For the 19th flight of American astronauts into space, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, representing the new administration of Richard Nixon, sat in the firing control room viewing area on March 3rd, 1969. He and other guests listened to the countdown of the Saturn-Apollo structure several kilometers away at the edge of the Florida beach.
James Alton “Jim” McDivitt was born on June 10, 1929, in Chicago, Illinois. He is of Irish descent. Like many other astronauts, he was a Boy Scout and earned the rank of Tenderfoot Scout. He graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School, Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1947.
Perhaps the most significant point about the lunar-orbit flight proposed for Apollo 8 was that the command and service modules would fly the same route to the moon as would be used for the actual lunar landing.
At various stages of lunar module design, mockup reviews were conducted to demonstrate progress and identify weaknesses. These inspections were formal occasions, with a board composed of NASA and contractor officials and presided over by a chairman from the Apollo office in Houston.
The Lunar Lander originally had two docking hatches, one at the top center of the cabin and another in the forward position, or nose, of the vehicle, with a tunnel in each location to permit astronauts to crawl from one pressurized vehicle to the other…
Since the lunar module would fly only in space (earth orbit and lunar vicinity), the designers could ignore the aerodynamic streamlining demanded by earth’s atmosphere and build the first true manned spacecraft, designed solely for operating in the spatial vacuum.
The Apollo contract specified a shirt-sleeve environment. For this reason, North American was told not to include in its design a hatch that opened by explosives, like Mercury’s. An accidentally blown hatch in space would cause an instant vacuum and certain death for an astronaunt not wearing his pressure suit.
President Kennedy proposed the manned lunar landing as the focus of the US space program but, at the time of his address, only one American, Alan B. Shepard, Jr. had been into space, on a suborbital lob shot lasting 15 minutes. No rocket launch vehicle was available for a lunar voyage and there was no agreed upon method for placing any kind of spacecraft safely on the lunar surface and getting it back to the earth. Nor was there agreement within NASA itself on how it should be done.