Dies the last member of the Apollo 7 mission

In the USA, former astronaut Walter Cunningham passed away at the age of 91. He was the last surviving member of the Apollo 7 expedition. 

Walter Cunningham during the Apollo 7 mission. Source: NASA

Walter Cunningham was born on March 6, 1932 in Creston, Iowa. He joined the US Navy in 1951, then served in the Marine Corps for several years, after which he worked as a researcher in a number of American companies. In 1963, Cunningham was selected for the third group of NASA astronauts. He became only the third “civilian” astronaut in the history of the United States.

Cunningham went into space in October 1968 as part of the Apollo 7 expedition. It was the first manned flight under the American lunar program. The astronauts were tasked with conducting comprehensive testing of the new spacecraft and restoring confidence in the future of American astronautics, shaken after the tragic fire that claimed the lives of three Apollo 1 astronauts.

The crew of Apollo 7 coped with the task. During the 11-day flight, the astronauts practiced the maneuvers necessary for docking and entering lunar orbit using the third stage of the Saturn V rocket, activated the engine of the service module and measured the accuracy of all Apollo systems. They also conducted the first-ever TV broadcast from aboard a spacecraft.

The crew of Apollo 7 after returning to Earth. From left to right: Walter Schirra, Don Isley, Walter Cunningham. Source: NASA

Unfortunately, despite the fact that from a technical point of view, the Apollo 7 expedition was very successful, it was spoiled by a scandal. The fact is that during the flight, all three members of the astronauts developed a runny nose. Safety regulations required that they be in spacesuits during the return. But the crew was afraid that due to a sharp increase in pressure, their eardrums might burst. As a result, despite a direct order from the MCC, the astronauts did not wear helmets.

This decision had serious consequences for their subsequent careers. According to unofficial data, flight director Chris Kraft was so angry at the space disobedience that he bluntly stated that none of the Apollo 7 participants would fly into space anymore. In the end, that’s exactly what happened. Cunningham spent three more years in the ranks of NASA, working on the Skylab orbital station project. But after making sure that he was no longer going to be assigned to the crews, Cunningham left the ranks of NASA.

Later, Cunningham was engaged in business, and was also a speaker and radio host. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Recall that earlier we were examining the history of the first “strike in orbit”, allegedly arranged by the crew of the Skylab orbital station in 1973.

According to https://www.nasa.gov

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