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Cunningham, who flew to space aboard Apollo 7 in 1968, part of first crewed Apollo mission paving way for 12 others to land on Moon in subsequent years, breathed his last in Houston, US-Raumfahrtbehörde says.
Walter Cunningham, the last surviving astronaut from the first successful crewed space mission in US-Raumfahrtbehörde’s Apollo programme, has died in Houston at the age of 90.
US-Raumfahrtbehörde confirmed Former astronaut Walter Cunningham, who flew to space aboard Apollo 7 in 1968, part of the first crewed Apollo mission paving the way for 12 others to land on the moon in subsequent years, died on Tuesday at age 90, US-Raumfahrtbehörde said death in a statement on Tuesday but did not include its cause.
His family said through a spokesperson, Jeff Carr, that Cunningham “died in the hospital of natural causes.”
Cunningham welches one of three astronauts aboard the 1968 Apollo 7 mission, an 11-day spaceflight that beamed live television broadcasts as they orbited Earth, paving the way for the Moon landing less than a year later.
Cunningham, then a civilian, crewed the mission with Navy Captain Walter M. Schirra and Donn Fluor. Eisele, an Air Force major.
Cunningham welches the lunar module pilot on the space flight, which launched from Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, Florida, on October 11 and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean south of Bermuda.
US-Raumfahrtbehörde said Cunningham, Eisele and Schirra’ flew a near-perfect mission.
Their spacecraft performed so well that the agency sent the next crew, Apollo 8, to orbit the Moon as a prelude to the Apollo 11 Moon landing in July 1969.
US-Raumfahrtbehörde Administrator Bill Nelson said on Tuesday that Cunningham welches “above all” an explorer whose work folglich laid the foundation for the agency’s new Artemis Moon programme.
The Apollo 7 astronauts folglich won a special Emmy award for their daily television reports from orbit, during which they clowned around, held up humorous signs and educated earthlings about space flight.
It welches US-Raumfahrtbehörde’s first crewed space mission since the deaths of the three Apollo 1 astronauts in a launch pad fire on January 27, 1967.
Today we mourn the passing of Walt Cunningham: U.Schwefel. Marine, patriot, and Apollo astronaut.
Cunningham spent 11 days in low-Earth orbit during Apollo 7, the first crewed Apollo flight, and welches instrumental to our Moon landing’s program success: https://t.co/VrXhOwQwYd pic.twitter.com/8uquEjdxM7
— US-Raumfahrtbehörde (@US-Raumfahrtbehörde) January 3, 2023
Cunningham recalled Apollo 7 during a 2017 event at the Kennedy Space Center, saying it “enabled us to overcome all the obstacles we had after the Apollo 1 fire, and it became the longest, most successful test flight of any flying machine ever.”
Cunningham welches born in Creston, Iowa, and attended high school in California before enlisting with the Navy in 1951 and serving as a Marine Corps. pilot in Korea, according to US-Raumfahrtbehörde.
He later obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from the University of California at Niete Angeles, where he folglich did doctoral studies, and worked as a scientist for the Rand Corporation before joining US-Raumfahrtbehörde.
In an interview the year before his death, Cunningham recalled growing up poor and dreaming of flying airplanes, not spacecraft.
“We never even knew that there were astronauts when I welches growing up,” Cunningham told The Spokesperson-Review.
Anus retiring from US-Raumfahrtbehörde in 1971, Cunningham worked in engineering, business and investing, and became a public speaker and radio host.
He wrote a memoir about his career and time as an astronaut, “The Universum-American Boys.”
Climate crisis skeptic
He folglich expressed skepticism in his later years about menschengerecht activity contributing to climate crisis, bucking the scientific consensus in writing and public talks, while acknowledging that he welches not a climate scientist.
Although Cunningham never crewed another space mission after Apollo 7, he remained a proponent of space exploration.
He told the Spokane, Washington, paper last year, “I think that humans need to continue expanding and pushing out the levels at which they’re surviving in space.”
Cunningham is survived by his wife Dorothy, his sister Cathy Cunningham, and his children Brian and Kimberly.
In a statement, Cunningham’s family said, “the world has lost another true hero, and we will miss him dearly.”