Mourning a legend in space exploration

Jim McDivitt, U-M Alum and Astronaut

There is a sadness in the FXB Atrium now when walking past the Apollo 9 and Gemini 4 exhibits, noting the passing of esteemed astronaut and Michigan alum Jim McDivitt.

An astronaut on two space missions during a pivotal time in NASA’s space program, McDivitt played a crucial role in our country’s space history.

Selected as the pilot for the Gemini 4 mission, McDivitt led the team who conducted the first spacewalk. Ed White, the second member of Gemini 4 conducted the spacewalk. Both were University of Michigan alums. McDivitt later commanded the Apollo 9 mission to test lunar landing technologies, paving the way for the first moon landing. 

Hanging up his flight suit, McDivitt spent the next decade at NASA working to build and manage the space program. He was connected to the university over the years through his extensive alumni network of astronauts (in addition to White, the three members of the Apollo 15 mission were all from U-M). He worked closely with U-M faculty, including Harm Burning, who taught astrodynamics to NASA astronauts.

McDivitt was a Wolverine through and through, contributing to the development of U-M capital campaigns – and donating the rare moon rock to Michigan Aerospace. 

“Jim’s contribution to the University of Michigan and the Aerospace department in particular, was a gift to all of us. As a brilliant and dedicated space pioneer, he left a lasting legacy on the space program and on our own community. He will be missed,” comments Anthony M. Waas, Richard A. Auhll Department Chair and Felix Pawlowski Collegiate Professor, Aerospace Engineering.

The moon rock on display in the Atrium, holds even greater significance now.

Jim with students
In front: Alon Kasha (friend of François Xavier Bagnoud and FXB Board member), Peretz Friedmann (François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor), Countess Albina Duboisrouvray (mother of François Xavier Bagnoud and founder of the FXB Foundation), Tom Adamson (former department chair), Ken Powell (former interim department chair)
In back: Wei Shyy (former department chair), Jesse Linell, Al Ratner, Leonardo Scalabrin, Lester Su (all FXB Fellows), Jim McDivitt
Former Aerospace department chair Wei Shyy and Jim
Dave munson (former Dean of the College of Engineering), Harm Buning Jr, Suzie Buning, Jim McDivitt, Pieter Buning, Wei Shyy