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(03/13/1969) -- Wearing flight caps presented to them by the crew of the USS Guadalcanal, bearded Apollo 9 astronauts (left to right) Russell L. Schweickart, David R. Scott and James A. McDivitt, wave to well-wishers aboard the recovery ship at the completion of their 10-day Earth orbital mission. Their spacecraft splashed down 780 nautical miles southeast of Cape Kennedy at 12:01 p.m. EST, March 13, 1969. During the textbook mission, the space pilots verified a lunar module spacecraft similar to the one that is to land Americans on the Moon later this year. Their flight began March 3 when they were launched by an Apollo/Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration directs the Apollo program.