Apollo 7 lifts off on October 11 1967
46 years ago this week Apollo 7 carried out its successful C-type low Earth orbit mission. It was vital that this mission – essentially a test flight – was a success in order to meet President Kennedy’s timetable for landing astronauts on the Moon before the end of the ’60s.
Apollo 7 was given the same mission that Apollo 1 had been scheduled to carry out the previous year. A cabin fire which killed the crew of Apollo 1 was a tragedy which left its mark on the Apollo programme. Astronauts were grounded for 20 months while the Apollo Command Module was completely redesigned and passed all new safety tests. Apollo 7’s flight was a complete success and paved the way for the first Moon landing 9 months later.
The 11-day mission was a series of firsts. It was the first Apollo mission to carry a crew into space and the first to use the Saturn IB launch vehicle to do so. Commander Walter (Wally) Schirra was the first person to fly in space three times, being the only person to fly in all of America’s first three space programs (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo) and he was the first astronaut to suffer from a cold in space which spread quickly to the other crew members resulting in some tetchy exchanges between mission control and the crew. The mission also featured the first live TV broadcast from an American spacecraft and was the first three-person American space mission.
Apollo 7’s crew during America’s first TV broadcast from space: Commander Walter Schirra (on the right), Command Module Pilot Donn Eisele, (on the left). Lunar Module Pilot Walter Cunningham is just out of shot.