January 28, 2023

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Apollo astronaut Walter Cunningham dies at 90

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Walter Cunningham, a retired NASA astronaut and pilot of the first crewed flight in the space agency’s famous Apollo program, died early Tuesday morning at the age of 90, according to NASA. He said.

Cunningham was one of the first members of NASA’s human spaceflight program as a member of the third astronaut class, joining the space agency in 1963. He was selected to command Apollo 7, the NASA program’s first crewed mission that went on to land humans. on the moon for the first time.

“We would like to express our great pride in the life he led, and our deepest gratitude for the man he was — patriot, explorer, pilot, astronaut, husband, brother, and father,” the Cunningham family noted in a statement shared by NASA. “The world has lost another true hero, and we will miss him very much.”

Launched in 1968 and lasting nearly 11 days, the Apollo 7 mission sent the crew on a journey into orbit that was a test flight that could prove the Apollo capsule’s ability to rendezvous with other spacecraft in orbit and pave the way for deeper exploration in the future. Void. He’s also famous for appearing on the first live television broadcast of Americans from space, according to NASA.

Cunningham was the last surviving member of the Apollo 7 crew, which also included astronauts Wally Shira And the Don Ezel.

Born in Creston, Iowa, he received a BA honors degree in Physics and an MA cum laude in Physics from the University of California, Los Angeles, Cunningham He was 36 years old when the Apollo 7 mission took off. During interview With the NASA Oral History Office in 1999, he reflected on his career path and motivations.

The crew of NASA's first Apollo flight -- (from left) Cunningham, Don F. Eisell and Walter M. Schirra -- prepare for mission simulation tests in 1968 at the North American Flight Plant.

“I’m one of those people who never looks back. I just remember that when someone asked me after I became an astronaut,” Cunningham said. I realize that at the time, but it was because I always wanted to be better prepared for the next step. I’ve always looked to the future. I don’t live in the past.”

Although he only ventured into outer space once, Cunningham became a pilot on NASA’s Skylab program, the first United States space station to orbit Earth from 1973 to 1979.

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

“The only thing I can remember ever becoming an astronaut is because I look at it is becoming one of the best fighter pilots in the world, if not the best,” Cunningham said in an interview with NASA Oral History Office.

Cunningham also completed a Ph. D. in physics from UCLA without completing a thesis, and then, in 1974, completed an advanced management program at Harvard Graduate School of Business, according to NASA.

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

He worked as a physicist at the Rand Corporation, a nonprofit military think tank, before joining the astronaut crew.

After leaving the space agency, Cunningham donned many hats, taking on various roles in the private sector. According to his NASA bio, he’s held a number of executive positions at development companies, served as a consultant to startups, became an entrepreneur and investor, and eventually, a radio talk show host.

In later years, Cunningham also became an outspoken critic of prevailing perceptions about humanity’s influence on climate change.

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