The last surviving NASA astronaut from the 1968 Apollo 7 mission, Walter Cunningham, has died. He was 90.
Cunningham died early Tuesday morning in Houston, NASA confirmed.
“NASA will always remember his contributions to our nation’s space program and sends our condolences to the Cunningham family,” space agency administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement announcing the news.
Cunningham’s family also honored the late astronaut after his death, expressing their “immense pride in the life he lived and our deep gratitude for the man he was: patriot, explorer, pilot, astronaut, husband, brother and father.” .
“The world has lost another true hero, and he will be sorely missed.”
Al Fenn/Getty Apollo 7 astronauts, (L-R) Walter Cunningham, Donn Eisele and Walter Schirra
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One of three astronauts aboard the first successful manned space mission, Cunningham first joined NASA in 1963. Cunningham enlisted in the program as a civilian along with US Navy Captain Walter M. Schirra, Jr. and a US Air Force Major, Donn F. Eisele. The famous Apollo 7 mission, which lasted around 11 days later, paved the way for landing humans on the moon for the first time.
Born on March 16, 1932 in Creston, Iowa, Cunningham completed his secondary education at Venice High School in California. He later graduated from the University of California with a Bachelor of Arts with honors in physics in 1960 and a Master of Arts with distinction in physics in 1961. A few years later, in 1974, he received a Ph.D. in physics with the exception of a thesis. in the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Business.
In 1951, Cunningham joined the Navy and assumed active duty in the US Marine Corps before rising to serve in the rank of colonel upon retirement. He also worked as a night fighter pilot in Korea, as well as being a scientist, and had accumulated more than 4,500 flight hours before joining NASA. He was selected as an astronaut in 1963 as part of NASA’s third class of astronauts, according to the agency.
Cunningham and the other members of the Apollo 7 mission won a special Emmy Award for their daily reports from space. He retired from NASA in 1971 and went on to hold various roles in the private sector, including as an executive, consulting businessman, and radio host.
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In an interview with NASA’s Office of Oral History in 1999, Cunningham discussed his inspirations for his career.
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“I’m one of those people who never really looked back. I only remember that when someone asked me after I became an astronaut,” Cunningham said at the time.
“All I remember is keeping my nose to the grindstone and wanting to do the best I could, 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 ahead. the future. I don’t live in the past.”