NASA said on Monday night that James McDivitt, a former American astronaut who oversaw some of the agency's first and most ambitious space missions, passed away peacefully last week at the age of 93.
He was chosen for NASA's 2nd astronaut class in 1962, served as the agency's commanding pilot for the Gemini 4 mission in 1965, and the Apollo 9 mission, which assisted in the lunar landing, in 1969.
In Tucson, Arizona, the astronaut and former test pilot for the U.S. Air Force passed away "peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by his family and friends," according to a statement from NASA.
His two trips played a significant role in the Cold War-era space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, whose early spaceflight victories inspired the Apollo 11 moon landing.
McDivitt made his first trip into space on the fourth mission of Project Gemini, a forerunner of NASA's Apollo programme.
He oversaw the first American spacewalk during the four-day space mission, during which fellow astronaut Ed White floated outside of their ship for the first time while being connected by a wire.
He later joined two astronauts as commander of the Apollo 9 mission, a crucial debut flight test of NASA's Lunar Module.
"Jim McDivitt & his crew tested many fundamental systems for the subsequent Moon missions, making them - and the landing - possible," said by Luca Parmitano
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