Apollo 7 (AS-205), the first manned Apollo flight, lifted off from Launch Complex 34 at Cape Kennedy Oct. 11, carrying Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donn F. Eisele, and R. Walter Cunningham. The countdown had proceeded smoothly, with only a slight delay because of additional time required to chill the hydrogen system in the S-IVB stage of the Saturn launch vehicle. Liftoff came at 11:03 a.m. EDT. Shortly after insertion into orbit, the S-IVB stage separated from the CSM, and Schirra and his crew performed a simulated docking with the S-IVB stage, maneuvering to within 1.2 meters of the rocket. Although spacecraft separation was normal, the crew reported that one adapter panel had not fully deployed. Two burns using the reaction control system separated the spacecraft and launch stage and set the stage for an orbital rendezvous maneuver, which the crew made on the second day of the flight, using the service propulsion engine.
Crew and spacecraft performed well throughout the mission. During eight burns of the service propulsion system during the flight, the engine functioned normally. October 14, third day of the mission, witnessed the first live television broadcast from a manned American spacecraft. The SPS engine was used to deorbit after 259 hours 39 minutes of flight. CM-SM separation and operation of the earth landing system were normal, and the spacecraft splashed down about 13 kilometers from the recovery ship (27.32 N 64.04 W), the U.S.S. Essex, at 7:11 a.m. EDT October 22. Although the vehicle initially settled in an apex-down ("stable 2") attitude, upright bags functioned normally and returned the CSM to an upright position in the water. Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham were quickly picked up by a recovery helicopter and were safe aboard the recovery vessel less than an hour after splashdown.
All primary Apollo 7 mission objectives were met, as well as every detailed test objective (and three test objectives not originally planned). Engineering firsts from Apollo 7, aside from live television from space, included drinking water for the crew produced as a by-product of the fuel cells. Piloting and navigation accomplishments included an optical rendezvous, daylight platform realignment, and orbital determination via sextant tracking of another vehicle. All spacecraft systems performed satisfactorily. Minor anomalies were countered by backup systems or changes in procedures. With successful completion of the Apollo 7 mission, which proved out the design of the Block II CSM (CSM 101), NASA and the nation had taken the first step on the pathway to the moon.
Although the systems worked, the crew became grumpy with head colds and talked back to the ground. As a result, NASA management determined that none of them would fly again.
Official NASA Account of the Mission from Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft, by Courtney G Brooks, James M. Grimwood, Loyd S. Swenson, published as NASA SP-4205 in the NASA History Series, 1979.
A few hours later, as the spacecraft separated from the S-IVB stage and then turned back in a simulated docking approach, Cunningham described the S-IVB, which would be used for rendezvous target practice the next day. The spacecraft-lunar module adapter panels, he said, had not fully deployed - which naturally reminded Stafford, on the capsule communicator (CapCom) console, of the "angry alligator" target vehicle he had encountered on his Gemini IX mission. This mishap would have been embarrassing on a mission that carried a lunar module, but the panels would be jettisoned explosively on future flights.
After this niggling problem, service module engine performance was a joy. This was one area where the crew could not switch to a redundant or backup system; at crucial times during a lunar voyage, the engine simply had to work or they would not get back home. On Apollo 7, there were eight nearly perfect firings out of eight attempts. On the first, the crew had a real surprise. In contrast to the smooth liftoff of the Saturn, the blast from the service module engine jolted the astronauts, causing Schirra to yell "Yabadabadoo" like Fred Flintstone in the contemporary video cartoon. Later, Eisele said, "We didn't quite know what to expect, but we got more than we expected." He added more graphically that it was a real boot in the rear that just plastered them into their seats. But the engine did what it was supposed to do each time it fired.
With few exceptions, the other systems in the spacecraft operated as they should. Occasionally, one of the three fuel cells supplying electricity to the craft developed some unwanted high temperatures, but load-sharing hookups among the cells prevented any power shortage. The crew complained about noisy fans in the environmental circuits and turned one of them off. That did not help much, so the men switched off the other. The cabin stayed comfortable, although the coolant lines sweated and water collected in little puddles on the deck, which the crew expected after the Kerwin team's test in the altitude chamber. Schirra's crew vacuumed the excess water out into space with the urine dump hose.
Visibility from the spacecraft windows ranged from poor to good, during the mission. Shortly after the launch escape tower jettisoned, two of the windows had soot deposits and two others had water condensation. Two days later, however, Cunningham reported that most of the windows were in fairly good shape, although moisture was collecting between the inner panes of one window. On the seventh day, Schirra described essentially the same conditions.
Even with these impediments, the windows were adequate. Those used for observations during rendezvous and stationkeeping with the S-IVB remained almost clear. Navigational sighting with a telescope and a sextant on any of the 37 preselected "Apollo" stars was difficult if done too soon after a waste-water dump. Sometimes they had to wait several minutes for the frozen particles to disperse. Eisele reported that unless he could see at least 40 or 50 stars at a time he found it hard to decide what part of the sky he was looking toward. On the whole, however, the windows were satisfactory for general and landmark observations and for out-the-window photography.
Most components supported the operations and well-being of the spacecraft and crew as planned, in spite of minor irritations like smudging windows and puddling water. For example, the waste management system for collecting solid body wastes was adequate, though annoying. The defecation bags, containing a germicide to prevent bacteria and gas formation, were easily sealed and stored in empty food containers in the equipment bay. But the bags were certainly not convenient and there were usually unpleasant odors. Each time they were used, it took the crew member from 45 to 60 minutes, causing him to postpone it as long as possible, waiting for a time when there was no work to do. The crew had a total of only 12 defecations over a period of nearly 11 days. Urination was much easier, as the crew did not have to remove clothing. There was a collection service for both the pressure suits and the inflight coveralls. Both devices could be attached to the urine dump hose and emptied into space. They had half expected the hose valve to freeze up in vacuum, but it never did.
The astronauts finally had a spacecraft large enough to move about in. During Gemini, crewmen had gone outside the craft in an exercise called extravehicular activity, or EVA. In Apollo, quite naturally, the abbreviation became IVA, for intravehicular activity. The crew adapted easily to this new free-floating realm. Schirra said, "All the problems we worried about the spacecraft picking up motions from the crew, no such thing. . . . You get to be quite a gymnast." And Cunningham later added, "The work is almost zero, and you can move any place you want to very freely, and you certainly don't need strong handholds to take care of it." The crew found exercise was important. At first, when the men slept in the couches their bodies curled up into the fetal position, which gave them lower back and abdominal pains. So they almost raced each other for a workout on a stretching device called an Exer-Genie, which relaxed their cramped and aching muscles.
The crew slept well enough, but Schirra complained about round-the-clock operations that disrupted the normal, earth-bound routine. Sleep periods might start as early as 4:00 in the afternoon or as late as 4:00 in the morning. Slayton suggested that all three astronauts sleep at the same time, but Schirra said the machine was flying well and he did not want to make any changes. So Eisele kept watch while the others slept, and then he went to bed. Two sleeping bags were underneath the outboard couches (the center couch could be moved out of the way), and the crewmen could zip themselves into them, wearing their flight coveralls. The bags were not popular, because, they said, the restraints were in the wrong places. Cunningham preferred sleeping in the couch, strapping himself down with a shoulder harness and a lap belt. If two crewmen slept in the couches at the same time, however, one of them was always in the way of spacecraft operations. After the third day, the crew had worked out a routine that allowed all of them to get enough sleep.
Although the astronauts had more than 60 food items to choose from, giving them about 2,500 calories a day, they were not happy with their fare. The bite-size food crumbled and stray particles floated around the cabin. They almost came to hate the high-energy sweets and tried to talk each other out of the more satisfactory breakfast items. Following his Gemini flight, Schirra had said that if he flew on Apollo he was going to take some coffee with him. And he did. During flight and later, the crew emphasized that space food was a long way from satisfying their normal table habits.
The astronauts did use the controversial television camera to show their colleagues in mission control and the public everywhere how they got along in their living quarters, operated the spacecraft, ate, and swam about in the weightlessness of space. When flight plan changes crowded their schedule, Schirra canceled the first of several planned television demonstrations. Slayton tried to change his mind, but the spacecraft commander told him sharply that there would be no show that day. The programs finally began, however, and the crew appeared to enjoy them, using cue cards - "Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming In, Folks" and "Hello from the Lovely Apollo Room High Atop Everything" - supplied by Michael Kapp, who also provided cassettes for their musical enjoyment.
Some of the crew's grumpiness during the mission could be attributed to physical discomfort. About 15 hours into the flight, Schirra developed a bad cold, and Cunningham and Eisele soon followed suit. A cold is uncomfortable enough on the ground; in weightless space it presents a different problem. Mucus accumulates, filling the nasal passages, and does not drain from the head. The only relief is to blow hard, which is painful to the ear drums. So the crewmen of Apollo 7 whirled through space suffering from stopped up ears and noses. They took aspirin and decongestant tablets and discussed their symptoms with the doctors.
Several days before the mission ended, they began to worry about wearing their suit helmets during reentry, which would prevent them from blowing their noses. The buildup of pressure might burst their eardrums. Slayton, in mission control, tried to persuade them to wear the helmets, anyway, but Schirra was adamant. They each took a decongestant pill about an hour before reentry and made it through the acceleration zone without any problems with their ears.
That "magnificent flying machine," as Cunningham called it, circled the earth for more than 260 hours. On 22 October, the crew brought the ship down in the Atlantic southeast of Bermuda, less than two kilometers from the planned impact point. On landing, the craft turned nose down, but the crew quickly inflated the air bags and the ship righted itself. The tired, but happy, voyagers were picked up by helicopter and deposited on the deck of the U.S.S. Essex . References: 1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 16 , 26 , 27 , 33 , 60 .