "like a beer can with an arm sticking out" -- which NASA officials later announced had been identified by Air Force space radars as the thousand-mile-distant Pegasus-2 (but that range was too great, it turned out, for McDivitt's object to have been the winged Pegasus satellite). Together with a mysterious "tadpole" photo, the McDivitt report has achieved UFO superstardom and has been firmly enshrined in UFO literature and lore. Source: Gordon Cooper wrote in his memoirs that as far as he knows, it is the only officially reported account of a UFO in any of the Mercury, Gemini or Apollo missions.

After Gemini 4, he, along with Astronaut Group 3 astronauts David Scott and Russell Schweickart were named as members of the backup crew to the ill-fated Apollo 1 mission, but were replaced by Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham as backups and instead, were named prime crew members of the Apollo 2 mission. After the Apollo 1 fire, the backup Apollo 1 crew flew as the prime crew for Apollo 7 and McDivitt served as commander of Apollo 9, a 10-day earth orbital flight launched on March 3, 1969. Originally to be the second manned flight, as Apollo 8, the Lunar Module that was having problems and with the possibilities of a Soviet Moonshot by the end of 1968, NASA decided to make Apollo 8 a circumlunar flight, and offered the flight to McDivitt and his crew, which they declined since they were training to fly the first LM since 1966. The revised Apollo 8 flight went to Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders, and the Earth-orbital LM test flight became Apollo 9.

After Apollo 9, McDivitt became Manager of Lunar Landing Operations in May 1969, and led a team that planned the lunar exploration program and redesigned the spacecraft to accomplish this task. In August 1969, he became Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program and was the program manager for Apollo 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. He would have been slated to fly to the moon as Lunar Module Pilot for the Apollo 14 flight, but a fall-out with Shepard (who was the number two astronaut after Deke Slayton), as well as an attempt to ground Gene Cernan, the backup Apollo 14 commander and later the Apollo 17 commander, led to his resignation as Apollo Program Manager .

He retired from the USAF and left NASA in June 1972, to take the position of Executive Vice-President, Corporate Affairs for Consumers Power Company. In March 1975, he joined Pullman, Inc. as Executive Vice-President and a Director. In October 1975 he became President of the Pullman Standard Division, The Railcar Division, and later had additional responsibility for the leasing and engineering and construction areas of the company. In January 1981 he joined Rockwell International where he is presently Senior Vice President, Government Operations and Rockwell International Corporation, Washington, D.C.

In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon McDivitt was played by Conor O'Farrell.

Source: A NASA biography page

Spacecraft location

The Apollo 9 Command Module Gumdrop is on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego, California.


  • First NASA astronaut to make his debut orbital flight (Gemini 4) in the role of Commander or Command Pilot, something only four astronauts have done since - Frank Borman, Neil Armstrong, Gerald Carr and Joe Engle.
  • McDivitt has a school named after him in Old Bridge, New Jersey, the James A. McDivitt Elementary School. Many of the elementary schools in the Old Bridge Township Public School System are named after astronauts, such as Alan B. Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and Scott Carpenter.
  • He also has a building, McDivitt Hall, named after him, on the campus of Jackson Community College, Jackson, Michigan. Where the now closed, Michigan Space Center was once housed.
  • McDivitt is the first Roman Catholic to fly to space.
  • Appeared on The Brady Bunch. Was in a 5th season season episode about UFO's. He appeared as himself as the guest on a talk show to talk about his UFO experience. At the end of the talk show, he signed autographs for the characters Peter Brady and Bobby Brady


External links

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