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The Flight of Apollo 7

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Introduction

The Apollo 7 flight was an important step along the way to the first manned landings on the lunar surface, and can be classed as one of the most important events of the 20th century.[1]The place of the flight in the American space programIt was designed as a test mission with the intention of testing support facilities for a manned mission as well as testing the space vehicle. It was a basically simple flight, an engineering test.

On 29th September 1966 NASA had announced its second planned manned space flight, the first, Apollo 1 had ended with the death of astronauts before they escaped Earth’s atmosphere in a pre-test flight at Cape Canaveral when a stray spark had ignited its pure oxygen atmosphere[3].

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Schirra and Eisele had been involved in the redesigning of the space ship, Schirra being the commander of the back up crew.Apollo 7 took place 21 months after the first Apollo launch. The countdown began at 19.

00 Universal Time on the 6th October 1968.

This allowed for three planned pauses or holds, the first two in order to allow for any problems that arose during the pre-launch period. The third period was to give a crew a rest period prior to the launch.The Crew and their ObjectivesThe crew were originally the backup crew for Apollo 1.

There was a back up crew consisting of Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan in 1969. This group, in part because of the success of this trial, went on to fly in Apollo 10.The specifications as given on the Kennedy Space Centre Apollo Web page[4] are as follows:-Pad 34 (8)Saturn-1B AS-205 ()CSM-101 ()1st Block II CSM1st Manned CSM mission1st 3 man American crew1st Live TV downlinkSome of these things such as the live television link are now commonplace, but were then innovative. The Flight Lift off of the 14,781 kilogram module took place on the 11th October 1968 at 11.

02 am from the Kennedy Space Centre, Complex 34, on Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Saturn IB, used for the first time with men on board. The objectives of the mission as quoted on the NASA Human Space Flight web page were:- [5]Demonstrate Command/Service Module (CSM) and crew performance; demonstrate crew/space vehicle and mission support facilities performanceduring a manned Command/Service Module mission; demonstrate Command/Service Module rendezvous capability.The astronauts saw it as a shakedown trip for the vessel, but the ground based scientists saw it as an opportunity for space experiments.

These different ideas were to become a source of conflict.The first stage rocket dropped away after a perfect launch 2 minutes and 25 seconds later. [6]After this S-IVB was in charge of movement and the astronauts were left sitting atop liquid hydrogen fuel. Captain Walter Schirra Junior (United States Navy), the Commander; Major Donn Eisele ( United States Air Force) the Command Module Pilot; and Walt Cunningham the Lunar Module Pilot, [7]could hear the liquid fuel rushing into the firing chambers.

They also noticed some swaying and had felt vibrations on ignitions. At almost 6 minutes into the mission, flight commander Walter Schirra reported back to NASA ‘She is riding like a dream’. An elliptical orbit had been achieved by about the 11th minute.At an altitude of 140 x 183 miles 163 orbits were made in 10 days and 20 minutes, each orbit taking 89.

78 minutes.[8] The crew became the first to beam live telecasts while in orbit, and gave millions of people throughout the world their first view of life in space.There were 8 burns of the CSM propulsion system. There varied in length between 0.

5  second and 67.6 seconds .The module re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at 10.56.

11 Universal time on October 22nd and by 11.11.48 had hit  the ocean waves. Flotation bags, these being on their first real trial, came into operation and Apollo landed in the Atlantic Ocean, only 2 kilometers from the planned landing site and to the southeast of Bermuda at 27 degrees 32 minutes north and 64 degrees and 4 minutes west.

The space module originally landed upside down in the ocean, but the flotation bags flipped it into a more normal position. A helicopter picked up the astronauts and by 8.22 am local time i.e.

United States Eastern Time, they had landed on board U.S.S. Essex.

The space craft followed them by 9.03 am .The flight had lasted 10 Earth days, 20 hours and 9 minutes and, according to ‘Manned Astronauts figures and facts’ the crew had traveled 7.93 million kilometers.

[9]The CrewWalter Schirra Junior ( known as Wally), had been selected as long before as 1959 as an astronaut. He was the first person to make 3 space flights so was the most experienced of the crew. Born in March 1923 he was 45 years old at the time of Apollo 7. He had been a pilot during the Korean war, flying 90 combat missions.

He was awarded both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster. His father had been an ace flyer during the first World War. Schirra’s bravery is uncontested as he was a member of the crew of the first Apollo flight after the fire which killed three of his fellow astronauts. Walter Shirra Junior had previously been on two space flights – Sigma 7 in October 1062 and Gemini 6A in December 1965.

He was the pilot of the first and commander of the second. The National Aviation Hall of Fame has this quotation from him[10]:-We were all united on wanting to be first. None of us is in this thing for fame or money. But there is the thrill ofdoing something that no one else has ever done.

The guy who goes firstwill leave a pretty high watermark.His interest in space travel came only gradually , but once he had applied he said,, as quoted on the National Aviation Hall of Fame web page dedicated to him[11] :-I guess the thing that finally decided me, in addition to the fact that once Igot to NASA and heard the briefings they seemed to make sense, was thesame instinct that had inspired me as a test pilot. This was to improve theflying breed and push the frontiers out so the whole nation could benefit.He was older than most candidates, but because he was used to high altitude work and to flying at zero gravity he found the various physical tests relatively easy.

The only real problems were the fact that he was 5lbs over weight and had a small polyp on his larynx and so he became one of 7 military test pilots selected to be trained as astronauts for the Project Mercury program along with  Donald K. Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., Scott Carpenter, Alan B.

Shepard, Virgil I. Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper. The writer on the National Aeronautical Hall of Fame notes[12] that they were very different both in personalities and in the skills they had, but between them was a balance of qualities.

Thee were originally 32 candidates from which 14 were selected, but 4 of these died before reaching space, including gone who died in the Apollo 1 fire.Eisele and Cunningham were both first timers as far as space flight was concerned. Eisele had obtained a B.S.

in aeronautics in 1952 from the Royal Naval Academy and in 1960 was awarded a Masters degree in astronautics from the United States Air Force Institute of Technology. Three years later he was selected for astronaut training. He was 38 years old when he took his flight.Cunningham[13] was also selected as an astronaut in 1963.

He was 36 years old at the time of Apollo 7, had a B.A. in Physics and an M.A.

, also in physics, from the Los Angels based University of California. He also did much of the work towards a doctorate. He had joined the American navy in 1951 and began flight training the following year. In 1953 he joined the marines and worked for the Rand Corporation before enrolling with NASA.

He has had 4,500 hours experience in flight, much of it in jets, and including of course 263 hours in space. He is now the only survivor of the flight, both the others having died of heart attacks.Donn Fulton Eisele joined the United Sates Air Force after graduation and became a test pilot, reaching the rank of colonel. When he applied to become an astronaut new selection criteria had come in place – the maximum age was now 35 and the requirement to have had experience as a test pilot was dropped.

He had the minimum 1000 flight and was in excellent health hours. There were 271 applications, 200 of them civilians. President Kennedy was pressing the organization to appoint a black American as an astronaut, but only 2 applied and neither of these met all the criteria.  When he eventually retired from NASA and from the Air Force in 1972 he became director of the Peace Corp in Thailand.

The crew between them were able to complete all the tests required and even did some that were not originally part of the plan, but none flew in space again.ConsequencesBecause of the success of this flight the Apollo program continued. Apollo 8 with Frank Borman in command went into Lunar orbit; Apollo 9 tested human reactions to weightlessness; Apollo10 made color broadcasts; and of course in July 1969 Apollo 11 landed in the Sea of Tranquility. Altogether there were 17 Apollo flights, each doing  things that were new.

For instance flight16 explored for the first time the moon’s highlands and flight 17 was the first to land a scientist on the lunar surface.In 1999 a poll asking people which were the most significant moments of the 20th century found that the moon landing came second only to the splitting of the atom according to Roger Launius, NASA Historian. The capsule is now on display in Ottowa’s Museum of Science and Technology in Canada according to the Apollo 7 web page.[14]Walter Cunningham went on to become Chief of the Skylab Branch of the Flight Crew Directive at the Lyndon B.

Johnson Space Center in Houston according to his biographical details supplied by NASA.[15]What went wrongAs in any mission of this length some small, unplanned things went wrong. The crew suffered from head colds,[16] Schirra had gone down with a cold after only a few hours of the flight and the other two soon followed with similar symptoms. The problems of a cold are exacerbated in space as mucus cannot drain.

The solution was to blow the nose very hard, but this would not be possible if helmets were worn. For this reason Schirra, who had already decided to retire, decided not to wear his space helmet during re-entry and , perhaps because he was the commander, the others followed suit according to the web page ‘Apollo 7 head Colds in Space’ from the Ultimate Space Place. Each of them took a decongestant tablet an hour before they reentered the Earth’s atmosphere and they had no problems with breathing. They were said to have ‘revolted’ against mission control, becoming grumpy and answering back to the control staff.

[17] At one point Schirra told Deke Slayton, the head of Astronaut Control, to ‘Go to Hell’,[18] as reported by Jeffrey Kluger in Time Magazine after he had been told he was trained to do a job and that he’d better get busy doing it. Kluger tells how the Soviet media were quick to point out the crew’s[19]:-increased irritation due to the monotony of the spaceflight and theimperfect design of the systems for controlling the vital functions ofthe spacemen.For these reasons ground staff decided that the three should not make any more flights according to the Spacefacts Apollo 7 web page,[20] although Schirra had already decided to retire. Another consequence was that before future flights astronauts were quarantined for a time in order that they were protected from infection.

However the problem may have been caused by weightlessness which would tend to cause body fluids to shift according to Henry Spencer in his article ‘Apollo 7 mission taught lessons about crew conflict’[21].He claims that the flight planners had gone overboard in filling every moment of what could have been a relatively boring flight, with various experiments. Because they felt ill the crew fell behind with some schedules, but these they felt had been given unreasonable time constraints. This was the first time that these sorts of problems had occurred so the planners thought it was the fault of the crew.

Gradually though planners learnt that they could not ‘micro-manage to this extent on manned flights. At this time NASA were still trying to recover from the disaster of the Apollo 1 fire and were determined that everything go as well as they could make it. At the time America was in a space race with the then Soviet Union. The Russians were making flights with unmanned Zond vehicles and the Americans at that stage did not know how many problems the Russians were actually having or that the spectacular photographs released had in fact been salvaged from a very badly damaged crashed spacecraft.

The countdown had proceeded more or less smoothly, with only a short delay because more time being needed to cool the hydrogen system sufficiently in the S-IVB stage of the Saturn launch vehicle. Shortly after the vehicle entered Earth orbit, the S-IVB stage separated from the CSM as planned and the crew were able to and Schirra and his crew perform a simulated docking maneuver with the S-IVB stage, being able to move within  1.2 meters of the rocket. Upon separation the crew reported that there had not been full deployment of one adapter panel.

ConclusionThis supposedly routine flight was one in which many lessons were learnt, lessons that would go towards the later successful flights and of course the moon landings.GlossaryUniversal time – this is based on the earth’s rate of rotation and is usually designated as Greenwich Mean Time i.e. the time according to the observatory at Greenwich, near London, England.

Works Cited

  1.  ApolloVII, 2002, Kennedy Space Center, Apollo, NASA,http://www-pao.ksc.nasa.gov/kscpao/history/apollo/apollo-7/apollo-7.htm viewed 10th November 2008
  2. Apollo 7, Spacefacts, http://www.astronautix.com/flights/apollo7.htm viewed 11November 2008
  3. Apollo7 Head Colds in Space, the Ultimate Space Place, http://www.thespaceplace.com/history/apollo/apollo07.html viewed 11th November 2008
  4. Dehanty,M., Apollo 1, Apollo Missions to the Moon, Astronomy Today, http://www.astronomytoday.com/exploration/apollo.html viewed 11th November 2008
  5. Kluger,J. When Wally Schirra Said ‘Go to Hell’, Time US, May 4th 2007 http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1617647,00.html viewed 11th November 2008
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  7. Spacecraft ‘Apollo 7’, Manned Astronauts Figures and Facts, http://space.kursknet.ru/cosmos/english/machines/ap7.sht viewed 11th November 2008.
  8. Spencer, H. Apollo 7 mission taught lessons about crew conflict, Short Sharp Science, New Scientist blogs, 11th October 2008, http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2008/10/apollo-7-mission-taught-lesson.html viewed 11th November 2008
  9. The Apollo 7 Mission, Human Space Flight, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/history/apollo/apollo7/index.html viewed 11th November 2008
  10. Walter Cunningham, Biographical Data, Lyndon.B. Johnson Space Center, , http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/cunningham-w.html  viewed 11th November 2008
  11. Walter (Wally) Schirra Junior, National Aviation Hall of Fame, http://nationalaviation.blade6.donet.com/components/content_manager_v02/view_nahf/htdocs/menu_ps. asp?NodeID=571225132&group_ID=1134656385&Parent_ID=-1 viewed 11th November 2008
  12. What went wrong, Apollo 7, http://www.astronautix.com/flights/apollo7.htm viewed 11thNovember 2008
  13. Launias,R., Foreword, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, October 2nd 200, http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/Apollo_00b_Foreword.htmviewed 11th November 2008
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Cite this The Flight of Apollo 7

The Flight of Apollo 7. (2017, Feb 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-flight-of-apollo-7/

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