Apollo 7

The first crewed Apollo mission

Apollo 7 was the first crewed spaceflight of the Apollo program. On 11 Oct 1968, Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham blasted into Earth orbit atop a Saturn IB rocket. There, they spent almost 11 days testing out the Apollo command and service module, which would carry future astronauts to the Moon. One test involved a rendezvous with their rocket's discarded upper stage, to simulate extracting the lunar module. The mission ended 22 Oct 1968 with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

Apollo 7 launch
Apollo 7 launch A Saturn IB rocket lifts off to start the Apollo 7 mission on 11 Oct 1968, carrying Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham into orbit.Image: NASA

One of the biggest successes of the mission was showing the service module engine could fire reliably after long periods of time in space. This was a crucial step before taking it to lunar orbit; if it failed to work there, the crew would be stranded.

Wally Schirra during Apollo 7
Wally Schirra during Apollo 7 Image: NASA
Donn Eisele during Apollo 7
Donn Eisele during Apollo 7 Image: NASA
Walter Cunningham during Apollo 7
Walter Cunningham during Apollo 7 Image: NASA

The shakedown cruise also revealed a few problems that were corrected for future flights. One of the flower petal-like panels on the Saturn upper stage failed to open all the way, which could have prevented future crews from extracting the lunar module. Explosive bolts were added for later missions. Some of the fuel cells, which provide power to the astronauts, overheated; this could be disastrous if the crew was too far from Earth to return on batteries. Additionally, some of the command module windows fogged up due to improperly cured sealant.

Apollo 7 rendezvous training
Apollo 7 rendezvous training During the Apollo 7 mission, astronauts approached the upper stage of their Saturn IB rocket to simulate extracting the lunar module during later missions.Image: NASA

The mission also featured some minor clashes between the astronauts and mission control. All three crew members developed head colds, and commander Wally Schirra allowed the crew to keep their helmets off during reentry and descent so they could blow their noses as pressure levels changed. Mission control argued otherwise, but the crew kept their helmets off anyway.

Apollo 7 capsule egress
Apollo 7 capsule egress Wally Schrirra exits the Apollo 7 command module after spalshdown on 22 Oct 1968.Image: NASA

Lessons learned from Apollo 7 paved the way for Apollo 8, the first crewed flight of the Saturn V that blasted Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders on a flight around the Moon in December 1968.

Apollo 7 Timeline

EventTime (UTC)Date
Terminal countdown begins14:30:0010 Oct 1968
Crew boards spacecraft12:35:0011 Oct 1968
Liftoff15:02:4511 Oct 1968
First stage (S-IB) separation15:05:1011 Oct 1968
Upper stage (S-IVB) cutoff15:13:0111 Oct 1968
Separation of Command and Service Module (CSM) from S-IVB17:57:4711 Oct 1968
Service Module engine (SPS) ignition 1 (begin rendezvous with S-IVB)17:27:4012 Oct 1968
SPS ignition 219:03:4112 Oct 1968
SPS ignition 318:50:4514 Oct 1968
SPS ignition 415:45:4516 Oct 1968
SPS ignition 512:02:4518 Oct 1968
SPS ignition 609:10:4520 Oct 1968
SPS ignition 714:08:5721 Oct 1968
SPS ignition 8 (de-orbit burn)10:42:0122 Oct 1968
CM/SM separation10:46:1822 Oct 1968
Entry interface10:56:1122 Oct 1968
Drogue parachute deployed11:06:0822 Oct 1968
Main parachute deployed11:06:5822 Oct 1968
Splashdown11:11:4822 Oct 1968
Crew aboard recovery helicopter12:00:0022 Oct 1968
Crew aboard USS Sussex12:08:0022 Oct 1968

Apollo 7 Cost

NASA estimated the following direct costs for Apollo 7. Full costs of the Apollo program can be found on the "How Much Did the Apollo Program Cost?" page.

original $inflation adjusted $
Command & Service Module$55 million$463 million
Saturn IB Launch Vehicle$45 million$379 million
Operations$45 million$379 million
Total$145 million$1.2 billion

Inflation adjusted to 2019 via NASA's New Start Index (NNSI). Source: "History of Manned Space Flight." February 1975. NASA Kennedy Space Center. Located in NASA HQ Historical Reference Collection, Washington, D.C. Record Number 18194. Box 1.


Project Apollo

Starting with Apollo 7 in 1968 and culminating with Apollo 17 in 1972, NASA launched 33 astronauts on 11 Apollo missions. Twelve humans walked on the Moon.

The Crew of Apollo 7 After Returning Home
The Crew of Apollo 7 After Returning Home The Apollo 7 crew arriving aboard the USS Essex, the prime recovery ship for the mission. Left to right, Walter Schirra, commander; Donn Eisele, command module pilot; Walter Cunningham, lunar module pilot; and Dr. Donald E. Stullken, NASA Recovery Team Leader from the Manned Spacecraft Center's (MSC) Landing and Recovery Division.Image: NASA