Apollo 7 spent more man hours in space than all the Soviet space flights combined up to that time.
The Apollo 7 space vehicle, crewed by Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham and
commanded by Wally Schirra, was launched from Cape Kennedy, Fla., on Oct. 11,
1968. The spacecraft was placed into an orbit of 227.8 x 283.4 kilometers (123 x
153 nautical miles.)
The Apollo 7 space vehicle,
crewed by Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham and commanded by Wally Schirra,
was launched from Cape Kennedy, Fla., on Oct. 11, 1968. The spacecraft
was placed into an orbit of 227.8 x 283.4 kilometers (123 x 153 nautical
The primary objectives for
the Apollo 7 engineering test flight, were simple: "Demonstrate
Command/Service Module (CSM) and crew performance; demonstrate
crew/space vehicle and mission support facilities performance during a
manned Command/Service Module mission; demonstrate Command/Service
Module rendezvous capability." For nearly 11 days, the Command Module
was run through numerous tests. Almost without exception, spacecraft
systems operated as intended. The Command Module's service propulsion
system, which would fire the Command Module into and out of Moon orbit,
worked perfectly during eight burns lasting from half a second to 67.6
The mission lasted 163 orbits
with the crew being the first to beam live telecasts from orbit, and
giving millions of people worldwide their first view of space.
The vehicle experienced a
normal deorbit, entry and landing sequence, coming down in the Atlantic
Ocean southeast of Bermuda. Apollo's flotation bags had their first
tryout when the spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic southeast of
Bermuda, less than 2 kilometers from the planned impact point.
The primary objectives for the Apollo
7 engineering test flight, were simple: "Demonstrate CSM/crew
performance; demonstrate crew/space vehicle/mission support facilities
performance during a manned CSM mission; demonstrate CSM rendezvous
October 11, 1968, 11:02:45am EST. October 11 at Cape Kennedy was hot
but the heat was tempered by a pleasant breeze when Apollo
7 lifted off in a two-tongued blaze of orange-colored flame. The
Saturn IB, in its first trial with men aboard, provided a perfect
launch and its first stage dropped off 2 minutes 25 seconds later. The
S-IVB second stage took over, giving astronauts their first ride atop
a load of liquid hydrogen, and at 5 minutes 54 seconds into the
mission, Walter Schirra, the commander, reported, "She is riding
like a dream." About five minutes later an elliptical orbit had
been achieved, 140 by 183 miles above the Earth. Launch Weight:
Altitude: 140 x 183 miles
Inclination: xxx degrees
Duration: 10 Days, 20 hours, min, seconds
The CSM's service propulsion system, which had to fire the CSM into
and out of Moon
orbit, worked perfectly during eight burns lasting from half a second
to 67.6 seconds. Apollo's flotation bags had their first try-out when
the spacecraft, a "lousy boat," splashed down in the
Atlantic southeast of Bermuda, less than two kilometers from the
planned impact point. Landing location was 27deg 32min North and 64deg
04min West. The module turned upside down; when inflated, the brightly
colored bags flipped it aright. The tired, but happy, voyagers were
picked up by helicopter and deposited on the deck of the U.S.S. Essex
by 08:20am EDT. Spacecraft aboard ship at 09:03am.
7 cleared the pad, a three-shift mission control team-led by
flight directors Glynn Lunney, Eugene Kranz, and Gerald D. Griffin --
in Houston took over. Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham inside the
command module had listened to the sound of propellants rushing into
the firing chambers, had noticed the vehicles swaying slightly, and
had felt the vibrations at ignition. Ten and a half minutes after
launch, with little bumpiness and low g loads during acceleration, Apollo
7 reached the first stage of its journey, an orbital path 227 by
285 kilometers above the earth.
The S-IVB stayed with the CSM for about one and one-half orbits,
then separated. Schirra fired the CSM's small rockets to pull 50 feet
ahead of the S-IVB, then turned the spacecraft around to simulate
docking, as would be necessary to extract an LM for a Moon
landing. Next day, when the CSM and the S-IVB were about 80 miles
apart, Schirra and his mates sought out the lifeless, tumbling 59-foot
craft in a rendezvous simulation and approached within 70 feet.
Cunningham reported the spacecraft-lunar module adapter panels had
not fully deployed- which naturally reminded Stafford, on the capsule
communicator (CapCom) console, of the "angry alligator"
target vehicle he had encountered on his Gemini IX mission. This
mishap would have been embarrassing on a mission that carried a lunar
module. but the panels would be jettisoned explosively on future
After this problem, service module engine performance was a joy.
This was one area where the crew could not switch to a redundant or
backup system; at crucial times during a lunar voyage, the engine
simply had to work or they would not get back home. On Apollo
7, there were eight nearly perfect firings out of eight attempts.
On the first, the crew had a real surprise. In contrast to the smooth
liftoff of the Saturn, the blast from the service module engine jolted
the astronauts, causing Schirra to yell "Yabadabadoo" like
Fred Flintstone in the contemporary video cartoon. Later, Eisele said,
"We didn't quite know what to expect, but we got more than we
expected." He added more graphically that it was a real boot in
the rear that just plastered them into their seats. But the engine did
what it was supposed to do each time it fired.
The Apollo vehicle and the CSM performed superbly. Durability was
shown for 10.8 days - longer than a journey to the Moon
and back. With few exceptions, the other systems in the spacecraft
operated as they should. Occasionally, one of the three fuel cells
supplying electricity to the craft developed some unwanted high
temperatures, but load-sharing hookups among the cells prevented any
power shortage. The crew complained about noisy fans in the
environmental circuits and turned one of them off. That did not help
much, so the men switched off the other. The cabin stayed comfortable,
although the coolant lines sweated and water collected in little
puddles on the deck, which the crew expected after the Kerwin team's
test in the altitude chamber. Schirra's crew vacuumed the excess water
out into space with the urine dump hose.
A momentary shudder went through Mission Control when both AC buses
dropped out of the spacecraft's electrical system, coincident with
automatic cycles of the cryogenic oxygen tank fans and heaters; but
manual resetting of the AC bus breakers restored normal service.
Three of the five spacecraft windows fogged because of improperly
cured sealant compound (a condition that could not be fixed until Apollo
9). Visibility from the spacecraft windows ranged from poor to
good, during the mission. Shortly after the launch escape tower
jettisoned, two of the windows had soot deposits and two others had
water condensation. Two days later, however, Cunningham reported that
most of the windows were in fairly good shape, although moisture was
collecting between the inner panes of one window. On the seventh day,
Schirra described essentially the same conditions.
Even with these impediments, the windows were adequate. Those used
for observations during rendezvous and stationkeeping with the S-IVB
remained almost clear. Navigational sighting with a telescope and a
sextant on any of the 37 preselected "Apollo" stars was
difficult if done too soon after a waste-water dump. Sometimes they
had to wait several minutes for the frozen particles to disperse.
Eisele reported that unless he could see at least 40 or 50 stars at a
time he found it hard to decide what part of the sky he was looking
toward. On the whole, however, the windows were satisfactory for
general and landmark observations and for out-the-window photography.
Most components supported the operations and well-being of the
spacecraft and crew as planned, in spite of minor irritations like
smudging windows and puddling water. For example, the waste management
system for collecting solid body wastes was adequate, though annoying.
The defecation bags, containing a germicide to prevent bacteria and
gas formation, were easily sealed and stored in empty food containers
in the equipment bay. But the bags were certainly not convenient and
there were usually unpleasant odors. Each time they were used, it took
the crew member from 45 to 60 minutes, causing him to postpone it as
long as possible, waiting for a time when there was no work to do. The
crew had a total of only 12 defecations over a period of nearly 11
days. Urination was much easier, as the crew did not have to remove
clothing. There was a collection service for both the pressure suits
and the inflight coveralls. Both devices could be attached to the
urine dump hose and emptied into space. They had half expected the
hose valve to freeze up in vacuum, but it never did.
Chargers for the batteries needed for reentry (after fuel cells
departed with the SM) returned 50 to 75 percent less energy than
expected. Most serious was the overheating of fuel cells, which might
have failed when the spacecraft was too far from Earth
to return on batteries, even if fully charged. But each of these
anomalies was satisfactorily checked out before Apollo
Some of the crew's grumpiness during the mission could be attributed
to physical discomfort. About 15 hours into the flight, Schirra
developed a bad cold, and Cunningham and Eisele soon followed suit. A
cold is uncomfortable enough on the ground; in weightless space it
presents a different problem. Mucus accumulates, filling the nasal
passages, and does not drain from the head. The only relief is to blow
hard, which is painful to the ear drums. So the crewmen of Apollo
7 whirled through space suffering from stopped up ears and noses.
They took aspirin and decongestant tablets and discussed their
symptoms with the doctors.
Several days before the mission ended, they began to worry about
wearing their suit helmets during reentry. which would prevent them
from blowing their noses. The buildup of pressure might burst their
eardrums. Slayton, in mission control, tried to persuade them to wear
the helmets, anyway, but Schirra was adamant. They each took a
decongestant pill about an hour before reentry and made it through the
acceleration zone without any problems with their ears.
7 accomplished what it set out to do- qualifying the command and
service module and clearing the way for the proposed lunar-orbit
mission to follow. And its activities were of national interest. A
special edition of NASA's news clipping collection called
"Current News" included front page stories from 32 major
newspapers scattered over the length and breadth of the nation.
Although the postmission celebrations may not have rivaled those for
the first orbital flight of an American, John Glenn in 1962,
enthusiasm was high- and this fervor would build to even greater
heights each time the lunar landing goal drew one step closer.
In retrospect it seems inconceivable, but serious debate ensued in
NASA councils on whether television should be broadcast from Apollo
missions, and the decision to carry the little 4 1/2- pound camera was
not made until just before this October flight. Although these early
pictures were crude, I think it was informative for the public to see
astronauts floating weightlessly in their roomy spacecraft, snatching
floating objects, and eating the first hot food consumed in space.
Like the television pictures, the food improved in later missions.
7's achievement led to a rapid review of Apollo
8's options. The Apollo
7 astronauts went through six days of debriefing for the benefit
8, and on October 28 the Manned Space Flight Management Council
chaired by Mueller met at MSC, investigating every phase of the
forthcoming mission. Next day came a lengthy systems review of Apollo
8's Spacecraft 103. Paine made the go/no-go review of lunar orbit
on November 11 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. By this time nearly
all the skeptics had become converts.
The Apollo program was an American spaceflight endeavor that
landed the first humans on Earth's Moon. Conceived during the presidency of
Dwight D. Eisenhower and conducted by NASA, Apollo began in earnest after
President John F. Kennedy's May 25, 1961 special address to a joint session of
Congress declaring a national goal of "landing a man on the Moon" by the end of
This goal was accomplished with the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969 when
astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, while Michael
Collins remained in lunar orbit. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed
astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six Apollo
spaceflights, twelve men walked on the Moon. These are the only times humans
have landed on another celestial body.
The Apollo program ran from 1961 until 1975, and was the US civilian space
agency's third human spaceflight program (following Mercury and Gemini). Apollo
used Apollo spacecraft and Saturn launch vehicles, which were later used for the
Skylab program and the joint American-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. These
subsequent programs are thus often considered part of the Apollo program.
The program was accomplished with only two major setbacks. The first was the
Apollo 1 launch pad fire that resulted in the deaths of astronauts Gus Grissom,
Ed White and Roger Chaffee. The second was an oxygen tank rupture on Apollo 13
during the moonward phase of its journey, which disabled the command spacecraft.
The three astronauts aboard narrowly escaped with their lives, thanks to the
efforts of flight controllers, project engineers, backup crew members and the
skills of the astronauts.
Apollo set major milestones in human spaceflight. It stands alone in sending
manned missions beyond low Earth orbit; Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft
to orbit another celestial body, while Apollo 17 marked the last moonwalk and
the last manned mission beyond low Earth orbit. The program spurred advances in
many areas of technology incidental to rocketry and manned spaceflight,
including avionics, telecommunications, and computers. Apollo sparked interest
in many fields of engineering and left many physical facilities and machines
developed for the program as landmarks. Many objects and artifacts from the
program are on display at locations throughout the world, notably in the
Smithsonian's Air and Space Museums.
Unmanned suborbital flight was the first test flight of Saturn 1B and of the
Apollo Command and Service Modules; problems included a fault in the
electrical power system and a 30 percent decrease in pressure to the service
module engine 80 seconds after firing.
never launched: command module destroyed and three astronauts killed on 27
January 1967 by fire in the module during a test exercise - Retroactively,
the mission's name was officially changed to "Apollo 1" after the fire.
Although it was scheduled to be the fourth Apollo mission (and despite the
fact that NASA planned to call the mission AS-204), the flight patch worn by
the three astronauts, which was approved by NASA in June 1966, already
referred to the mission as "Apollo 1"
first flight of lunar module (LM); multiple space tests of LM, no command or
service module flown; no controlled reentry. Used the Saturn 1B originally
slated for the cancelled manned AS-204 ("Apollo 1") mission
severe oscillations during orbital insertion, several engines failing during
flight, successful reentry of command module (though mission parameters for
a 'worst case' reentry scenario could not be achieved)
ambitious mission profile (changed relatively shortly before launch), first
human lunar orbit (no lunar module), first earthrise seen by men and major
publicity success, some minor sleeping and illness issues
mission almost aborted after lightning struck at launch with brief loss of
fuel cells and telemetry; successful landing within walking distance (less
than 200 meters) of theSurveyor
3probe; two EVAs
early shutdown of inboard S-II engine; unrelated oxygen tank rupture in
service module during Earth-Moon transition caused mission to be aborted -
crew took temporary refuge in the lunar module and returned safely to Earth
after a single pass around the Moon.
docking problems, abort switch contamination and delayed landing radar
acquisition all threatened landing; first color video images from the Moon;
first materials science experiments in space; two EVAs
first longer (3 days) stay on Moon, first use of lunar rover to travel total
of 17.25 miles (27.76 km), more extensive geology investigations; 1 lunar
"standup" EVA, 3 lunar surface EVAs plus deep space EVA
malfunction in a backup yaw gimbal servo loop almost aborted landing (and
reduced stay duration in lunar orbit by one day for safety reasons); only
mission to target lunar highlands; malfunction prevented controlled ascent
stage impact after jettison; 3 lunar EVAs plus deep space EVA
last manned landing on the Moon, only mission with a scientist (geologist)
on board; this is also the latest manned moon landing and manned flight
beyond low Earth orbit; 3 lunar EVAs plus deep space EVA
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