Last surviving Apollo 7 astronaut dies aged 90

The last surviving astronaut, Walter Cunningham, from the first successful crewed space mission in Nasa’s Apollo program, has died.

Cunningham died at the age of 90, The Guardian UK reports.

A Nasa spokesman, Bob Jacobs, confirmed Cunningham’s death but did not immediately provide further details. Cunningham’s wife, Dot Cunningham, said in a statement that he died on Tuesday but did not say where or provide a cause of death.

Cunningham was one of three astronauts aboard the 1968 Apollo 7 mission, an 11-day flight that beamed live broadcasts as it orbited Earth, paving the way for the moon landing less than a year later.

Cunningham, then a civilian, crewed the mission with US navy Capt Walter M Schirra and Donn F Eisele, a US air force major. Cunningham was the lunar module pilot on the space flight, which launched from the Cape Kennedy air force station in Florida on 11 October and splashed down in the Atlantic south of Bermuda.

Nasa said Cunningham, Eisele and Schirra flew a near-perfect mission. Their spacecraft performed so well that the agency sent the next crew, during the Apollo 8 mission, to orbit the moon as a prelude to the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969.

The Apollo 7 astronauts won a special Emmy award for their daily television reports from orbit, during which they clowned around, held humorous signs and educated earthlings about space flight.

It was Nasa’s first crewed space mission since the deaths of the three Apollo 1 astronauts in a launchpad fire on 27 January 1967.


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