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Walter Cunningham, Member Of The 1st Crewed Apollo 7 Mission, Dead At 90

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Walter Cunningham, Member Of The 1st Crewed Apollo 7 Mission, Dead At 90

(CTN NEWS) – WASHINGTON – Walter Cunningham, the final surviving member of NASA‘s Apollo program’s inaugural successful crewed space mission, passed away on Tuesday in Houston. He was 90.

NASA issued a statement confirming Walter Cunningham’s passing but omitted to mention the cause.

Cunningham died in a hospital “after-effects of a fall, after a long and complete life,” his family confirmed through a spokesperson, Jeff Carr.

One of the three astronauts on the Apollo 7 mission in 1968, which lasted 11 days and transmitted live television broadcasts as it orbited the Earth, Walter Cunningham helped pave the ground for the lunar landing less than a year later.

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The mission’s crew included Donn F. Eisele, a major in the Air Force, and Cunningham, a civilian at the time. On the space mission, Cunningham piloted the lunar module.

Walter Cunningham, Member Of The 1st Crewed Apollo 7 Mission, Dead At 90

Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham acknowledges the crowd before an Alliance of American Football game between the Orlando Apollos and the Atlanta Legend, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. Cunningham, the last surviving astronaut from the first successful crewed space mission in NASA’s Apollo program, has died. He was 90. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

The mission took out from Cape Kennedy Air Force Station in Florida on October 11 and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean south of Bermuda.

According to NASA, the flight of Cunningham, Eisele, and Schirra was almost flawless.

As a warm-up for the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969, the organization dispatched the following crew, Apollo 8, to orbit the moon in their spacecraft’s wake.

According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Walter Cunningham was “above all” an explorer whose work also inspired the organization’s brand-new Artemis moon mission.

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The Apollo 7 astronauts also received a special Emmy award for their daily television reports from space. They played jokes on viewers, held up amusing signs, and imparted knowledge on space travel.

It was NASA’s first crewed space mission since the three men aboard Apollo 1 perished on January 27, 1967, in a launch pad fire.

At a 2017 Kennedy Space Center event, Cunningham recalled Apollo 7, stating that “allowed us to overcome all the challenges we had after the Apollo 1 fire and it became the longest, most successful test flight of any flying vehicle ever.”

Walter Cunningham, Member Of The 1st Crewed Apollo 7 Mission, Dead At 90

Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham speaks on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., during a program “Celebrating 100 Years of MIT Aerospace,” Oct. 22, 2014. Cunningham, the last surviving astronaut from the first successful crewed space mission in NASA’s Apollo program, has died. He was 90. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

According to NASA, Walter Cunningham was born in Creston, Iowa, and completed his high school education there before joining the Navy in 1951 and serving as a Marine Corps pilot in Korea.

He later graduated with a physics bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he also pursued a doctorate. Before joining NASA, he worked as a scientist for the Rand Corporation.

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Cunningham recounted having a hard time growing up and fantasizing of flying airplanes rather than spacecraft in an interview the year before he passed away.

Walter Cunningham told The Spokesman-Review, “We never even knew that there were astronauts while I was growing up.

Cunningham engaged in engineering, business, and investing after leaving NASA in 1971.

He also became a public speaker and radio personality. “The All-American Boys,” a memoir he wrote about his life as an astronaut and professional, was published.

Walter Cunningham, Member Of The 1st Crewed Apollo 7 Mission, Dead At 90

Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham, left, points to pictures of fellow astronaut the late Charles “Pete” Conrad while speaking with Apollo 10 astronaut Dick Gordon, center, and Andy Conrad, the son of Charles Conrad, at the opening of the Rendezvous in Space exhibit at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash., July 22, 2000. (AP Photo/Jay Drowns, File)

In his later years, he also voiced pessimism about how human activity contributes to climate change, going against the scientific mainstream in writing and public speeches despite admitting he wasn’t a climate expert.

Walter Cunningham supported space exploration even if he did not crew any additional space missions after Apollo 7.

Last year, he stated, “I think that humans need to continue expanding and pushing out the levels at which they’re thriving in space.” to the Spokane, Washington, newspaper.

His wife Dot, sister Cathy Cunningham, sons Brian and Kimberly, and daughter Brian survive Cunningham.

Cunningham’s family declared, “The world has lost another great hero, and we will mourn him sincerely.”

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