Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Spacecraft of the Week #7

Forty one years ago this week, Project Apollo became operational with the launch of Apollo 7, our Spacecraft of the Week. This inaugural manned launch occurred at Launch Complex 34 at Cape Canaveral, the same place where 18 month earlier three astronauts were lost in the worst NASA accident at the time. The crew were launched on the Saturn IB booster, while the big sister Saturn V was awaiting clearance to launch her first astronauts later in the year. While Apollo 7 stayed within low-earth orbit, it never the less generated a lot of interest with the inclusion of a TV camera, enabling the first live transmissions from space. I remember watching the black and white show, annotated by hand-drawn notecards: "The Wally, Walt & Don Show".."From the Lovely Apollo Room"..."High Atop Everything!"

While otherwise non-eventful (except for a later released report of illness of the crew), the mission successfully paved the way for those who would follow. Although the spacecraft was featured in the inaugural parade of Richard Nixon, it's importance and popularity were soon eclipsed by it's siblings. For years it was displayed at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa, Canada. Apollo 7 returned to the States in 2004 to be displayed at the Frontiers of Flight in Dallas, Texas, with a little help from crew member Walt Cunningham, who provided some images for the Field Guide.

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