Apollo 7

Walter Cunningham, a former astronaut who flew on the first manned Apollo mission, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 90. His death was announced by NASA.

Career Overview

  • Cunningham's flight, Apollo 7, marked a major milestone for the space agency in its quest to land humans on the moon. The mission, which took place in 1968, was the first manned Apollo mission and served as a test of the spacecraft's maneuverability and reliability.
  • It also marked the first time that astronauts carried a TV camera in space and transmitted live images back to Earth.

Importance of Apollo 7

  • Cunningham's mission, along with fellow astronauts Wally Schirra and Donn Eisele, came just over a year after a capsule fire at Cape Kennedy killed astronauts Virgil Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Edward White II.
  • The tragic accident, which occurred during a rehearsal for the ill-fated Apollo 1 mission, had cast doubt on the future of the Apollo program. However, the successful launch and execution of Apollo 7 helped to restore confidence in the program and pave the way for future manned missions.

Mission Accomplishments

  • During the mission, the Apollo 7 crew tested an engine designed to put the spacecraft into and out of lunar orbit and conducted a series of maneuvers to simulate docking with a lunar module.
  • The astronauts also demonstrated how they could move freely in a weightless environment and made a number of television broadcasts from space.

Recognition for Apollo 7 Crew

  • Despite the success of the mission, Cunningham and his crewmates were only awarded the Exceptional Service Medal, while subsequent Apollo and Skylab crews received the higher Distinguished Service Medal.
  • However, in 2008, NASA retroactively upgraded the Apollo 7 crew's medals to the Distinguished Service citation, citing the mission's importance in the overall Apollo program.

Other Accomplishments

  • In addition to his work as an astronaut, Cunningham was also a pilot and a physicist. He served as a member of the board of directors for the National Space Society and was a vocal advocate for the development of commercial spaceflight.

Walter Cunningham made significant contributions to the space industry as an astronaut and advocate for commercial spaceflight. His role on the historic Apollo 7 mission helped to pave the way for future manned missions to the moon and beyond. He will be remembered as a pioneer in the field of space exploration.


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