First successful NASA mission: “Apollo 7” astronaut Cunningham is dead

Status: 04.01.2023 10:20 a.m

He was part of the first successful manned “Apollo” mission. Astronaut Cunningham has now died. With him goes the last member of a historic space mission that paved the way to the moon landing.

US astronaut Walter Cunningham is dead. He died at the age of 90 in a hospital in Houston, Texas. The US space agency NASA confirmed his death. A statement from the family said Cunningham died “of complications after a fall, after a full and fulfilling life.”

A nearly perfect mission

Under the command of Walter Schirra and together with Donn Fulton Eisele, Cunningham launched the “Apollo 7” mission on October 11, 1968. The manned space capsule traveled around the earth for eleven days and provided important information that paved the way for the first moon landing with “Apollo 11” a year later. At the time, NASA spoke of an almost perfect mission.

After a flight of around 7.2 million kilometers, the rocket landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean on October 22, 1968. For the first time in the history of space travel, the “Apollo 7” had a camera with it that enabled live transmission from inside the capsule to television. NASA even received the prestigious US television award Emmy for this.

After the success of the “Apollo 7” flight, NASA sent the next crew into space in 1969 on what is probably the most historic mission: the moon landing of the “Apollo 8” with Neil Armstrong’s team.

Walter Cunningham was one of three astronauts on NASA’s first successful Apollo mission in 1968.

Image: via REUTERS

“Apollo 7” was also a trauma recovery

There was a lot at stake on the “Apollo 7” mission: a year earlier, three NASA astronauts were killed in the fire in the capsule of “Apollo 1”.

Cunningham was originally planned as a backup for this failed mission.

Pilot, physicist, astronaut

Walter Cunningham was born in 1932 in the US state of Iowa. He served in the US Navy and US Navy, clocking up more than 4,500 flight hours. In his physics studies he dealt with the magnetic field of the earth.

In 1963 he began his astronaut training at NASA. After his successful “Apollo 7” mission, he was involved in the development of the “Skylab” space station. In 1971 he left NASA and worked, among other things, as an investor in various commercial companies.

NASA boss Bill Nelson recognized Cunningham as a discoverer who, together with his comrades, paved the way for today’s “Artemis” generation. Cunningham’s colleague Donn Eisele died in 1987, Walter Schirra in 2007.

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