Thursday, October 10, 2013

Apollo 7, the first manned mission in the United States Apollo Space Program launched 45 years ago today, October 11

“ ... You can be a leader or a follower in any field, anywhere. A leader sets his own pace and direction and attracts others to follow. A follower is merely one of the pack, doing what his “friends” do with little regard for how it will affect his life. Living for today, spending all you make and associating with the wrong crowd can get you into big trouble and strip you of the valuable rewards life has to offer ...” ~~ Walt Cunningham,
lunar module pilot, “ Apollo 7”, retired American astronaut, fighter pilot, physicist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author of "The All-American Boys," lecturer, and host of the radio show "Lift-off to Logic." In 2008, NASA awarded Cunningham and his 2 fellow crewmembers (now deceased) posthumously, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal for his Apollo 7 mission. Cunningham is currently a radio personality and public speaker. Quote excerpt taken from a letter written by Cunningham to Logan Kennedy (a nephew of the founder of

Photo above of Cunningham and below of Apollo 7 crewmembers share their sense of humor while broadcasting their first daily show in orbit with sign "Keep those cards and letters coming in folks" courtesy of

Forty five years ago today (October 11, 1968), " Apollo 7 , became the first manned mission in the United States Apollo space program, and the first manned US space flight after a cabin fire killed the crew during a launch pad test in 1967 (astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger Chaffee) of what was to have been the first manned mission, AS-204 (later renamed Apollo 1).

Apollo 7 marked the longest flight, almost 11 days, and also marked the first televised broadcast aboard a crewed spacecraft. Apollo 7 also marked a major milestone -- Schirra became the first person to fly in space three times.

The main mission was to check out safety and reliability of the spacecraft and the Saturn 1-B rocket that took them into orbit. They circled the earth every 90 minutes in an egg-shaped orbit ranging from 140 to 183 miles in altitude.

The crew was commanded by Walter (Wally) M. Schirra, with Command Module Pilot Donn F. Eisele and Lunar Module Pilot R. Walter Cunningham.

There was much controversy when the Apollo 7 crew disobeyed a direct order to wear their helmets during re-entry.

They refused to wear them was because they all had head colds, were grumpy and worried about rupturing ear drums. In response they talked back to ground control on several occasions while orbiting.

Within the first few days of mission, Eisele became the first person to catch a head cold in space and then the other crew members (Schirra and Cunningham) followed with similar head colds and sinus pain.

Although there was much tension between the crew and ground controllers, Apollo 7 accomplished what it set out to do – mainly clearing the way for the next proposed lunar-orbit mission to follow. Two months later NASA launched Apollo 8 to orbit the moon, which was a prelude to the Apollo 11 manned landing on the moon in July 1969.

As a result of the crewmembers disobedience, NASA would not allow any Apollo 7 crewmembers to fly again.

The three astronauts were presented with a special Emmy award for their daily 10-minute television shows from orbit, they entertained with humorous signs while educating television viewers back on earth about space flight.

Apollo 7 was essentially a test flight and confidence-builder. After the January 1967 Apollo launch pad fire, the Apollo Command Module (CM) had been extensively redesigned. Schirra, who would be the only astronaut to fly Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, commanded this Earth-orbital shakedown of the Command and Service Modules.

Since it flew in low Earth orbit and did not include the Lunar Module (LM), Apollo 7 was launched with the Saturn IB booster rather than the much larger and more powerful Saturn V. Schirra wanted to name the Apollo 7 Command module "Phoenix" (the mythical bird rising from its own ashes) in memory of the late Apollo 1 crew, but NASA management rejected the idea.

Apollo 7 was the only manned Apollo launch to take place from Cape Kennedy Air Force Station's Launch Complex 34. All subsequent Apollo and Skylab missions (including Apollo–Soyuz) were launched from Launch Complex 39 at the nearby Kennedy Space Center, and Launch Complex 34 was retired.

As of 2013, Cunningham is the only surviving member of the crew. Eisele died in 1987 and Schirra in 2007.
All photos courtesy of

▲   Wally Schirra Web Site
▲   Walter Cunningham Official Web site
▲   Walter Cunningham quote taken from
▲   Walter Cunningham Apollo Interview,
▲   Donn Eisele
▲   R. Walter Cunningham
▲   Encyclopedia Austonautica

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