On Oct. 11, 1968, the Apollo 7 mission launched from Cape Kennedy Air Force Base in Florida. The 10-day mission ended Oct. 22 when the capsule successfully splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean. Learn more about this extraordinary mission in this Apollo 7 mission infographic.
It was a return to flight for the Apollo program after the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire. Astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham ran a shakedown cruise on the new three-person Apollo command module. The mission did not attempt to dock with a Lunar Module, but did test many of the procedures which helped get a crew to the Moon.
Apollo 7 paved the way for Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon nine months later. It was the first rung of a ladder NASA built all the way to the Moon.
We explored Walt Cunningham’s life recently on the blog and will discuss Mercury 7 astronaut Wally Schirra soon.
One of the funniest stories from the Apollo 7 mission involved McDonnell Aircraft engineer Guenter Wendt. The engineer had been responsible for spacecraft during launch early in NASA’s crewed space program, but since McDonnell wasn’t producing the Apollo capsules, Wendt wasn’t on hand. Schirra was having none of that; he trusted Wendt so much he successfully lobbied fellow Mercury 7 astronaut Deke Slayton to have Wendt back as pad leader.
Wendt’s face was the last they saw before the hatch was sealed, and immediately after liftoff Eisele said with a mock German accent into his radio, “I vonder vere Guenter Vendt?”
Even astronauts tell dad jokes, apparently.