Apollo 7 was the first manned mission that explored space. Before launching this mission on October 11, 1968, NASA engineers worked very hard to ensure the crew’s safety. This happened after the Apollo 1 mission had all astronauts killed during a routine test at a launch pad 20 months earlier. According to official Apollo 7 information, this mission was an engineering success, even if the crew got ill and there were tensions among members. After Apollo 1 and the unmanned Apollo 4, 5, and 6 missions that tested Saturn rockets, the command module, and the lunar module, Apollo 7 proved that manned spacecraft could reach space safely.
Mission 7 crew tested out the rocket’s command module engine as well. This engine was supposed to work like clockwork because other Moon missions were about to follow. Also, the spacecraft had to have the necessary speed for exiting lunar orbit. Last, the launcher engine had to bring the crew back safely home. According to NASA, this mission’s rocket engine displayed almost perfect firings, even if the crew had to turn it on and then off again eight times because of a minor malfunction.
Who were the Apollo 7 astronauts?
As mentioned, Apollo 7 purpose was to prove that people can be safely sent to space. This mission’s crew members included Wally Schirra (Commander), Walter Cunningham (lunar module pilot), and Donn Eisele (service module pilot). Schirra had the most experience, as he flew Gemini and Mercury before. Cunningham and Eisele were successful Air Force pilots and had been trained for five years in NASA’s third astronaut selection program. Apollo 7 crew was initially assigned to a second manned flight. But later, it got transferred, and these astronauts were put on standby for Apollo 1.
But this crew change was only the start of mission setbacks. Further, Apollo 7 crew problems involved arguments between astronauts and the command centre over food, helmets, and even spacesuits. According to Apollo 7 facts we know already, Schirra, Cunningham, and Eisele experienced a lot of inconvenience in their spacesuits because all of them caught a cold.
It seems there was even an almost Apollo 7 space mutiny because astronauts weren’t happy with their mission’s conditions ever since launch. However, this important mission showed us that any disagreement can be worked out and that in space, people can work together to complete their mission successfully. According to some, the centre of all mission disputes was Commander Schirra himself.
Why was Apollo 7 important?
Orbital Today wrote that even if Apollo 7 is not as important in our memory as other Apollo missions, it was still one of the most important engineering tests for the command module’s performance. If it weren’t for this mission, NASA would not have launched Apollo 8, a mission that sent a manned command module straight to the Moon’s orbit.
And then, any other daring missions in space would not have been possible without this flight’s tests. In 1969, NASA successfully landed humans on the Moon, with Apollo 11. Following Apollo 7 and 11’s success, the entire program sent another six missions to the Moon. Five of these missions made a landing.
In the following decades, NASA started paying more attention to the Earth-orbiting space shuttle program and satellites. The International Space Station (ISS) program also became a priority, as it helped us understand better what it means to have humans on space missions that last longer.
Moreover, the ISS program also prepared us for future voyages to Mars and Moon. All these missions would not have been possible without Apollo 7’s success, which showed us that we could send people into space. And let’s not forget that now we have Moon robotic missions that show we can build colonies on the Moon and other planets to exploit resources there.
Was Apollo 7 successful?
Yes, it was a successful mission, even if it involved constant arguments with MCC. Still, the crew performed their tasks completely. One of the Apollo 7 purposes was qualifying the CSM, and this was accomplished as well. We wouldn’t have been prepared for any other lunar missions without Apollo 7’s success. Sam Philips, the General who headed the Apollo 7 program, called this mission perfect and said it achieved 101% of its goals.
Without Apollo 7, people down here on Earth wouldn’t have had access to a broadcast from space, either. NASA gave the public a news clippings collection that was on the front page of 32 big newspapers in the US. Despite this, such a major mission was not given the Distinguished Service Medal because of the constant tension between crew members and MCC.
Back in 2008, NASA’s administrator said it was time to correct this. Unfortunately, the only crew member still alive to get this medal was Cunningham. So, we now celebrate these astronauts who proved the possibility of manned space flights — a little late, but still better than never.