Walter Cunningham: The last surviving Apollo 7 astronaut has died

Walter Cunningham: The last surviving Apollo 7 astronaut has died

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Walter Cunningham, a retired NASA astronaut and pilot of the first manned flight of the space agency’s famed Apollo program, died Tuesday morning at the age of 90, NASA. said.

Cunningham was an early member of NASA’s human spaceflight program as a member of its third astronaut class, joining the space agency in 1963. He was selected to fly Apollo 7 , the first manned mission in the NASA program to land humans. to the moon for the first time.

“We would like to express our immense pride in the life he lived and our deep gratitude for the man he was: a patriot, an explorer, a pilot, an astronaut, a husband, a brother and a father.” noted the Cunningham family in a statement shared by NASA. “The world has lost another true hero and he will be sorely missed.”

The Apollo 7 mission was launched in 1968 and lasted approximately 11 days, sending the crew on a journey into orbit that was a test flight that could demonstrate the Apollo capsule’s ability to rendezvous with a other spacecraft into orbit and pave the way for future deeper explorations. space. He was also notable for appearing in Americans’ first live television broadcast from space, according to NASA.

Cunningham was the last surviving member of the Apollo 7 crew, which also included astronauts Wally Schirra i Don Eisele.

Born in Creston, Iowa, he received a bachelor’s degree with honors in physics and a master’s degree with distinction in physics from the University of California, Los Angeles. Cunningham he was 36 years old when the Apollo 7 mission was launched. During a interview with NASA’s Oral History Office in 1999, reflected on his career path and motivations.

The crew of NASA's first manned Apollo flight—(from left) Cunningham, Donn F. Eisele, and Walter M. Schirra—prepare for mission simulator tests in 1968 at the plant of American aviation.

“I’m one of those people who never looked back. I only remember when someone asked me after I became an astronaut,” Cunningham said. “All I remember is keeping my nose to the grindstone and wanting to do my best. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was because I always wanted to be better prepared for the next step. I’ve always been looking towards the future. I don’t live in the past.”

Although he ventured into outer space only once, Cunningham became the leader of NASA’s Skylab program, the first US space station to orbit Earth from 1973-1979.

Before joining NASA, Cunningham enlisted in the US Navy and began training as a pilot in 1952, according to his official NASA Biography, and served as a fighter pilot with the US Marine Corps on 54 missions in Korea.

“The one thing I remember doing specifically to become an astronaut, because I saw that I had become one of, if not the best, fighter pilot in the world,” Cunningham said in the interview with NASA Oral History Office.

Cunningham also completed a doctorate in physics at UCLA without completing a thesis, and later, in 1974, completed an advanced management program at the Harvard Graduate School of Business, according to NASA.

Cunningham testifies about space exploration during the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 24, 2015.

He worked as a physicist for the Rand Corporation, a non-profit military think tank, before joining the astronaut corps.

After leaving the space agency, Cunningham wore many hats, taking on various roles in the private sector. According to his NASA biography, he held various executive positions in development companies, worked as a consultant for startups, became an entrepreneur and investor, and eventually became a radio talk show host.

In later years, Cunningham also became an outspoken critic of prevailing notions of humanity’s impact on climate change.

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