1 of 3 | Former NASA astronaut James A. McDivitt died Thursday at age 93. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo
Oct. 18 (UPI) -- James McDivitt, a former NASA astronaut who commanded the Gemini IV and Apollo 9 missions, has died, the space agency said in a statement. He was 93.
McDivitt "passed away peacefully in his sleep" in Tucson, Ariz., on Thursday as he was surrounded by family and friends, NASA said.
Throughout his decade working with NASA, McDivitt spent 14 days in space and took part in missions that helped lay the groundwork for putting a man on the moon.
McDivitt was selected to be a member of NASA's second astronaut class in 1962 after graduating from the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School.
In June 1965 he commanded the Gemini IV mission alongside another Air Force pilot, Ed White, who ventured outside his spacecraft for a spacewalk during the historic 4-day spaceflight.
McDivitt was commander of the Apollo 9 mission, which launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on March 3, 1969, alongside command module pilot David Scott and lunar module pilot Russell Schweickart.
"McDivitt's second spaceflight as the commander of Apollo 9 played a critical role in landing the first humans on the moon," NASA said. "This was the first flight of the complete set of Apollo hardware and was the first flight of the Lunar Module."
Prior to becoming an astronaut, McDivitt flew 145 combat missions during the Korean War in F-80 and F-86 aircraft, logging more than 5,000 flying hours during the course of his piloting career, NASA said.
McDivitt earned two NASA distinguished service medals and the NASA exceptional service medal, as well as two Air Force distinguished service medals, four distinguished flying crosses, five air medals and U.S. Air Force astronaut wings.
Anita Pointer of the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters stands with Andy Madadian (C) and La Toya Jackson (L) as Madadian is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2020. Pointer, who performed
alongside her sisters June and Ruth, died at the age of 74 on December 31 following a battle with cancer. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo