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Derek Willis

Fifty years of Project Apollo

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Derek Willis

Half a century ago today, Apollo 7 - the first manned flight of Project Apollo - lifted-off and began America's quest to put a man on the Moon. Apollo 7 was the only Apollo mission to be launched using a Saturn IB rocket rather than the mighty Saturn V. The mission - with astronauts Walter Schirra, Don Eisele and Walter Cunningham - was intended to test the Apollo Command and Service Modules in Earth orbit. Also, the astronauts practiced rendezvousing with a target inside the Lunar Module Adapter attached to the upper-stage of the Saturn IB.

Apollo 7 was considered a technical success, however there was something of a "mutiny" on board when the astronauts refused to carry out part of their flight program. Before the launch, Walter Schirra, the Commander of the mission, had expressed concerns in the aftermath of the tragic Apollo 1 capsule fire in which three astronauts were killed during a launch "dress rehearsal" on January 27th 1967. Schirra was concerned the schedule for Apollo 7 was too tight considering the astronauts were testing a new spacecraft. Added to this, the crew developed severe head-colds which made them tetchy.

Eleven days after the launch, the Apollo 7 Command Module splashed-down safely in the Atlantic Ocean. America was now firmly on the way to the Moon. There were rumors Schirra, Eisele and Cunningham were permanently grounded by NASA because of their "mutiny"; however that was not the case.

      

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Derek Willis

Wow! What a coincidence. Just minutes after posting about the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 7, I heard about the Soyuz launch abort. Spaceflight is dangerous! Thankfully, the crew are safe and well.

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Waspie_Dwarf
1 hour ago, Derek Willis said:

Apollo 7 was the only Apollo mission to be launched using a Saturn IB rocket rather than the mighty Saturn V.

Although, of course, not the only manned flight of the Saturn IB.

After the Apollo lunar programme it would make 4 more, the Skylab 3,4 & 5 missions and the American component ot the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program (ASTP).

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Derek Willis
2 minutes ago, Waspie_Dwarf said:

Although, of course, not the only manned flight of the Saturn IB.

After the Apollo lunar programme it would make 4 more, the Skylab 3,4 & 5 missions and the American component ot the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program (ASTP).

I always had a soft spot for the Saturn IB, which was overshadowed by the Saturn V. There were nine launches of the Saturn IB, and ten launches of its predecessor the Saturn I. All nineteen flights were successful.

But as we know, in spaceflight nothing can be taken for granted. I don't know the specific data, but the Soyuz rocket has launched more crewed missions into space than any other rocket. Today's launch abort reminds us of how launching people into space is still a very risky activity.   

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