Date: March 3-13, 1969
Crew: Commander James McDivitt (39)
Command Module Pilot David Scott (36)
Lunar Module Pilot Russell Schweickhart (33)
Command Module Call Sign: Gumdrop
Lunar Module Call Sign: Spider
Mission Distinctions: First test of a Lunar Module in space after first rendezvous and docking of a LM and CM; the first two-man space walk EVA, and also the first test of "portable life support system" suits.
The crew was authorized to name their crafts again, and Apollo 9 crewmen chose titles based on the craft shapes, saying the capsule looked like a gumdrop and the lunar module looked like a giant spider. Later, McDivitt would admit those were, "not very glamorous, but they fit the picture."
The first Lunar Module, or the "15 ton taxi" as it was sometimes called, cost $41 million dollars, and was the first vehicle built to operate in the vacuum of space. The LM fuel weighed 3 times the hardware itself. It had no heat shield and could not be used for re-entry to Earth.
There had been no LM on Apollo 7 or 8 – and there would be no future moon landing if this module did not operate as expected. Rusty and Jim piloted Spider through various maneuvers about 100 miles away from the command module, describing her as an "ungainly beast."
Schweickhart was tasked with testing the full space suit that would later be used on the moon, though his spacewalk was shortened and certain tests were scratched because of his continued space sickness on the mission – vomitting would be disastrous if it occurred while he was suited up.
In 1990, English perfomer Adam Ant featured a song called "Apollo 9" on his album "Antics in the Forbidden Zone" and performed a music video for the track dressed in a silver space suit. And if anyone can ever explain those lyrics to me... I'm all ears ;)
Currently, the Apollo 9 command module Gumdrop is on display at the Air & Space Museum in San Diego, southern California.