October 11, 2006

Celebrating the First Manned Apollo Mission

"She is riding like a dream." So said mission commander Walter Schirra as Apollo 7 rocketed into history on Oct. 11, 1968.

During the 10-day mission, Apollo 7's crew -- Commander Walter Schirra, Command Service Module Pilot Donn F. Eisele and Lunar Module Pilot R. Walter Cunningham--paved the way for the missions to follow.

Once Apollo 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. A little more than 10 minutes into its mission Apollo 7 reached the first stage of its journey, an orbital path above the Earth.

The Apollo vehicle and the Command Service Module 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. 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.

Apollo 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 achievement led to a rapid review of Apollo 8's options.

The Apollo 7 astronauts went through six days of debriefing for the benefit of Apollo 8, and on Oct. 28 the Manned Space Flight Management Council investigated every phase of the forthcoming mission. By November 1968, nearly all the skeptics had become converts.

For more information on the Apollo program, visit www.nasa.gov/apollo.

For more Apollo imagery, visit http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/apollo/index.html.