Payload Blog

The Firsts of Apollo 7


On October 11, 1968, the Saturn 1B rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center, carrying the crew of Apollo 7, Commander Walter Schirra, Lunar Module Pilot Walter Cunningham and Command Module Pilot Donn Eisele. Their focus was to test crew performance of the Command and Service Module (CSM) and demonstrate the CSM rendezvous capability. The success of the mission kept NASA heading toward landing humans on the Moon before the end of the 1960s.

There were many firsts achieved during the Apollo 7 mission. Most notably, it was the first crewed flight to launch following the tragic cabin fire in which the crew of Apollo 1 perished. Their sacrifice was not in vain, and NASA worked hard in the months that followed to improve crew safety for future astronauts.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of its successful return to Earth on October 22, 1968, we’ve compiled some of the accomplishments of the 10-day mission.

  • The crew launched on a Saturn 1B rocket like the one we have in our Rocket Garden. It was the rocket’s first flight with men on board.
  • Every other Apollo mission launched on a Saturn V rocket, which you can also see here at our Apollo/Saturn V Center.
  • Apollo 7 was the first three-person American crew to launch to space. And it was the first crewed Apollo mission.
  • This marked the first launch of the crewed CSM, which was an integral part of going to the Moon.
  • All three astronauts caught a cold during the mission. Their stuffy noses made them uncomfortable and cranky in orbit.
  • The first live TV broadcast from space occurred during the mission.
  • Apollo 7 was nicknamed “The Walt, Wally and Donn Show…” due to the seven live broadcasts that occurred on board. Following the mission, the crew won an Emmy for their “performances” during the broadcasts.
  • They didn’t wear their helmets during re-entry because they wouldn’t be able to blow their noses.
  • The Apollo spacecraft initially turned upside down in the ocean after landing. The crew quickly inflated the airbags, and they were flipped upright.
  • The Apollo 7 mission was deemed successful, qualifying the CSM and confirming Apollo 8 could take the next step towards the Moon.

All three of the Apollo 7 astronauts were inducted in the Astronaut Hall of Fame®, which you can see in our Heroes and Legends attraction. Learn more about them and the mission inside this interactive exhibit.



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Categories: Astronauts, NASA History