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(03/13/1969) -- Bearded and smiling, Apollo 9 astronauts, left to right, Russell L. Schweickart, David R. Scott and James A. McDivitt, pause in front of recovery helicopter, which carried them a short distance from their spacecraft's impact point to the USS Guadalcanal, prime recovery ship. They splashed down today less than five miles from the Guadalcanal, 780 nautical miles southeast of Cape Kennedy. The astronauts reentered at the beginning of their 152nd Earth orbit following a textbook flight that verified a lunar module spacecraft. It was similar to the one that is to land Americans on the Moon later this year. They were launched March 3, 1969, from the Kennedy Space Center aboard an Apollo/Saturn V space vehicle. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration directs the Apollo program.